First off, Happy New Year. Welcome to 2012. If the Mayans were right, the clock is ticking. If basic human biology is right, it’s already ticking–it’s just that we’ll all wind down at different times.
On that cheery note, let me spin you a tale and share what I’m working on for the first part of the year.
Years ago, I had this idea of “What would happen if fictional characters got stuck here in this world and just had to find jobs and fit in?” Would Christopher Robin get his skinny ass killed by a bear in the London Zoo? Would Mary Poppins become a super-spy? You know…the questions of the ages, right?
Somehow, I spun that out into a story called “Ink Calls to Ink,” which I was thrilled to get published in both print and audio format by Wily Writers in February 2009. (It’s also available in their print collection, Night Mantled: Best of Wily Writers Year One. You know, hint hint.) It was a not-surprisingly twisted little tale about the Steadfast Tin Soldier, Goldilocks, and a little bit of ursine vengeance. And reading it for the audio podcast recording, Wily majordomo Angel Leigh McCoy suggested that it would make a great novel.
She’s going down in history as the person that made me write the resulting novel. Especially since it took a long time to wrestle that first draft out and I’m inordinately proud of it. The first draft was done at the end of November, 2010. It’s been sitting for a year. It went out to beta readers, I work-shopped the first chapter, and I got some great feedback. But for the most part, it’s been largely untouched for over a year while I did other things.
Now here, cats and kittens, is the decidedly un-sexy part of being an author. This is the part in the trenches, up on the front lines trying to bring order to the beast with rifle, bayonet, and your very teeth if that’s what it takes. I’m talking about the REVISION STAGE!
And I don’t care how good of an author you are. There is no first draft that wouldn’t benefit from a revision stage. Unless you’re that total freak statistical bit outlying of data who craps gold, you have to revise your novel.
That’s the thing you learn when you mature as a writer. You finish that first draft, aglow with accomplishment. Maybe you even dare to share a chapter with someone. Then you READ it and all you can see are the flaws, the blemishes, the things that NEED to be fixed. Or maybe even just DONE BETTER. That’s a good instinct. It means you’ve grown as an author. It means you take pride in your work.
It means that writing a novel includes a whole metric crap-load more than writing a first draft. Because if you want to DO anything with that novel (short of dumping it out on the internet as an poorly written curiosity for which you will pay, oh yes you will pay), it needs another pass. Then another. Then maybe one more, just to be sure.
I realized when I finished NaNo this year that I’ve written ten novels. TEN. And the last few were just written then set aside. If I were writing just to write, that would be one thing. I could print it up and set it in a drawer and say, “There you go. Get comfy, because you’re never coming out.” But a novel is a big time commitment, even just a first draft. I don’t want to spend that kind of time on something that, if I knuckle down and rewrite, I can actually sell.
And honestly, Ink Calls to Ink is an contemporary urban fantasy that I could sell in the current market. If, and only if, I take the time all books need to get it cleaned up.
So that’s what I’m doing for 2012.
I’m doing the edits and rewrites that Ink Calls to Ink needs, that it’s needed for a year. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to let it sit. I’ve grown as a writer and editor in that year, and those skills will be handy. Plus, I’m not as sentimental about it as if it were new.
Once that’s done, it’s on to either the rough first draft I turned over to a publisher last month for a first look, or to the mystery novel I wrote in 2010. Both will get the rewrites they need this year. It’s just a question of when.
I’m going to try and knock out a short story here and there–hopefully one a month–just to feed that creative need. But from here on out, we can’t stop now–it’s editing country!
The good news, I’m off a strong start. I did a hard two chapter edit already today, and hope to get in another chapter tonight. That will take me one-tenth of the way there.
Speaking of which, time to put on the coffee and get back to it.
The novel is waiting.