Preparing to revise my third novel, the first in a multi-part epic fantasy series. It’s tentatively titled “Sandman,” for reasons obvious to the story. It took 9 months to write the first draft, and although I knew where it needed to go, I never really ended it completely. I got most of the way there and burned out. I struggled for six weeks to write something and finally decided I’d do better to set it aside and then come back to it. There are a number of things I had already made a list of which needed to be addressed in the next draft and I really believe clarity on how to write the ending will come as I work those into the manuscript, so here I am.
I don’t know how others approach their revisions. For every writer, the approach tends to differ, so I can only write about my own process. In first drafts, I try and get the scenic structure, characters and plotlines down. I focus on the key conflicts and personalities and less on full character arcs and detailed descriptions. Some might call it a skeletal approach, but what I end up with is often a lot of stuff I can use but which needs editing to cut excess and then thickening to fill in the meat on the bones. I also make a lot of notes as I go about things I need to foreshadow, flesh out, etc. For example, as with “The Worker Prince,” I reached a point in the first draft of “Sandman” where I needed something to happen which I had not set up in the parameters of my world building. Rather than stop and go back, I just made it happen and made a note that I will need to set that up earlier to make it plausible for readers. I also found character traits which I want to emphasize throughout and need to go back and add in. Character relationships developed which can be mined for humor and also character growth, but I need to set that up, too. The biggest development was finally sorting out what secret there is about a central character everyone is fighting over. Now I have to go back and foreshadow the reveal earlier and revise scenes knowing many of the characters already have that knowledge and it will underscore their actions. Lastly, there are themes/motifs which have come forward as the first draft unfolded which I now need to also thread throughout.
This is a good thing. I know many writers who end their first draft thinking it’s crap and embarrassed for all the time they wasted. Me, I feel like I have a really good foundation but know that without the bricks, cement, shingles, glass, paint, etc. it isn’t ready to open. Those things can be added. And I won’t have to start from scratch. I’ll probably add a scene or two in various places. I may cut one or cut it down or take sections of it for elsewhere. But I have stuff I can move around, which is much easier for me to deal with than the initial blank page.
I also have research to do. I have a book called “English Through The Ages” which I will use to revise my prose to reflect the time period in which the book is set. It’s set on a colonized planet where the people live in medieval type times, so I don’t have to be 100% accurate but realistic enough to their Earth ancestry as I can manage. I will be working in some other research I’ve done on magic, dwarves, and things like wagons and cities to make it more realistic and alive. This is the fun stuff though. Much easier to deal with when the basic structure is already there, and, despite the ending issues, the structure is there. Somewhere in this process I’ll also be sorting out where the story goes from here in the next book so I can set that up well, too. I have a rough idea, but I need to rough that out more, too.
I expect the second draft won’t take as long as the first. Anywhere from 2 to 5 months I’d expect. So from now until April, this will be my world. I have other projects waiting in the wings though as well, so if I have off days, I can work on those. After all, with “Worker Prince” coming out mid-2011, I do have a sequel to write for that. In any case, I’m excited about this book because it’s not based on another story, as “Worker Prince” was. It’s totally from my own mind, so it’s my first fully original speculative fiction book. It’s also my first fantasy. So that’s good career progress as well. Now, I just need to get this thing in shape for the betas.
Second draft. Beta readers. Third draft. Then out to querying agents. That’ll be the process. Maybe this will break me into the mass house world. Either way, it’s good to have something positive to focus on which helps my career progress forward.
For what it’s worth…