Friday, April 16, 2010

Progress retort.

Okay, you lazy git, I hear you cry, what of this so-called novel of yours, the raison d'etre of this blog?

When last we referred to This Private Plot, I was nearly at the end, having written the "reveal" chapter, with only the brief chase scene and the final mystifying plot twists still to go. Well, as I mentioned at the time, the reveal is clearly the point where you can see your entire clockwork edifice for the first time. I certainly decided there and then to tweak the mechanism -- removing clumsy threads, bolstering the identification of the killer with a couple of extra clues. No doubt there'll be more changes in later edits.

But I also realized that there were some glaring structural issues. I was holding too much back for this chapter, tipping a whole box of greasy padlocks onto the table to be picked instead of having the entire mystery solved by the gentle turn of a single tiny golden key. This is a plot-heavy book -- hence the title --  and so, amid the distractions of conferences, workshops, taxes, and Spring Break, I've been seriously shuffling the deck, dragging revelations to earlier places, lightening the load of the final stages. It's a bit like rebuttoning your cardigan after you discover you matched your first button to the wrong hole.

Most of this is in my head. Much of it is in note form, with diagrams and arrows. But just as I was about to go ahead and make the changes to the text, I remembered a timely piece of advice: Don't do any rewrites until you've completely finished your first draft.

Chastened by my betters, I pass this nugget on. And it makes sense. Why risk going through fifteen drafts without ever reaching the end? Isn't it better to make your changes after you've seen what the entire beast looks like? And why postpone that motivating sense of achievement that comes from typing the words "The End."

The End. (Or is it?)

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