Fellow TWRP author, Philippa Lodge has just released her wonderful debut historical romance The Indispensable Wife. She is visiting today to share what all we authors know is the torture of the writing process. Please help Philippa feel welcome!
The Zipless Draft
With one book coming out, another with my editor (which will soon be back with me), and a third that I’m editing to submit, I’ve been thinking about editing a lot lately.
When my brain is not stopping me in the middle of the rest of my life and saying, “AH! I think she needs to be laced up the FRONT not the BACK!” or “You know, that cute toddler needs to throw a tantrum….every day!” or “Wait, does she even know he used to have a twin?” I also think about how to edit.
I’m not a plotter. I am not 100% pantser either.
Pantser: one who writes by the seat of his/her pants. That’s trousers to you British-speakers. A trouser-er?
I tend to think of a couple of characters, think about what will happen when I drop them into their world, think of the main plot, and then the subplots and 500 secondary characters show up. And I figure out the culprit (if there’s a mystery) sometime near the end.
The first draft wanders, meanders, goes off cliffs, backs up, starts over, and is highlighted in red because really I’m going to have to cut those pages later….maybe.
NaNoWriMo 2015 is coming up. I always try to clear my calendar and get at least 50,000 words done, which is a huge chunk of a rough draft. The goal of NaNo is to get your fingers flying and your internal editor out of the game. I find I write by fits and starts. If I get stuck, I have to walk away for a while.
My approach to editing:
First pass: Reread the manuscript. Fix awkward sentences, notice that Chapter Three could be a summary that says, “Are we there yet?” twenty times. Marvel at my fabulous story-telling skills. Think of a hundred things I meant to say. Keep flipping back to the beginning and to note stuff that needs to layer in right from the start. And the bad guys still need names. Xavier and Yves, the nasty dudes in Indispensable Wife started out as X, Y, and Z. Z disappeared, unlamented, in edits. Put in clues and red herrings.
Second pass: SLASH and BURN, BABY! Though I tend to love my stuff and not want to remove anything, much like my husband’s collection of old computer cables, some of this garbage just has to GO. ALSO, the turning points need to fit in the right places. No wonder Chapter Three drags so much; they’re not changing and growing and making decisions. SLASH and BURN.
Third through ninth pass: Still not totally working for me… I should do A. I should erase the B. That secondary character needs his own point of view. We need some more scenes about C. I need to add a secondary character who will be in a later book, whose first draft I started. And she has a brooch! It’s important!
I drop into the middle of the book, take a look around, and blow it up. I’ll either knock it down to rebuild it or build from where it is. Ditto for the turning points at approximately 25% and 75% of the book. It’s time for analysis and making sure the chapters aren’t either 2 pages long or 35. Lots of considerations.
Tenth pass: I think I’m about done. I am wrong, of course. Time for my critique partners to read it!
Synopsis: Writing a synopsis is its own ring of hell. But in some ways, it helps clarify what that book was about. Oh lordy, I hate synopsis writing. I’m good at long form, not summaries. OK, OK, take out the subplots. And the important stuff. And…yes, tell not show.
This is both the most boring and the vaguest synopsis ever in the history of writing.
Blurb: Seriously? The whole story? In 200-ish words? I mean, where are the secondary characters and plot lines? What do you mean, I have to try to make people read this book? Are you TRYING to make me cry?
It’s a cliché. The whole thing is a cliché. My writing is a cliché. I’m doomed.
Logline: I… One sentence?… No more…I can’t… Please…stop… Kill me now…
And then revisions come from critique partners and my editor.
Yes, this is totally a messed-up process which takes a long time.
I’m going to have to come up with a better process. I need to find the process that takes me from this:
in a more efficient manner.
