15 November 2010

Editing, Shmediting

Okay, that title stinks. Can someone edit it? Seriously.

I'm here to discuss the wild and whacky writing process that I go through each and every time I write a book. Is this a How-To Write a Novel blog? Heck no. It's more of a don't do as I do sort of thing.

Maybe we should entitle it "Kimberley Troutte Reveals Her Writing Secrets: Run Now, Run Fast".

First, I come up with a kickin' idea for a premise. I'm blessed with these, most likely because I'm a little crazy. So a premise might be:

Death falls in love with a woman he has to kill. (Soul Stealer)
A ghost from 15th Century Castile with memory disorder has to solve her murder. (Catch Me in Castile)

The next step in the mad process is to build the characters. It's important to know who they are, what they desperately need, what scares them, who they love, who hurt them...To create flesh and blood people who my readers want to route for, I need to know what makes them tick.

Plotting is the third step. I jot down the scenes that I know I will have to have and leave big holes such as, (this is where a lovey-dovey scene goes) or (big surprise here). In one of my books, a family is on a boat and just about to be boarded by really bad guys with guns. The main character, Dave, knows what he has to do to protect his family.

This is what happens:

“I cut the raft free. Swim for it,” Dave said.

“Can’t! My ear.” Little Davey's hand covered his new ear. “I’m not supposed to swim yet.”

Dave rubbed his son's back. “Sorry, buddy. You’ve got to. I’ll tell you when.”

“What’re you going to do?” Lonnie’s voice trembled.

“Still winging it, angel. Get ready.” He smiled sadly and kissed her on the forehead. He pried Davey’s arms from around his waist. “Love you, guys. Always will.”

And then Dave made his move.

Okay, when I wrote that last line in the chapter, I said to myself--Cooool. I wonder what his move is going to be? I had no idea. I left it a hole and kept writing.

After I have a sense of where the story is going, I attack the computer. Really, it's a battlefield. I pound the keys, fight my fears, words fill up the page, I might curse a little, laugh a little, and sometimes cry for joy. It's all pretty crazy and fast. When I'm in the flow, I can crank out that first draft in about six months or less even with a non-writing day-job.

Emphasis on first draft.

The editing process is where the book really comes to life. You see, while writing, I put my head down and go for it--fast, hard, furious. It's the only way I know how to write. But this process means that I miss stuff. Important stuff. I'm too close to the story to see the flaws. This is where critique partners come in.

I have an awesome team of critique partners who really know their stuff. Most are published, the others are nearly published. I learn from each one. I love them dearly because they are all wonderful people and because they keep me from submitting stinky stuff to my editor. And there's no way I can write a first draft that doesn't stink.

Based on suggestions of critique partners and editors I have:

Moved middle chapters to the front and front chapters back.
Cut out one third of a book and started over.
Changed the tense from past to present in the whole. Darn. Book.
Shredded backstory
Rewritten dialogue
Changed genres
Changed Point of Views
Changed character names
Changed titles
Changed settings
Dismantled one book to make it two

I keep hoping that one day I will write the perfect first draft, but honestly don't think that is ever going to happen. My process means that I am going to rewrite at least six times, but more likely a dozen times before the book goes to print. That's okay, because I write stories that I love and each editing makes them that much stronger.

That's Kimberley Troutte's process in a nutshell. I told you it was whacky.

I'd love to hear from other writers. What is your process?

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