A Padawan’s Journal #40: The Last Period

What happens when you put that last period on a novel? It’s done, right? Finis. THE END.

Wrong. There’s still a lot to do.

After I put the last period on the very, very first draft of Shadow Games (a title selected by popular vote), I went back to the beginning and began to read, edit and rework.

I found typos. I found grammatically awkward sentences. I found continuity problems. Is this a problem? No. My NOT finding them would be a problem.

I know few writers (in fact, I know none) who write a first draft and never edit or rewrite. This is because, usually, as a novel is written, it changes. It does this for a number of reasons. For one thing, as a writer comes to know her characters better, she may realize that a reaction she’d plotted won’t work for the simple reason that it’s out of character.

She may change a character’s back story to account for character attributes or to hit desired “notes” or set up plot developments better. She may discover that that really cool action scene she dreamed up won’t work for logistical reasons or, in the GFFA, because the physics or history of the setting won’t allow for it. She may find that the key character she had decided was an enemy early on, turned out to be a friend—or vice versa. She may discover that what she thought was going to play a small part in the protagonist’s life during this period is actually far more important than she thought.

In Shadow Games, there was the added layer of having a main character (the holostar) who had a dual persona—the hype, and the real person behind the hype. Making sure those pieces are consistent is one of the things I made a point of before I handed off the finished piece to Michael. He’s worked with individual sets of chapters, of course, but now I have to go back and do my best to tie it all together, so I hand off as smooth a synthesis of our combined work as possible.

So that’s also part of the After Period process—Michael’s polishing pass. Then the MS comes back to me for another continuity check, which, we hope, is mercifully swift, then hand off to our editors. Then the real fun starts … the artist gets involved, the marketing people go to work, the editors edit.

And then…? Well, that will be the subject of another blog.

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A Padawan’s Journal #40: The Last Period — 5 Comments

  1. This is because usually as a novel is written, it changes.. Oh, so true for so many of us! I have heard of writers who have the entire shape in their head, and it comes out as they envisioned, but for the rest? Yes.

    Another observation I’d throw in is that one can sometimes see what one has written after the project has a “cool down” period. Editing right after finishing a draft can be a forest/trees experience.

  2. This is certainly true if I haven’t been paying attention when life gets in the way, or other projects interrupt the flow of the story.

    I’ve found one way to combat the chaos effect is to keep really good notes and plot connections in various places. I have “instant reminders” of little short lists to remind me to write or edit in or out certain things as I go. I use a nifty little tool called Sidenote to do that that literally pops out of the side of the screen if I need to take a quick note before I dive into an edit. And I keep copious notes and pics and charts in Notebook, as well.

    I’ve found that even when I have a story firmly in my head in broad strokes, the details can change drastically because I make “aha!” discoveries about my characters as I go. “Hey,” one will announce, “did you know that I nearly drowned when I was ten?” “I did not know that,” I reply. “I’ll make note of it. Say, does that mean that the trans-Atlantic crossing you’re going on in Chapter 20 will be a particularly gut-wrenching experience?” “This is why I tell you these things,” the character says. “I’m gonna be a wreck. Count on it.”

    When I was a new writer, I tried to ignore characters who told me stuff that I hadn’t planned on writing about. It made my characters stiff and two-dimensional and it sometimes stopped the writing process completely, If you don’t let your characters respond naturally to things, a story can just stop because there’s no honest place for it to go.

  3. I’m in thorough agreement when one sees characters’ memories, or sees them “at home” rather than on stage, interacting as outlined.

    I create small files to keep notes, but mostly my desk is littered with zillions of post its and yellow legal pad pages of notes (not to mention maps and the globe and atlas)–I am so stupid with computer stuff I can’t figure out how to do all these nifty “pop up” programs without totally losing what I do have.

  4. Cooling down lets you read what you wrote and not what you thought you wrote.

    The biggest changes for me happen when I realize that an unexpected but crucial thing/event/person should really be foreshadowed.

  5. I’m in thorough agreement when one sees characters’ memories, or sees them “at home” rather than on stage, interacting as outlined.

    I create small files to keep notes, but mostly my desk is littered with zillions of post its and yellow legal pad pages of notes (not to mention maps and the globe and atlas)–I am so stupid with computer stuff I can’t figure out how to do all these nifty “pop up” programs without totally losing what I do have.