tesarajalanaThe second draft of Bandit Girls is now complete. One more pass — or half-pass — should do it before I send it to my beta readers.

What have you learned, Dorothy?

I learn something with every book I write and this one is no different. In this case, I have a better understanding of what I want each part of the book to do. Every scene has to have multiple purposes; it must advance the plot and our understanding the characters and the world in which they live. While this may appear formulaic, the point is that it’s not about me and what I want; it’s about what will engage the reader and pull them through to the end.

Writing the ending

I’ve often said that I usually know the ending of my books about two-thirds of the way in. In several books I’ve written the ending, and then gone back and written toward it. Bandit Girls was a little different; I didn’t write the ending in advance, but I knew where it had to end up. And lo, although at that point I was writing organically, it all came together with a great satisfying conclusion.

Outlining vs. Pantsing

I am beginning to see the virtues of outlining. I’m not saying that I will do a formal outline for my next book (although I’m leaning that way), but with the minimalist outline that I did for BG, I could see where it kept me going on the right path instead of allowing the story to deviate from where it should go. The proof is in the pudding, or rather the cut file; it’s probably my smallest cut file to date. Note to aspiring writers; save everything you cut from your working draft in a cut file. It’s not a question of if you will need it, but when. A small cut file means that these deviations are fewer, saving time, and making the first draft go more smoothly. As a former died-in-the-wool pantser, that’s the kind of improvement I can get behind.

Does an outline make a work less imaginative? I used to think that, but talking with friends who are staunch outliners, and reading their manuscripts, I have changed my opinion on that. Their work is wonderfully inventive.

Writing The End

The two most important words a novelist — especially an aspiring novelist — can write are: The End. It signals a project completed and a commitment kept. You learn more from completing a novel that doesn’t work very well (note: there are no “bad” novels, just novels that don’t work very well) than from dozens of fabulous novel starts. Remember that, even when the middle-of-the-book-suck has you in its merciless grip.

But when it comes right down to it, The End is just the beginning. It’s the beginning of the editing process, the redrafting, the polishing, and possibly, the publication process. No matter how many novels you write, The End is a mighty accomplishment. Embrace it! I do.



A3 · May 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Congratulations on finishing the second pass! I am amazed that you can beta-ready a novel in three drafts. A short story takes me at least four (and that’s before I let the critters at it). I do have a written step-by-step editing process, though, to help me remember what types of things I typically need to revise.

Do you have specific things you do in each revision?

Patrice Sarath · May 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I think it depends what each manuscript needs. I am getting better at this gig — maybe that’s why draft 3 is the one that can go to the readers. ; -)

I scribble notes to myself as to what changes have to be made. For example, one chapter has to be revised into a different point of view, for structural reasons. It’s tedious but it has to be done. Some of it is just spackling — smoothing over the imperfections. Really I go at with the attitude — how does the improve the overall experience for the reader?

Okay, so I have to ask. What is in your written step-by-step process?

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