Done But Not Done
Last night, I wrote the ending to the novel I started writing back in 2018. A little over two years pecking at the project. Technically, this is the first draft of a complete do-over of the previous first draft. But this draft is done. Yay.
I don’t want to freak anybody out, but first drafts riddled with problems. Big picture stuff like never mentioning the murder weapon or shooting a gun I left in the car three chapters ago.
So what’s wrong with my book? Glad you asked. There’s two kinds of problems, the ones I know about and the ones I don’t. Plus all the grammar and typos. It may come as a surprise, but we fix those last because I could work hard on those and then find I need to jettison the entire passage. If you love fixing technical errors, that step comes later. Just like sanding a piece of furniture to a fine sheen.
There is a world of difference between an early draft and a finished product. I’m about to go over some of the problems so other writers see they aren’t alone and readers get a sense of what goes on behind the curtain. I hope to solve these problems before shopping for an agent and try to get a book deal. The problems of today shouldn't be a problem when we get there.
My goal is standard minimum length for a novel with 70,000 words. The draft is almost half that at 37K. It has 20 plot points a typical action story has that I cribbed from CS Lakin’s site. If you like fast paced and minimal description, I succeeded. But my gut tells me I’ve gone too fast.
Too Short of a Timeframe
I packed an entire adventure into a 24 hour time span set in Houston. Characters rushed to finish scenes so they could hop in the car to get to the next scene. I exaggerate, but while I want tension, I can control that better by taking the time I need in the scenes and adjusting the doomsday deadline so the bomb gets stopped with three seconds left no matter what. Sorry for spoiling that for people who are amazed that the hero always stops it with scant seconds left.
Incomplete Secondary Arcs
There’s two kinds of minor characters. The one who shows up with a clipboard to hand a problem to the captain and vanishes. The other is one who seems to have unfinished business with the hero and thus shows up later. I have a few of the latter, and I didn’t have time to get back to them.
Explanation not Exposition
I think I did a good job of avoiding excessive exposition. But a trait of the Urban Fantasy genre is moments of explaining how the magic works. I skipped that. A lot of that. There’s a time and place for magesplaining, and I’ve got to find it.
Nobody wants the entire spice jar dumped into the soup, but you gotta open the lid and shake it a little. A few words in the right place won’t crank my word count up much but will set the scene better.
Back to Work
I could be wrong on what my story needs, but identifying something specific to work on gives me something specific to do. You wouldn’t want your doctor to diagnose you as “kind of sick” because there’s no indication of what treatment to give. Once I get my solutions in place, I can reassess and repeat. A few drafts later, I’ll have something to try out on some test readers. Until then, go read a book and write a review.