A funny thing about writing, it drives you crazy while you’re in the middle of a book, whether it’s because the story has filled your mind and all other thoughts are pushed to the side or because you’ve lost your way and the story isn’t going like it should. Then, when you’ve finished a book, you miss it with equal despair.
I just finished AFTER MIDNIGHT, a book that has been developing in my brain for several years, but I didn’t put the pedal to the metal until June. My own work ethic is such that I’m most productive at night, and I hate doing rewrites. The first couple of books I wrote were done on a Selectric II Typewriter, which was very advanced for its day, but very limiting. It had a correctible feature so I could fix simple typos, but if I wanted to change a scene or add dialogue, I had to completely retype the page (or more often, pages). Then, the final version had to be completely retyped before it went to the publisher. I think that got me in the habit of having my book completely thought out before I wrote the first word. And I try to do it right the first time.
I don’t just plow through, then go back and make changes. It has to be right, or I don’t go forward until it is. That means my first draft is usually my next-to-the-last draft. As soon as I’ve finished that last word of the last line of the last page, I set the book aside for a couple of days, then read it all the way through, fresh. I make corrections and do whatever rewrites are necessary as I go, but when I’m finished with that version, it goes to my readers. After their input, I make the changes I feel are necessary, then it’s finished. Even when my books were professionally edited, there were seldom changes. It’s just important to me that it be so well thought out and developed that the actual writing process is more secretarial.
I’m not saying this will work for everyone; it’s what works for me. I’d rather have the energy of an original project than to see one that has been rewritten to death.
I’m so anal that I can’t start a book if I don’t have the perfect title. I keep a dry erase board on the wall beside my desk where I stick photos of my characters (AFTER MIDNIGHT’S hero, Sam, looks like Jon Hamm, the heroine, Kate, looks like Amanda Peet and the reporter, Brian, looks like Neil Patrick Harris) and write in colored markers all of their physical attributes, their addresses, the cars they drive, their friends and business associates, details about their homes and any other pertinent information. It keeps me from making silly mistakes as I go, and it makes the characters more real.
Then, like I said in an earlier blog, I slog through the first third of the book, agonizing over the introductions and the set-ups. But that’s about the time the good stuff starts to happen, and the characters pick up the slack. From there on, they do what they should be doing, and I just write it all down. I listen to their conversations and am little more than their transcriber.
Of course, sometimes they write themselves into corners, and I have to pull them back and set them off in a new direction, but that’s my job.
None of this was what this blog was about. What I’m sad about tonight is that I’ve finished my book. No wait, that’s not the sad part. It’s great to have it up on Amazon.com already and to see it selling well. The sadness comes because I miss my characters. For the past couple of years, but especially in the last three months, I’ve gotten to know them really well. I’ve seen their highs and lows, and I was even a voyeur when they were in the bedroom. I really liked them. And I miss hanging out with them every day.
It’s not really over for them because AFTER MIDNIGHT is the first book of at least a three book series called DENVER AFTER DARK, which is about a family of three brothers, one is a fireman, one is a cop and one is a paramedic. AFTER MIDNIGHT is about the cop, and soon I’ll start the one about the fireman, so they’ll all be back in my life. But right now, I’m feeling the pains of withdrawal from my daily visits with Sam and Kate and Brian.
Only another writer or devoted reader would understand. Check out the web page for a quick summary. http://www.nightwriter93.com/AFTER_MIDNIGHT.html