There’s an old saying that everyone dreams of showing off a book they wrote but no one likes to actually sit down and write it. The act of writing, especially for something like a novel, involves considerable work and effort on the author(s) part and, without sounding too judgmental, not everyone has either the desire and patience to go through with this.
Yet using the above statement, it is my belief that many people out there nonetheless have an impression that writing books is not “hard work”.
An entertaining, at least to me, as the TV show Castle is, it is guilty of showing this attitude. The show, for those unfamiliar with it, involves Richard Castle, a popular mystery writer, who tags along with the New York Police Department (specifically the very beautiful detective Kate Beckett) and helps her solve crimes. One of the more vulgar (though I believe on target) jibes against the show and its portrayal of what an author does is that in Castle we have someone who seemingly “shits out books” in his spare time, whenever the mood hits him, and spends the bulk of his day in the detective field.
But let’s not blame the entire attitude on shows like Castle. I believe part of this feeling that authors don’t do “a lot” of hard work may be due to the time it takes audiences to experience it. As an audience you “experience” a work in its final, completed stage and it often doesn’t take all that much time to do so. For music, you experience songs in the few minutes it takes to play them. With a painting or any illustration, you can take in the final work in a matter of seconds and longer if you want to scrutinize parts of it. With a novel and depending on your motivation, you could read it in one sitting or perhaps over the course of a week or two, and often in your free time. But just because you can experience an artistic work relatively quickly doesn’t mean that the author(s) of said works took a similar amount of time to create it. There are authors whose works have taken decades to complete, including some of my own.
For me writing a book not only involves many, many hours of physical work typing in front of a computer, but also heavy thoughts about what it is I’m trying to put forward during almost every waking hour of the day. Believe it or not, the later statement is absolutely true: When I’m deeply involved in my latest novel (and for the past five or six years I’ve been on one after the other) thoughts regarding scenes I’m working on constantly bubble in my mind. It is rare that a moment during the day passes without at least one or two stray thoughts about some bit of dialogue or how to improve on a scenario or whether something I wrote needs to be revisited.
In a way, its like suffering from an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, only its me trying as hard as I can to make my current work as good as it can possibly be.
Which, in my very long winded way, brings me to the fifth Corrosive Knights novel. I’m currently on the second full draft and roughly 1/4th of the way through the actual re-write. I believe I mentioned it before that the first and second drafts of my novels tend to be the toughest to do. The first draft because I’m laying out entirely new material one page at a time and building it up as I go along and trying my best to make every new scenario as fresh as possible
The second draft involves carefully going over everything I did before, first by reading the novel carefully all the way through and putting a considerable amount of notations on each page about what’s missing or what can be improved. After that’s done, I spend many hours before the computer doing all those fix ups. During this phase I’m trying to make sure there are no extraneous scenes within my book and that the characters and situations presented flow in a logical way. I’m also determined to make sure all action, suspense, mystery, romantic, or humorous elements “work” as well as I can possibly make them.
So far, so good, though there are still a couple of weeks (at least) before this draft is done and effectively start up all over again with the third draft. Then the fourth. Usually, by the time I get to this stage I’m dealing less with story issues and much more with grammatical/spelling problems. These later drafts tend to be the easiest to correct both on paper and in the computer.
So I’m headed back to the novel now. I’ll keep you informed as each stage of the re-write moves along.