1920s, Books, editing, fantasy, goals, humor, publishing, writing

Joyful Work

Those of you who enjoyed Magic Most Deadly will be happy to know that I am currently hard at work on revisions of the sequel (thus far, the working title of Magic in Disguise seems to be sticking). You might remember me posting here a few months back that I had finished the first draft? Now I’m filling it out, deepening it and padding it, putting events in their proper order, inserting clues (now that I know both the point of the crime and the criminal, two things I was clueless on when I started the first draft), creating a few red herrings, all that fun stuff.

I know some writers who dump everything into their first draft, and then spend subsequent drafts pruning, cutting away words and tightening it all up. That is not how I craft my stories. No, my first drafts are always the barest of bones (as a teen, I used to write my first drafts as scripts – just dialogue and a few terse “stage directions”), which then have to get filled out a little more in each draft. Right now my chapters stand at about 2500-3000 words each – I need to get them to 4000-4500 by the final draft. Whew!

It’s fun, though. And it’s fun to challenge myself by seeing if I can include enough background details in each scene to keep my beta readers from saying “more details! We need more details!” (I’ve never yet managed it, but it’s a goal). Today, for example, I spent some time figuring out the layout and general decor of Len’s London flat. While the readers of Magic in Disguise won’t necessarily need to know that the flat has two bedrooms, and the exact location of the cloakroom, or what the color scheme is of the dining room, having all that information at my fingertips will make it easier to sneak in subtle details to fill out the story and make it more vivid.

More vivid! That’s what I hope for with all my stories – that they live. I have a hard time re-reading Magic Most Deadly these days – my fingers itch to start editing, to fix all the flaws I see in it now, to make all these improvements. But one thing that does still satisfy me with it is how alive it is. Flawed though it might be (hey, it’s a debut novel), creaky though it may be in places, it does live, and that gives me great joy.

I hope that Magic in Disguise, when it is finished, not only is an improved book craft-wise from MMD, but is even more alive than its predecessor. A joyous, laughing, living book (as much as a murder mystery can ever be those things!), which brings as much delight to its readers as it did/does to its writer.

And now I’d best stop talking about writing it, and get back to actually writing the thing …

4 thoughts on “Joyful Work”

  1. Yes! Bring on the details! I totally want to know what Len’s flat looks like.
    I have to say I have a tendency to fall off the detail-description horse on the other side – I need to prune that stuff back. My reader doesn’t need to know at EVERY given second what my MC is doing with his hands, or that there are TWO pottery jars sitting on the mantlepiece (let alone exactly what glaze colour they are, and every other knickknack in the room). To give enough to paint the scene, but not so much that it becomes a boring blow-by-blow description, that’s the art…

    1. I used to write all Talking Heads; I have now worked my way up to including physical characteristics along with the dialogue (“…’Oh dear,’ she said, biting her lip and trying not to wring her hands,” etc), but they are still prone to existing in a vacuum. Where are they standing? What is happening around them? Inside or outside, winter or summer, alone or surrounded by people? WHO KNOWS?

      I’m working on it. :-) I’ve also been figuring out more details about Aunt Amelia’s house, and I confess that I would happily describe everyone’s clothing in painstaking detail if I didn’t know that would bore most readers who are not me.

  2. I also write sparingly at first and then flesh out my writing layer by layer, so I never quite identify with writers who end up cutting hundreds of pages. (I’ve only written one novel so far, but seems to me the trend will continue!)

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