I just finished my first real read-through of the first draft of book three of The Songbird River Chronicles, The Fount of Magic.
I finished writing that draft… um… a while ago.
And while I did, in fact, beat myself up over the fact that I was spending all of this in-between time NOT editing it and preparing it for publication, I find now that the distance has actually been extremely helpful.
First off, I had a chance to forget some of the story. Oh, I remembered the big overarching skeleton of the piece, and lots of chunks of the flesh, but some of the details had escaped me. I actually went back and reread books 1 and 2 as well to get back into the story.
Second though, and more importantly, I’ve had time to grow as a writer between finishing the draft and now. I’ve been reading a whole lot for pleasure lately, as well, something I haven’t had time to do since I was in high school, really. I’ve been critical of the books I’m reading, picking out things that I think work really well and things I can see don’t work at all, and I’m analyzing them as best I can. It’s been really fun going through my own work now and using those skills to see how I can make the second draft actually work.
That isn’t to say that the draft is broken, currently. It works, the story is there, and it’s pretty decent. Pretty damn good in lots of places, to be honest. It’s just the bits in between those “pretty damn good” chunks that need some reworking.
And that’s where this whole distance thing is coming into play. Because, when I first finished the draft and immediately turned around and read through the thing again to attempt some clean up, I floundered. I knew it needed something, but I just could not tell what it was. I knew particular chapters flagged, but for the life of me, I had no idea how to make them crackle the way the other chapters did.
So I got frustrated, and I put the draft aside.
And now, many, many months later, when I opened it up and read through chapter one (which needs some not insubstantial work, though is by no means the worst offender) the answer immediately snapped into place in my head. The same thing happened when I got to my other trouble chapters.
Two chapters will need heavy rewriting, and I mean total scrapping, tossing out the window, light those suckers on fire because just GAG me already they sucked. Most of the rest need some light reworking to adjust the information flow, or to adjust for the major changes in those rewrite chapters.
But there are some that I’m just not touching, because as far as I can tell, they are in exactly the form they need to be. Those are the chapters that I was reading along, and suddenly realized I’d forgotten I was editing them. They’d sucked me in, and I’d just been going on a ride with them.
Like I was reading a real book! An entertaining one! With plot and characterization and pacing that worked properly!
And when that happened, I stepped aside, patted myself on the back (because, as writers, we don’t acknowledge our own good work often enough. I say, if your own work carries you away like that, let it! That’s the whole point of writing, after all!), and made myself reread the section more critically.
So, long story short, I no longer feel so guilty about the procrastination. Well, I do, but I feel it worked out for the better this way.
I’ve got the house to myself this Saturday. I’m planning to make some decent headway into this thing, now that I’ve got my edits outlined. Maybe I can even wrap it up before we leave for our Germany vacation in a week?
So long as I don’t start procrastinating again…