After letting it stew for about a month, I finally sat down to read the second draft of my novel this morning. And I’m happy to report that I don’t hate it! (I did hate the first draft when I finally sat down to read it after letting it sit for three months, so at least I seem to be improving from draft to draft.)
The problem now is what I’m supposed to do with it. With the first draft it was obvious (to me) what I needed to do. The writing was flat and lacking in texture. I’m an under-writer — my first draft was only 55,000 words, the second draft is 87,000 — so in the second draft I knew I needed to add things like the five senses, write out emotionally intense scenes, and tighten the story line.
But now I’m not sure what to do with this draft. I can go through and make sure everything is consistent – that harmony stones are always called harmony stones, that a character isn’t fat in one chapter and lean in the next, but I’m not sure what to do with the writing. On short stories I like to do an “Elements of Style” review — I check my writing for the common errors I’ve starred in there. (And that I agree with. I think saying, “hopefully,” is acceptable, for example. But I’m willing to change my alrights to all rights. Even though I kind of sort of disagree with that one, too.)
I also have a list of overused words/phrases to look for that I’ve gathered from various sites. So I’ll do that.
But that’s all mechanical/formulaic stuff. It isn’t story.
I guess one thing to do is just read it end to end and ask myself whether I’m satisfied with each character’s ending. One of my issues in writing is that I don’t ratchet things up. Or at least I don’t think I do. People grow and change, but they don’t do so because of insurmountable challenge after insurmountable challenge. (Which is one of the reasons I suspect this may be a literary novel rather than a SFF novel. Damn I hate being placed into categories…) Now is the time to decide whether that makes the story too flat to hold a reader’s interest. I hope it doesn’t, but we’ll see.
After that, I have to ask myself the really challenging question – will readers be satisfied with each character’s ending? (I suspect not. It’s funny. I was talking to a friend about the basic idea of the book and she got all excited and started talking about how great it would be if my main character came into this new world and “fixed it.” He does have the power to change things, but he doesn’t want to. That’s the whole point of his story. I’m not sure, though, that his choices will resonate well with anyone other than, say, me.)
Well, that’s a bridge I’ll cross after I’ve made it into a story that I like. First and foremost, I have to tell the story I wanted to write. (After that I’ll deal with the fact that no one else is likely to want to read it. My friends will, of course. At least I have a lot of offers for beta readers. But I suspect they’re all going to want me to change it. My mom will want less death, my one friend will want me to spell out the why of everything, my other friend will want the main character to overthrow the evil society….)
(I’m hoping, though, that if I tell a good enough story they’ll like it for what it is.)
Well, I guess all there is to do is read the damned draft and fix what I can. Maybe I’ll start to see patterns/issues as I go. (And maybe I need to do a bit of book skimming/web surfing on editing to remind myself what else to look for. No one said this novel-writing thing would be easy…)