Untimed – Two Novels, Two Drafts!

My second novel, Untimed, is a YA time-travel adventure.

And I just finished the rough version of my second draft. Whew! Happy to be done with that. The book grew to 84,000 words (it’ll probably get trimmed down a bit for draft three). It still needs polish, but the second draft is often the worst, and this one took 5 or so weeks of concentrated work. While I learned from my first novel and put the beginning at the right place, the previous draft still had a number of classic first draft problems.

Namely, character and motivation needed work. Plot can formally be considered the friction between the protagonist’s desire and the obstacles to said desire. The book is/was jam packed with conflict and action, but the desire line was a bit weak. I won’t say it’s perfect now, but it’s a hell of a lot better. As are the characters. For me it’s difficult in the first draft to flesh both of these out because as a pantser I don’t know exactly where I’m going with the story until I get there. Not that I write blind, but I like the story and the characters to take me where they want.

When writing the second draft, you have an end (even if you plan on changing it), so you know all the elements that you intend to put in the book. Therefore it’s easier to go back and foreshadow those and reinforce the important ones. You also know what the character is going to need to feel at different points in the story, so it’s easier to try and set up and reinforce those feelings.

Additionally, as a pantser, I actually get to know my characters in the first draft. The writing of them brings them to life in my head. Then in the second draft, I need to brainstorm extra elements in their past and present that reinforce the traits I know they’re supposed to have, then hint at the them in the book. Again, hard to do the first time around.

Now to see what some reader that aren’t me think — and trial and nail the third draft.

I’d also like to thank my story-consultants Sharon & Bryan for listening to every blow by blow change and my independent editors Renni & Shannon for pointing me in the second draft direction. Here’s to hoping I went far enough :-).

The second draft involved a few weeks of incubation (June), a full read and polish (also June), and then hardcore writing from June 30 until August 2.

And in case you’re wondering what the book is about, I still haven’t written a log line, but its a lean-mean-fast-paced first person present story about a boy whose name no one remembers — not even his mother. And it features Ben Franklin, Napoleon, a male gang leader that wears red high heels, and the Tick-Tocks, creepy clockwork time traveling machines from the future.

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Juggling Brains

As the process of the revising my — hopefully — almost finished novel, The Darkening Dream, draws out the amount of work I have to personally do on it declines toward the limit of… well very little. More and more I’m just waiting on something to come back from someone else. When it does, I have a little flurry of activity and then it’s back to waiting. This is par for the course in the glacially paced publishing business, and I haven’t even seriously gotten into the game of waiting on agents and editors yet, which makes glacial look fast. Hell, publishers routinely (read almost always) sit on books for 12-18 months between signing and release. Of course, this is mostly because that’s how it was done prior to the computer and internet age, and must change very soon or they will find themselves in Chapter 11. One only has to look at something like this to realize that.

But in any case, the authorial solution to this process is to write another book in the meantime.

I’d had a really fantastic idea a couple months ago, as usual a hybrid between some new ideas and one of the forty-two thousand stories that have been bouncing around in my head for years. Often a great book comes out of the evil-mutant-mating of two or more half-formed book ideas. In this case the oldest of these is a time travel concept I conceived in the fall of 1994. Anyway, I’ve been doing some outlining work on it since the new year and finally began writing. Three chapters (5700 words) popped out in no time, as I’m very good at the process of converting a scene idea (as long as I know in my head roughly what’s supposed to happen) into the actual prose. I’d half-forgotten how fun first-drafting is. More fun for sure than line editing, and WAY more fun than outlining, and WAY WAY more fun than writing queries or synopses.

The tricky part when flipping back and forth between books is not getting the voice all confused. The Darkening Dream is in third-person past, and has six distinct character voices, while the new one is first-person present with very clipped immediate sentences. Good synaptic exercise for sure.