I had to laugh at myself this morning. While reading my manuscript, I came to a spot where I pulled away and thought: What the...?! Now, how did that happen? Then, after I remembered the chain of events, I shook my head and started laughing.
As some of you already know, writing a novel is an evolutionary process. It's a living and growing organism that changes from what you originally thought to what finally forms as the finished project. For those who walk the line without a net (i.e., the non-outliners) writing is a day-to-day path of discovery. Even for those who use a net, the process can sometimes generate a burst of creativity and step off the line. Either way, writing a first draft often leaves an open door, allowing for errors in sentences and plots and scene structures.
As for me, I'm an outliner. I like to make notes and sketch out scenes ahead of time so I know where I'm going. Still, there were points while writing the novel when I had to backtrack and write in additional information. While reading my manuscript this morning, I encountered one such moment where the backtracking didn't work out so well. My protaganist was on a long-distance phone call with a witness when suddenly the writing appeared like the two were side-by-side, looking each other in the eye. Thinking back, I know how it happened. I had a new thought, liked it, and then retraced my steps to add the new information through the dialogue, only to forget which scene I was in, the one where they were on the phone or the one (later in the story) where they were actually sitting at a table in a restaurant.
It's at a moment like this when I am so thankful for the revision process. Ernest Hemingway has been reported as saying, "All first drafts are shit." Going through my manuscript, I have seen plenty of opportunities to clear out the muck. Do I need to chastise myself? Probably, but not too much. After all, it is only the first draft. Now is the time to fix the dumb stuff; and like I mentioned in my last post, my first attempt at a novel certainly shows the need for improvement.
At least I can laugh.
How about you? Did you have moments while reading your first draft where you found yourself laughing? Or maybe you cried instead?
While reading through the manuscript, I've been making notes regarding the need for research. Already, I've asked around to visit with certain people and their areas of work. Some scenes demand my physical presence so that I can write the details correctly. When readers finish with my novel, I want them to say, "So that's what west Texas looks like."
Until next time...