This morning, dear Reader, our heroine completed the rough draft of Through the Mirror: Model Behavior. Huzzah! Confetti! Holes you could drive a bus through!
It’s a seriously rough draft. No matter how many novels I end up writing, I’ll never forget all I went through putting together this rough. This was my training ground in the very basics of fiction writing. This is the one I used to learn all the things everyone in the business assumes we already know when we have the temerity to call ourselves “writers.”
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t utterly without merit. I’d written before, novels, poetry, short stories over the years. Had just come out from a long, long break, but that’s another story. My work had always been received very well when I shared it. That felt good. Not once did I submit for publication, despite being urged to do so. I almost wish I had now. That was twenty years ago. Different world in publication now.
I began and then restarted this rough three times. Each time, I didn’t quite start from scratch, didn’t quite edit, either. Line for line, I updated, improved and added. Each time, I readdressed the manuscript because of visions I’d gotten, insights into the world that was the setting for the series. Only a few chapters into the novel, I felt it was worth going back to the beginning and adding the necessary details, planting the seeds for the plot devices that were a natural outgrowth of these world changes.
The entire way through this novel, I learned things about the world in which it’s set. Seriously, even the last chapter was a real eye-opener. I did some worldbuilding before I began this series (this is Book 2) and again before I began this book, but the details and a deeper foundation revealed themselves while I was in trance, in the zone.
When I hit the zone, I’m pounding out 1k+ words per hour. While my focused awareness is on the story that I’m writing, I can feel other things going on, see them in my mind out the corners of my eyes. It’s as though tendrils are creeping through my subconscious, gathering little bits and pieces and then putting them together and *bam* putting them into my awareness while I’m writing. My fingers fall from the keyboard. I stare into midair at the thing in my mind’s eye. My awareness, still running at top speed, grabs the new shiny and runs with it, fitting new pieces together, looking back, looking forward and then crying out with glee at all the pretty new shinies.
It’s exhausting to be in the zone. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. It is my cardio workout.
So this is the novel that has new shinies put into it at different points throughout the rough. I didn’t go back through and update the manuscript each time a new shiny came up, that would have been madness. I paused, I tilted my head to let the shiny fit into the rest of the storyline and I kept going. When I rewrite, I will have the multi-faceted view of the world well in focus and will be able to bring the entire manuscript up to date to reflect it.
This is the novel that allowed me to finally internalize “Show, Don’t Tell” (no, not just recently, when I did it for the Friday Forum). I’m pretty sure the first few chapters are dodgy on that. When it sunk in finally, it really hit home. It went from theory to foundation. For the most part, I don’t have to think about it now. The story tells itself in show. (Love that sentence.) I do catch myself, when I slip out of the zone, slacking off. Bad writer! *smack*
Don’t get the impression I write continually in the zone. I don’t. I don’t even think that would be healthy, mentally or physically. Some stories lend themselves to it, some parts of them more than others. The last half of this novel definitely did. While I’m thinking about it, I apologize for all the calls I missed and voicemails I still haven’t gotten.
Being in the zone is great for roughs, but not so much for the real meat of writing fiction, which is the rewriting. Being in the zone creates those bus-sized holes I mentioned. For example, I know what happened to the villains in this story. I know, now that I’m out of the zone and looking back, that I left a gaping hole there for the reader, having skipped like a rock on the surface of a pond over it in my speed.
I learned techniques, some that everyone needs to know, others that just help me and my style. I converted from being a pantser to a plotter, but that because I get in the zone and fly, my plotting only goes so far. I would zone, see a shiny, deviate course toward it, integrate it and then aim myself back toward the plotted course. It worked well.
The end is not the end it was supposed to be. The epilogue came out of nowhere. The climax is so very much better than I had plotted, but details are overlooked because I was in the zone. The last chapter drags. The main character developed steadily through the story, reacting, learning and moving on with her life.
It’s just a story. Just a novel like any other in the bookstore. With luck, it may actually be in the bookstore some day. All the same, I’m very pleased with it. I’m eager to go back to the beginning and build the world from the first word. Thrilling at the idea of opening it up again and doing the second draft!
But first: NaNoWriMo, in which our heroine takes on Book Three of this series. Zone, here I come.