Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raising A Book From The Dead

Dragon Face by
Klaudia Németh

The book was dead, Jim. At the suggestions of a series of agents, I had rewritten my fantasy until the heart fell out of it. It was time to reboot. But could I? How?

With paperclips, index cards, highlighters, a computer, a notebook, and floorspace, that's how.

I had at least three versions, plus bits I had removed and parked in a Bits file. I took printouts of all of them but the first and went through them. Any scene or character or line I particularly liked got highlighted, paper clipped, and noted on an index card that was coded in the corner: 1995 p27-38, for example.

Then I went back to my first version. Using that one as the template, I made a outline and wrote each element of that on an index card. Then I started stacking, arranging, and shuffling.

If I found similar "keep this" scenes in more than one version, I compared them to see which I liked better, or I combined them into one I liked best.

Taking the now-ordered stack of cards, I cut and pasted scenes into a new rough draft that contained everything I loved about all the versions I'd done.

I printed that out.

At this point, I was lucky enough to qualify for a writing retreat, and even luckier that I was the only one there at this particular time. It would have been hard to resist the camaraderie of fellow writers, especially if socializing would have taken me away from hard work.... Oh, did I say that out loud?

At any rate, it was just me and the manuscript. Notebook and pen at hand, I read through the entire book, trying to hold it all in my mind at the same time. It was kind of scary to read a line and think, "Didn't Darcy say that exact same thing earlier?", to grab a chunk of pages, flip them over, and be on the very page I was looking for. That, my friends, is total immersion! ;)

As I went, I made notes of questions that needed to be answered, discrepancies, questions that needed to be inserted, bumps, character names, and anything else that needed to be tended to.

When I got home, I tended to them.

Now the book is huge again. I just signed a contract on it, with the understanding that it will need to be published as a series, probably of three. I realize that there may very well be more rewriting to be done, but I believe I can do it without murdering the manuscript. If I do commit verbicide, at least I know how to undo it.

The title is SAGE.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

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