Friday, July 26, 2013

The process of finishing a novel.

Rupert Davies as Maigret. (Allan Warren.)

The process of writing a novel culminates in the finishing. The finish can be a process too. The finishing process begins when you have reached the end of the first draft.

More than anything, in a first draft I want to get to the end of the plot. I want to pace the amount of words I use in order to come out at or slightly short of the desired word count. By writing one or two thousand words a day, I get to think it out ahead of time, two or three scenes ahead at any given time. Then I sit down and try to get to the end of the scenes.

The end of the book is sort of thin and threadbare, and yet when I remember something or some thought comes up, I go back and add it in. I re-read the beginning or previous material from time to time. I add details, make a scene fuller. The start of the book is always a little denser at the end of the first draft than the end of the book. All of that is smoothed out in the re-writes, and for me they seem essential, even though my pace was good, and even though the pace of the action was good, and even though the logic seemed pretty good. Right.

For a novel, a minimum of 60,000 words is required.

I’ve got a novel underway. It’s at 52,000 words as of this writing. I have two more scenes left to do. I might even get more ideas, even though I think I know how the story turns out. If each scene comes in at a thousand or two thousand words, then everything is fine and dandy.

That would amount to about 55,000 words.

When I go back to the beginning of the book for rewriting, I will be looking for logic, in that a person can’t change names in the middle of a scene. They’re either in or out of the scene. The thing has to make sense. But what I’m really doing is fleshing out the environment. I leave out details of room description. In the first draft people are rarely physically described.

I just want to get the action down on paper. So as I go through the draft, when I come to Joe Blow I sort of see him in my mind—he’s a trooper, he’s got red hair, blue eyes and freckles no less. He’s not that tall but he’s lanky. He’s twenty-one years old and signed on for adventure.

Then I add it in nice and natural.

When they travel through an environment, I can see it in my head on the first draft. I simply didn’t bother to write it down in passing. But it’s an alien world, and that requires some attention to details of world-building, including a whole ecology of flora and fauna, the way the people live, their culture, whatever.

I began the book around the middle of June, 2013. The day of this writing is July 25 or thereabouts. Blogger will date it for us.

If I can write 52,000 words in about a month and a half, then surely this thing will be done in another couple of weeks, i.e. I wrote (or will have written) a 60,000-word novel in about a month and a half. That leaves time for another book of similar length, and then I will write short stories during what people call Nano-Month, (November) when everyone tries to write a book in a month.

I’m going to submit my new one a couple of places rather than immediately chuck it into the black hole that is the fate of most self-published authors to date.

That gets it out of my hair for a while. My hair’s thin enough as it is.

More importantly, all kinds of ideas, modus operandi and perp-profile, are coming together for my third mystery novel. Inspector Maintenon will have a real hum-dinger of a murder mystery this time. He usually solves two cases in each story, so that just makes it a little more fun for the writer as well as the reader.

In a mystery, there is the presentation of certain facts, but there are various interpretations of those facts, and of course a good deal of misdirection. When I used to read Agatha Christie novels, and my mom had a lot of them lying around, honestly, I never knew who the killer was until the very end.

That’s why we have detectives, right?

In this next one, we have a female victim in the major portion of the story, plus I’ll have a smaller mystery. That’s a first for me. I’ve written one novella and two books in the series so far. Those all had male victims.

“A certain type of victim requires a certain type of killer.” That’s what Gilles says in Redemption.

Other than that, I won’t give away a whole lot of plot points, although the series is set in the twenties, and Inspector Gilles Maintenon works homicide for the Surete in Paris, France. He’s a middle-aged man who entered the force as a cadet and his father cried at his graduation ceremony…you get the idea.

I know a lot of readers will assume the series was inspired by Hercule Poirot or even Inspector Clouseau, but it was Georges Simenon’s Maigret character that originally sort of stuck in my mind. I always wanted to do a book like that, and the original novella led to a series. I don’t even really know why, something about the feel of that world maybe.

You can get them at the following links, free where indicated.

The Handbag’s Tale (Novella)

Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery

The Art of Murder

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