When Is Done, Done?

Wow, hey, long time no blog!

So I just typed “The End” on a new manuscript I’ve had on a low simmer for a year or so. Is it done and ready to ship off to Random House? Eh…not quite.

Everyone’s process is different, and mine changes based on other life events. Say, an impending rupture of my wife’s belly. Like every other first time parent, I have no idea what to expect when the little guy shows up, but I’m pretty sure things are going to be different. Not to put too fine a point on it.

So my goal was to get at least one more manuscript done and shipped to my agent before he arrives in August. So far, I’m on track to do that. But with this magical “The End” dangling off the final page, what’s next?

For me, it’s a break or a switch. Some writers, I believe Stephen King is among them, recommend putting the story away for no less than a month, three if you can manage. I happen to agree…but I’m not that patient. So I’ll put it away for a week instead. This is not a recommendation, it’s just me. During that time, I’ll either do nothing except maybe play video games and catch up on my reading, or (more likely) I’ll get to work on a different story, something in a totally different voice and setting.

I’m about 10 to 20 thousand words shy of a marketable YA novel with this story, so when I go back next week to check in on it, I’ll be keeping an eye on where bridges need to built, how characters can continue to grow and develop in context of the arc, and almost certainly find some new plot threads I wasn’t even aware were in there. What I won’t do is “pad.” Good writing is tight writing. I can’t add for the sake of adding. I’m not worried though, the words will show up as they need to, and when it’s done, they’ll belong there. (One hopes.)

This story has been a beast, and not in the good way. With PARTY, I dealt with subjects I wanted to know more about. With this one, I plumbed some parts of my high school career that I’m not proud of. That’s a much different challenge; to go back and examine just how badly I screwed things and people up back then. And the more I looked, the more I realized I only scratched the surface. I don’t think I was a bad guy, but man, when I made a mistake, I committed. I suppose it also depends on who you ask…

So this one is part homage, part mea culpa, part exorcism. With any luck, we’ll see it on shelves someday.

But first: revision. Then more revision. And…more revision. That’s how it works.

In parting, let me recommend a book to all you aspiring novelists (or published novelists for that matter), if you can find it: The Writer’s Digest Genre Writing Series: How To Write Mysteries by Shannon Ocork. No matter what genre you work in, just gloss over the specifics to mystery novels if you don’t write them, and pay attention to everything else she says; she touches on several subjects other books neglect, and has a style that’s easy to understand. I’m going to go back over this one with a hilighter, and I already know it will be one of the books on writing I’ll be turning to again and again. Absolutely great book.

P.S. ZERO comes out in April! Woo hoo!

Take care,

~ Tom

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