Thursday, August 28, 2008

You Have to Start Somewhere

Finally finished rewriting the first chapter and suffice it to say I'm cured of the stiffy I got from finishing a draft of the whole manuscript. Whew! It was in pretty awful shape, and I was forced to grapple with the two characters who never felt sufficiently developed to me.

I was making pancakes a few weeks ago, in the midst of this rewrite, and it occurred to me there might be an analogy there. I recalled the golden brown rule my father, the Grand Poobah of Pancakes, imparted when he first taught me how to make them: The first batch always turns out bad. Whatever the malady --- burned, flat, stiff --- and whatever the cause --- nervous hands, uneven heat on the pan, batter that has yet to settle --- you can count on those first cakes being throwaways.

For the first year writing the book, every time I finished a new chapter I would go back and rewrite the first --- perhaps five times or more before I pledged to stifle this compulsion (for that's what it was) and not touch or even look at the chapter again until I finished the whole draft.

It stands to reason that the more you write the better you get, and the higher your standards become. Not only does your style improve, you also gain focus and clarity surrounding the characters and themes. I suppose it makes sense then, that it's only now, when the story is complete and the conclusion reached, that I'm in the best position to introduce the story, that I comprehend it well enough to capture its essence in the first few lines of prose.

I had prepared myself emotionally to encounter this chapter again, to cope with its substandard quality, get over it and make it better, but it was more grueling than I thought. Thankfully, I'm really pleased with where it is now, and like a pancake feast, getting it there required tossing a good portion of what I'd originally written, and starting fresh. I created a file in anticipation of the revision process, called "removed_portions.doc." After revising just the first chapter, the file is already 11 pages (>6,000 words) long.

Back from Outer Space

(... with that look upon his face.)

To the gracious dozen of you who read this thing regularly, my profuse apologies for such neglect. I thought I'd be done revising the first chapter in a jiffy, and figured why bother posting anything else anything else before I get that up??? But like any other instance when I estimate a time frame for how long some phase of this project will take, I ended up shooting way under the mark.

And of course, the longer I go without posting something here the easier it is to go not posting.

I am almost done rewriting the first chapter, after which I'll hand it off to some of my editing team and then post the damn thing. After that, I'll see what I can do about getting my handful of loyal blog readers some company.