Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Second Draft Wrap-Up, Plus Musings on Serial Fiction

I am tantalizingly close to finishing the second draft of book 2. (Still no word on book 1 from the depths of the slush pile.) Barring disaster, there is no reason I shouldn't finish this month, possibly in the next week.

It has been an interesting process. For one thing, the revision has gone relatively quickly, though there were places in the midbook where it seemed to take days to get through a single page. I've trimmed the wordcount way down, cut a lot of redundant material, excised two dead-end subplots, enforced consistency in the timing of events, and converted a fair amount of exposition to dialog. I felt ruthless. The book is leaner and less cluttered.

I think it will still need another going-over--I am not entirely happy with the development of the romantic plotline, and there may be pacing issues--before I am done (knock wood) with substantive editing. I also feel, however, that it will not be subject to the endless series of relatively major revisions that the first book has. The two first drafts were produced years apart, and I like to think I learned a few things in the meantime. (Heck, just writing that sentence has reanimated all of my doubts about book 1....)

Once this draft is done, I am going to take a break from it for a while. Much as I enjoy spending time in this world, I think I'm on the brink of ODing. So I'm going to take November off from Tethys and its problems and work on a new project, one that is deliberately silly and therefore should not stress me out too much when there's the holidays to plan for and work on the new release will be moving into high gear. I believe this is called planning, or something like that.

In November, too, I should get my first feedback from critters; depending on the overall tone, I may send in the entire book for critique. After November, I have a plenitude of options--work on book 1 if the feedback warrants, or query agents if it doesn't; figure out remaining plot problems in book 2; or first-draft book 3.

Speaking of which, I have started to wonder if trilogies are considered hopelessly old-fashioned? People seem to prefer open-ended series these days, at least in the urban fantasy subgenre that's so popular with the kids. I can see why people like them, I suppose--the potential for nigh-infinite storytelling (and sales) with characters you like, and people's general tendency to like something new only when it's like something they already know they enjoy, are both pretty heavy market mandates.

Alas, they grate on me both as a storyteller and a reader (this is my problem with comic books and television, too). They make it difficult, if not impossible, for characters to grow; changes that do occur are likely to be minor, or to be reversed in order to maintain an illusion of evolution. They do the concept of climax no favors; after every earth- or soul-shattering event at the end of every book, the next one starts... back at square one. I have never seen one that did not outlive the author's interest and ability to coax good stories out of the setup.

I have a single story to tell. I plan to tell that story in four parts because otherwise it would be 1,000 pages long, which is a little much even in a genre where people like books that can be recycled as building material. I love knowing how the entire story ends right now. It means that when I notice a theme emerging as the characters go through their lives, I can make sure that theme doesn't contradict itself anywhere along the line, can throw in a complication or two, can reinforce it here and there by a single word choice, a fragment of internal monologue. I can only cross my fingers and hope that someone out there still likes that sort of thing.

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