I finished the first draft of a new book tonight. I’m both pleased and surprised by this. Typically it takes me forever to finish the first draft of a book. How It Ends took nearly a year, and my second book (currently unedited, in first draft status, and tentatively titled Dirt) took me three years.
So what’s the difference?
Length for one. This new book clocks in at only 54,000 words. That’s barely a novel. Like, just scraping by as a novel. Personally, I think it will expand as I edit it. Stephen King once described himself as a “putter-inner”, and that describes me pretty well, too. When I’m editing, things tend to swell. Then, as I go through the second pass, they come back down again. And knowing this book is only in the fifty thousand word range, and Dirt is edging on 130,000 words, it’s no wonder that this one took less time. I started this one around September and finished it up five month later.
The other reason is that I made a concerted effort to write it, almost every day. There were some days I didn’t, some days I just couldn’t make the time. Life happens, right? ‘Course it does. But unlike my other books, I’d always come back, and in a relatively short span of time. I think the longest I stayed away from this book was two days, whereas I left Dirt in a near-complete state for nine months before finishing it up. This makes a big difference. For one, it’s not as daunting when you return to the book and try to pick up the threads after having been out of the practice of writing for nine months. For another, you don’t have to spend half hour going back several pages to several chapters to try and remember what the hell was happening when last you saw the characters. I was able to keep the characters and the plot points foremost in my writing thoughts and never needed to wonder if I was woefully out of bounds. When I go back through the book, there will be some continuity gaps and some things out of character, but not on the level I’ve experienced before. (I hope…)
So now for the editing, and for that, I will wait. Taking further cues from Uncle Stevie (hey, his term, not mine), I plan to let this one sit for a bit so I can forget all about it. I figure I’ll pick it back up in March and begin to go through it and it will be like reading a brand new book. One with all kinds of typos and errors and issues just itching to be fixed up. It’s hard-boiled crime fiction, so I hope to edit quickly and have it ready to go for summer reading. I figure a nice way to kick of the beach season is with a beach book.
In the meantime, Dirt calleth my name. “Scott: edit me. Edit me…”
Given the size and difficulty I had writing it, I shudder when I hear it call…