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Friday, June 26, 2009

A peek at the First Draft Process

Friday roundup of projects I'm working on:

ALEX VAN HELSING #1-- this book is due on July 20. I wrote the first draft over a couple of months, using a schedule that required steady work but no more than two or three hours of a writing night, and only a few nights a week. The trick is to schedule it and get it done. I tend to use a writing strategy I call "Astronaut," after the old adage than an astronaut solves problems by taking the time he or she has and parceling it out in a plan. I shorten "Astronaut" into the adage: if you're out of time, schedule it.

So I scheduled the first draft of Alex Van Helsing carefully-- first in a bulleted outline, then an Excel Document outline. Excel outlines are useful because you can set up a column showing whether you've completed the chapter or section. I also set up a reverse counter indicating how long the manuscript was in draft form.

I have a first draft of the novel completed and after taking a few days off, for the last few nights I've been slowly going through the draft the old-fashioned way, with an enormous printout and a pen. The basic progress (I wrote this down recently) goes like this-- I really don't look at the first draft much until I have the whole thing done, then I do a lot of reading:
  • a quick read-through to catch big mistakes
  • another to start adding in missing scenes ("pickup scenes") that establish certain things you may have forgotten to establish
  • another to really fix up sentences and sometimes perform major surgery, removing scenes or changing descriptions, or making some major change, like changes of locale or removing/adding subplots. If I decide Alex has a fixation on mermaids (he doesn't) then that must pepper his speech-- a change like that has ripples all through the book.
That's before you actually turn the book in and deal with revision requests from the publisher. So right now we're about in Bullet #1.

Meanwhile, I notice MTV has an article up on the new "Nazi Kill Calculator" in Wolfenstein, a game I was a consulting writer on. I did some dialog punch-ups as a deep, deep fan of this series, so naturally I'm very excited.

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