The title of this post refers to Erica Jong, who, in The Fear of Flying, claimed to be searching for the perfect love affair with an anonymous stranger, with no awkwardness: The Zipless F***. And no matter how much that book got on my nerves (Her husband took her back? Was he crazy? Why did she want him back? Did she learn anything at all? No?) and how Jong dissed the entire romance genre a few years ago, she was ahead of her time as far as women seeking fulfillment, having sex, looking for themselves (in all the wrong places), and generally being individuals who live, love, make mistakes, and don’t have to die horribly because they’re sluuuuuuuuts (See: Mme Bovary. See also: The Awakening. See also: slut-shaming of every sort.)
One day…one magical day in the future…I will be such a talented author that I write the Editless Manuscript. The Zipless Draft.
Perfection. Right up front. And I won’t even have to plot it out ahead of time or do a synopsis on spec. Because that is off the table.
The Indispensable Wife
by Philippa Lodge
Aurore was delighted when a marriage was arranged with the boy she loved, her older brother’s friend Dominique, Comte de Bures. But in a few years the first rush of joy has worn off, and their promising life seems ruined by loss, betrayal, and misunderstanding.
One terrifying morning mercenaries overrun their château and usurpers take Aurore hostage. Miles away at Versailles, where he is required to dance attendance on Louis XIV, Dominique is nearly killed by a crossbow bolt.
Escaping, Aurore travels with a troupe of itinerant musicians, hiding in the open while discovering hidden resources within herself.
Dom sets out to find his wife. He needs his old life back. He needs revenge. But his lands, his title, and his honor mean nothing unless he can win back the love of his indispensable wife.
About the Author
You can follow Philippa at the following:
Thank you for hosting me, Abigail! I’ll check in off and on all day to reply to questions and comments.
So tell me: plot, pants, or zipless?
So happy to have you. Come back any time.
And I’m similar to you. I’m 90% pantser with a tiny bit of plotting (mostly character development) ahead of time and much more tightening of the plot and character development in editing rounds (many of them). 🙂 I totally related to your entire article!
Hi, Philippa! I’m mostly a panster but I do believe the more manuscripts I write the process does get quicker. 🙂 Best wishes on your new release!
Thanks! Yes, I’ve been writing for a few years and the process, though still a food processor, has gotten better. At least while I’m writing, I try to figure out where it’s going so I don’t spend too much time on dead ends.
Totally a plotter. I outline my story to death before I start writing. I start with the story and then the characters kind of happen.
One of my critique partners outlines the whole thing. I’m always amazed. Wait, you already know what’s going to happen next? Golly… 😉
Great post! You had me laughing and saying, “Argh…is it blurb time?” I dread writing a blurb. There was only one that I nailed it the first time. It was my third book and I’m still in shock. Usually, I’m drafting so many that my desk is littered with paper. All the best with your new book, Philippa. 🙂
Thanks! And ha! My blurbs usually go through 15 versions and several times past my critique partners. Then for Indispensable, my editor made me start over. Nooooooooo!
Pants with an affinity for zipless…definitely aiming for zipless. Love your post! My process is similar, as I’m sure are many others. 🙂
I’ve been to talks (mostly at local RWA), taken classes, and so on and no one ever mentions feeling like they’re just wandering around, randomly changing words. Well, that’s me…
What a great article – I totally relate. I’m about 90% pantster too – although I always do a rough outline in the form of chapter headings…which usually change…but they’re the skeleton of the story. I also love your pictorial analogy at the end so accurate to the whole writing process!
I tend to have various goals in mind. I need to know a few things they’re going to do along the way, though sometimes they wander off course.
Sometimes it’s better that way. I’m stuck on a MS I started because the hero is riding off to the heroine’s house, leaving her behind. And there’s a time lock, so he’s going to run out of time with this girl. He really needs to not ride off. So I have to go back and figure out where I went wrong and think of new sign posts to aim for.
Very entertaining post, Phillipa. I chuckled all the way through. Best of luck with your debut!
I enjoyed your post, even though it was a lot like looking in a mirror while reading my own mind. Wait? Isn’t that normal? Best wishes on your book release!
Editing, the writers own hell! I enjoyed your post, mirrored my own thoughts. Good luck with your book release! Hey better late than never right? LOL