Yesterday I finished Draft 2.1 and printed out the entire manuscript of Princess of Shadows. I applied a trick I learned in one of my writing groups years ago to keep down the number of pages I have to lug around, in that I set everything to single space, 9 pt font, in two columns with landscape orientation. Even so, the printed copy came to 144 pages. It took my wheezing deskjet printer 25 minutes to complete the job, and it nearly killed an essentially new print cartridge.
But now I am ready for the hard copy edit. I even have a red pen. Stand back.
If you get a sense that I am now entering a happier phase of my creative process, you’d be right. At times while working on Shadows I have felt distinctly like Sisyphus; I’d get the damned thing to a certain point and then I’d have to go back and re-write something. Perhaps it reveals a residual prejudice toward dead tree books, but for me having a printed manuscript in my hands is to clear a major psychological hurdle. Now I know I’m going to finish this novel, assuming the Lord tarries and we don’t hit by a giant asteroid. I probably still have six to eight weeks of work ahead of me, particularly if my beta readers are slow off the mark, but it’s going to get done.
Yesterday I completed Draft 2.0, the complete online read-through and major problem/gaping hole fix. The story now reads (I think) as a unified narrative without major bumps or inconsistencies. I just need to apply a couple of character tweaks before I print this monster out and do the hard copy edit. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that the hard copy edit is where I get my best sense of the novel as a whole, but I can already tell that my ending (mostly written months ago) will need some major shoring up and correction– more detail, less heavy-handed on the “this is the moral of the tale” and maybe a little less maudlin. I am also concerned that perhaps I have not adequately highlighted how Kathy has changed/grown over the course of the novel. Fortunately, I expect the hard-copy edit will help me see how to deal with these issues.
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize it’s deceptive to talk of discrete draft versions. It’s more a process of refining, of first getting rid of the gross impurities, and then the trace elements, and then completing the finished work. Certainly I’ve discovered, since self-publishing on Amazon, that even novels and stories I thought were finished have needed more editing and correction (“I misspelled Louisville?? Aaagh!”). Samuel Delaney, years and years ago, wrote something to the effect that a published work, if the author is a professional, will and should go through multiple stages of draft, final draft, correction and revision. This is probably doubly-true of the self-published work, which is definitely a high-wire act with no net (assuming the self-published author gives a damn, which many don’t).
Having said that, I am feeling better about this piece. I’m getting close.
I am finally done re-writing the Bleak sequence, and Kathy is in the hands of the Gehma. The word ‘nightmare’ might just apply. When I reached the Bleak sequence, I had, up to that point, edited about two-thirds of the novel and cut maybe 6000-7000 words. Substantially re-writing the sequence, I ended up with something I feel is significantly stronger, but in the process I actually added 11,000 words, which is going seriously backwards of where I wanted to go. This puppy now bulks out at a total of about 174,000 words, easily the biggest single piece of writing I have ever done. I am not sure if I have any large blocks of text left that I could cut in the 80 or so pages left to edit for the second draft. Despite that, I still don’t feel bad about what I’ve done– whereas before Kathy was merely inconvenienced, now she was in serious danger and gets out by the skin of her teeth– only to be betrayed into the hands of her enemy. This, just FYI, is something I learned from Joss Whedon– just when it looks like the protagonist is going to be safe and happy, drop a bomb on them. Joss is a master at that sort of thing.
I hope to edit the remainder of the first draft by the end of the month, with a couple of additional tweaks (Draft 2.1). That means doing about 8-10 pages a day, which feels doable. That will still leave me a month behind my original schedule, but this whole book has been behind since last year. After that, the hard-copy edit, the part that I actually enjoy the most. It’s where I get my best sense of the book as a whole (somehow that doesn’t happen when I edit it online). At this point, then, I feel as if I am two to three months away from publication, but nobody should bet the rent money on that. But I’m feeling better about the whole thing right now.
I’ve been away a few days, partly because of a short vacation to Canada (I may have a rant about how Canadians do Shakespeare in another post, but not tonight). I don’t have a working laptop at the moment, so I couldn’t write or blog or do anything while at my motel. Frustrating.
So now I feel as if I am trying to climb back on the horse of my second draft. I had hoped to finish it in June, but obviously that went glimmering after I restarted the Bleak sequence and then devoted days to re-editing my first two novels. My best hope now is to finish the second draft by the end of July and then devote August and September to hard-copy edits and beta readers. October seems to be my most reasonable publication date at this point, which will be pretty close to a year and a half from when I took up Shadows in a serious way, which is way behind my original schedule.
Well, obviously at this point it would be ideal for me to stop blogging and get back to work, but as often happens after a break or a stoppage I find I have to sort of sneak up sideways on writing on my main WIP. It didn’t help that I had higher internet bandwidth installed at my home today and I spent the day largely distracted by getting everything set up. But at least now my daughter will be able to watch Netflix while I play Halo.
Hmm, probably not the note I wanted to end on. But I’m tired.