After I finish the first draft of a novel and before I dive into the edits, I read the entire book and make a bulleted list of everything that needs to be changed.
I used to find this process humbling and depressing. I spend days listing all the flaws in my first draft, which feels like listing my personal flaws. It’s all the problems I didn’t see when I created the outline, or fresh problems that crept in when I wrote.
For L&L, I was much more zen about it. I’ve come to understand that no matter how I go about writing the first draft—whether I take time and fret over every word and sentence or write fast and in the flow—I will always have things to fix. The first draft truly is just for me. It’s me telling myself the story. The second draft is where I make sure it’s a story that’s worthy of being told to and shared with others.
My list of changes for L&L is only 10 pages long, which translates to approximately 5 changes per chapter. Some of these are simple: add more details, tighten, include mention of ____ (whatever element I forgot). Some of the changes are more complex: add a new scene, increase the tension, shore up Kylie’s motivation.
With each book I write, I hope that the list of major changes gets shorter and shorter (and it did for this book). It means I’m figuring out the major problems during the outlining stage, when it’s so much easier to fix.
I also dream of a day when the first chapter won’t need a complete overhaul. Every time I write a chapter 1, I believe it’s the best way I can open the story. Then I finish the novel, and that’s when the theme really shines and the plot has shifted and the main characters’ motivations are skewed a little off what the outline had. All of which makes the original chapter 1 obsolete.
I have spent the last several days brainstorming how to change L&L‘s chapter 1 to make it work for the novel. As it is, it’s all wrong.
After banging my head against the keyboard and eating too much chocolate banana ice cream, I took my problem to my cat.
Shyboo, my outside cat, is a wonderful thinking kitty. She will happily help me work out plot problems. She helped me figure out the ending of Secret of the Gargoyles, which I’m very proud of.
She did it again with L&L. Thirty minutes of sitting in the shade with her, breathing in body-temperature breezes and petting her downy fur, and I had the right opening.
I just finished jotting down the notes for tomorrow’s writing session, serenaded by Mr. Bond’s snores.
He is not a helpful book plotter. This book doesn’t include him, and he couldn’t care less, as you can see.