I finished the first draft of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die! That's a big milestone. The deadline for turning the manuscript in is September 1. Sounds like I'm way ahead, right?
Wrong. Those little words "first draft" are significant. That means, in the words of writer Anne Lamott, from her book Bird by Bird, that I was able to finish the "shitty" first draft. Now the real work begins.
When I write the first draft, I occasionally type [CHECK THIS] or [CAN A GUN SHOOT OFF A LOCK?]. It's so I don't pause in the creative flow to go exploring the internets or books in search of an answer. I might not be back for an hour if I start that kind of process.
Now's the time to catch up with all those. I spent Saturday morning making a note of all those comments in square brackets on a piece of paper. No, on two pieces of paper. I have more than 40 items to check out. Groan. I started by ticking off the easy ones: Make the chief of police more suspicious at the farmers' market. Does Lucinda know about the sabotage? Make Kryzanski have a slight accent. Give Cam a chipped left incisor. What do you call a wooden plank lock on a barn door?
The hard ones remain. I made some progress on one of them, and now need to rewrite one of the most important scenes in the book. Did you know that gasoline is no good as an accelerent for arson? Did you know you can't shoot a lock off with a handgun? Yep, nope. Things are not as they appear in the movies. Mix that gas with motor oil or diesel and, sure, you can drizzle it around an old barn and light it on fire. Get a hunting rifle and a deer slug and, sure, you can break a padlock or shoot out a bolt lock.
And then there's the advice we got from Donald Maass at the workshop in mid-April. One of the big takeaways I got was, "What's the one thing your protagonist has always feared would happen? Make it happen. Then make it worse. Then make it worse again." So I'm working on that. Once you keep that mantra in the back of your mind, you start to write differently. Even that scene I need to rewrite based on the advice I got from a long-time firefighter and arson specialist -- I wrote that after the workshop and had already worked in some of that "make it worse" approach.
After all those changes are in, I'll let the book sit fallow for a few weeks. Then it's time to jump in and look at pacing, at the timing of suspense scenes, at the logic (for example, "No! She can't suspect the chef BEFORE he drops that clue..."). Solicit a read from a few sharp-eyed fellow writer-editors. Revise some more. Print it out and read it aloud. Do my own edit. Hone the first sentence and the last sentence.
Because I want to deliver the very best book I can to the actual editor at the publishing company. I want to give this book, the first in the series, my best effort.
If you hear me running around screaming toward the end of August, not to worry!
Writers, what's your post-first-draft process? Readers, can you tell when a book hasn't gone through the whole process?