Friday, August 12, 2005

The draft is done!

Yep. 350 pages, more than 91,000 words. The draft of my novel Strange but Familiar is done. So what exactly do I mean by draft? How complete is it, how much work is left? I taught a novel-writing evening class last September (Novel Writing for the Commitment Shy) as part of Susan Bono's Writer's Sampler at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and I pulled my favorite definitions of the word "draft" (also: draught) out of various dictrionaries and came up with this: a first catch of fish, a gulp of beer, a creative gust of air.

My point in finding these whimsical definitions was to point out that a draft is a "first" thing. As for a novel, hopefully it contains all the elements, most of the characters and a good idea of the plot. It has paid more than a cursory attention to language and you've written some scenes, god help you, rather than narrating for chapter after chapter. In this book, the first 150 pages were written over a period of about six months or more, revised and fine-tuned for my Master's Thesis with my mentor, while the final 200 were written in two months. I don't normally revise heavily as I go, but I was in a graduate program and all I wanted to write was this novel, so I had no choice, and I'm grateful for some of the directional spins that Alice put on it. Still, you can probably guess that there are a lot more holes and problems in the final 200 pages. Although, sometimes the amazing happens, and a chapter writes itself in a state of near wholeness and needs very little work.

My main concerns for this book are: Are the characters distinct, unique, complex and interesting? the plot intriguing enough to keep the reader from getting bored? I'll be working on both issues here as I revise. I love these characters, truly, and I want the reader to love them too despite their mistakes.

But there is a sense of accomplishment of a kind. The hard work is behind me, actually. Even if I wind up adding new characters, cutting whole chapters, writing whole new chapters, I'm not guessing anymore what happens to these people, just whether it happens in the right chapters, for the right reasons, and with the right people...



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