The Ending Determines the Beginning
When I transformed Reaping the Harvest from a short story into a novella, I had to go back and add quite a bit of meat to the storyline. It went from 5,000 words to almost 70,000 and from five anorexic chapters to twenty-one 3,500 word chapters. New characters were added and existing ones given more flesh and depth.
As A Confused Life went through revision it was easier. ACL is a collection of essays, some of which appeared in the earlier days of The Mess. I added anecdotes and more thoughts and tossed in a few never-before-seen essays and gave it some spit polish. There were no characters to keep satisfied or subplots to rectify. There was only my own insanity to keep in check.
My third book, LosingFaith, has now entered the revision stage and it has turned into a major renovation. When I began scribbling away at the first draft, I had an end game in mind. I know how I wanted the final chapter to look like or, at least, I thought I did. It is also an erotic novel, so I had certain steamy scenes I wanted to include. I listed those in my notes and began writing.
Shortly after putting ink to paper, I ran into my first plot issue. At first, one of my main characters, Edwin Coldwell, was married. That wasn’t going to work with his exploration with Faith, so I demoted her down to girlfriend status. However, that wasn’t much better so I fired her altogether and made Edwin a single man just out having fun. Of course, he is having fun with married women, but, hey, it’s all part of the story.
Furthermore, about halfway through the draft a minor character stepped to the front and took a major role. That promotion of influence was going to create serious changes require important information in chapters already penned. I had also realized that by the time Faith has her epiphany, not enough background and character development had been given to make it dramatic enough. I went back and added three chapters to the beginning to create a more believable story. Reaping the Harvest had taught me enough to know that Losing Faith was salvageable, but needed an overhaul to make it a tale worth reading.
With pen and notepad in hand, I worked backward, jotting down additional scenes and noting what needed to be cut. Every page was marked with red ink as some characters stepped forward and others went the way of Edwin’s wife/girlfriend. There is quite a bit of work to be done, but it’s exciting because I see where the whole story is going now and not just a few titillating scenes. By the way, some of those hot scenes were cut, as well, but don’t worry; steamier ones were added.
Every writer has their own way of doing things. Some revise as they go while others develop in-depth outlines before writing a single word. I prefer to do all of my revision once, so that I don’t keep going back and changing things that may need to be changed again. I create characters with an idea for a story and then see where they decide to take me. The ending is almost always a surprise, especially to me. However, that means I have to return to chapter one where the story was immature and weak and strengthen it, because the characters had their own story to tell which was better than the one I started.
So now I’m deep in revisions. Losing Faith won’t be out in August, but that’s all right. As a great whiskey needs to age, so does a great story. It always results in a better flavor.
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