Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sixty Pages From The End

So here I am, about 60 pages out from finishing Violet Dawn. For me, the last two to three weeks of a book are always crazy. Basically working night and day. I’ve found with the last five books or so, I’ve fallen into a sort of weird pattern. First I’m writing, writing, trying to do extra pages a day. Then, along about here—60 pages or so from the end—I stop writing new stuff. Boom, just like that.

I never quite plan to do this, mind you. It’s just that my brain hits a lull. Well, that’s putting it mildly. More like a brick wall. Suddenly, I’m sick and tired of pushing pages every day, and I find myself wanting to do everything at the computer but write. E-mails, blog reading, googling, just plain messing. This would be fine and dandy if I didn’t have a deadline looming, but really—there ain’t no time to waste.

So I figure—okay, I’m tired of writing new pages, and I have to read through and edit everything I’ve done anyway. So I’ll just give myself a little break and turn to that editing now. Then I’ll catch back up with myself, and it’ll be a straight shot to writing the rest of the book.

Besides rationalizing, this is actually a very good plan. Fact is, it’s been a few months since I wrote those chapters at the beginning of the book. And as I prepare to go into the crisis/climax, I need a solid sense of how the whole book flows. Re-reading and editing at this point gives me that flow. Gives me impetus to write those critical last sequences.

And, truth be told, there’s another good reason. By this time in the book, I just know it’s the boringest thing ever written. It’s sure to kill my career, and the minute my editor reads the manuscript, Zondervan will never want to see my face again, much less contract with me. Ever. Then, by golly, by some miracle when I go back and read what I’ve written, I inevitably see it’s not quite as bad as I thought it was. Not quite.

Now here’s the ironic part. I start editing, telling myself it will be easier, because it’s not new writing. I suppose it is easier. Sort of. Except when it’s harder. Thing is, when I’m going through the whole book like that to see its flow, interruptions are a bad, bad thing. So I end up working all day—as in twelve to fifteen hours. That’s if I go to bed. There’s no “write your daily pages, Brandilyn, then you can kick back.” It’s just go, go, all day long. And maybe all night.

It takes me two to three days to go through the book in this way, depending upon how much life manages to interrupt me.

Why this amount of time, you ask? Basically, when I write, I get things the way I want them each day. That is, I don’t throw just any old words down, thinking I’ll actually make them sound half decent during some future edit. If I want to be metaphorical, I think up said metaphors that day. I try to characterize deeply day by day. Etc. Still, there’s nothing like fresh eyes to see things ya couldn’t see before. So when I start editing my so-called “the-way-I-want-it” book, I see all sorts of tightening and nuances that are needed.

I finished with that edit today. Now I’m back to where I left off—I gotta write the rest of the book. Except there was still one thing nagging at me, having to do with pacing. Pacing is important in any novel, but in suspense, by gum, you’d better not have many “down” chapters in a row. “Down” meaning less intense, let-’em-rest kind of pages. Out of necessity, I’ve developed a sort of innate sense about this pacing business. While writing my last manuscript, Web of Lies (you know, the spider book that releases next January), I came up with a nifty little system to check pacing. I’m using a variation of it this time around.

Tell you how it works tomorrow.


Camy Tang said...

Thanks for this post, Brandilyn. I've hit a brick wall of my own. I think I'll go back and edit too, maybe recapture "that lovin' feeling..."


Grady Houger said...

Ooohhh. The 'tune in text time' teaser line is back! I smile with anticipation!

C.J. Darlington said...

Man, I hate hitting walls. One thing that seems to help me (and I don't know if it's something that's even an option for you right now because of the deadline), is to step away from the manuscript for a day or two. Allow myself to not write for just one day and do something for the pure fun of it. Like bookstore browsing. Or going to a movie. Or simply SITTING and doing nothing. It really helps to have recharging time. But then again, I'm not on a deadline yet. :-)

Looking forward to tomorrow's post!

D. Gudger said...

B, here's a weird question - when you go back to edit, do you do it on the computer screen, or do you print your ms and go at it w/ a red pen?
I ask b/c I've hit a wall w/ mine at only 25K words in and have printed out the ms, but haven't done anything with it for two months! I can't keep making excuses, I am not sure how to approach the going back to edit hoping for a clue process :)

Unknown said...

Earlier this summer I stopped in at my alma mater and talked to my writing professor. He had just finished a complete draft of a novel and said that he actually still liked the book and the characters. He said that was unusual for any writer. I knew exactly what he meant. I finished the draft of my novel and I told my wife it was the worst thing ever written. After she read it, she didn't think so. And I don't think so either, now that I've had some distance from the work.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynette Eason said...

PACING! That's it! That's what I want, er, NEED to know about. Especially in this suspense, who-done-it arena. I was hoping this topic would come up at one point...I will eagerly be watching for tomorrow's post. Blessings!