So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m deep in revisions of Manifestation. I just started Draft Four, which will be wrapped up soon since it’s mostly a quick-little-fixes draft plus a LOT of cuts. Draft Three was major line edits and restructuring, so hopefully I don’t need to do more of that. Instead I’m focusing on things like which sections of the story drag, what is/isn’t needed for the story itself, and what needs to be cut.
Something I’m learning as I go along is that I tend to “think out loud” on the page as I’m writing a first draft. This leads to a lot of crap in a draft that needs to be cut. BUT in the long run, this is actually a good thing.
Allow me to explain.
See, I’m a firm believer in the idea that you sometimes need to just sit down and write, even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Manifestation was like that early on. There was a point in the early chapters where I didn’t know what Tock needed to be doing. I knew where, geographically and in terms of the plot, I needed to get her. But I didn’t know how to get her there.
In order to explain this in more details (without major spoilers), I’ll use Lord of the Rings as an example.
Let’s say Tock started off in the Shire. And I knew the first leg of the journey was to get her to Rivendell for the big Fellowship Hoedown. Those are Point A and Point F. When I sit down to write any of my novels, I always know what my starting point and ending point are. I knew it for Contamination and I knew it for Collapse. What I DON’T usually know is what Points B, C, C-1, D, D-1, D-2, E, and so forth are. I don’t know how to get my characters from their peaceful starting points to the place where the big dramatic plot shift starts.
So what I tend to do is just sit down and write in the moment. I picture the character, say on the road in her beat up pickup truck (I know, she wouldn’t have a pickup truck in Middle Earth, but stay with me), and she has to get to Rivendell. And what I realize is, not only do I not know how to get her there, but she doesn’t know how to get there.
I wrote a similar post about this awhile back, with how I let the characters talk things out in order to figure out where things are going. Except in this case, at the beginning of Manifestation, Tock had to figure things out alone. This led to a lot of internal monologue and a lot of meandering as I wrote out every detail, every mile of her journey from Point A to Point F.
The end result was about 6 chapters in excess of I’d say 15,000 words before she got there. When I looked back at this I realized that it was WAY too much. A lot of it was irrelevant to the overall story. I mean, do we really NEED to know every road driven down, every ocean crossed? No. We need to get the characters to where they need to be for the story to continue.
So I ended up making a lot of cuts, and trimming about 10,000 of those words. I went through and figured out which parts of this journey were the plot-crucial ones, which ones carried important parts of the story, and kept those. The rest I cut away. The result is a leaner, meaner novel that gets down to business instead of spending a few thousand words on Tock looking up ship schedules online.
But despite all those cuts, there WERE a few special tidbits in that 10,000 words that HAD to be saved. There were certain moments of character development that were crucial, and had to be pulled out and re-worked into the plot-central portions. In some cases it would be a couple of sentences. In other cases it would be a whole paragraph. I take these tidbits and pull them from the scrap, then paste them back in at a more fitting place. This shows me that the meandering, “thinking out loud” portions of the story served a purpose. Not only did they keep me writing until I got to the good stuff, but there were a few gems buried among all of the writing. And then once I got things really rolling along, well, then it was just solid gold.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. I’ll be wrapping up Draft Four fairly soon (hopefully this week, since it’s just a minor fixes draft). Hopefully it won’t be long before you can all read it!
In the meantime, I still have a short story, Radiance, that you can download on Amazon Kindle. It gives a nice little teaser of the events you’ll be seeing in Manifestation. I think it’s a darn good story, but you don’t have to take my word for it; just check the reviews.