I started the second book in my Wild Crime series soon after the first, Crime and Paradise, was completed. There was a brief interim period when I pored through a number of writing books, and refreshed my mind on structure, plot, suspense and various theories on how to create a first draft. For my second book, I decided to try something new.
I’m a natural outliner – a story comes to me as a whole being, so I already know the plot in general. I know who did it, I know the ending and I have a subplot or two in mind. The fuzzy part is how it all comes together and this is why I create a roadmap for myself with a general outline.
On this second book, however, I decided to try Steven King’s approach as he details in “On Writing.” His advice – one I’ve also heard from numerous writers – is to charge straight through the first draft, from beginning to end, as quickly as possible. Don’t edit along the way and don’t worry if the plot wavers a bit. The story is to be dumped out in a somewhat linear heap. At this point, it’s all about the story.
Over several months, I worked on a first draft and, even when key details changed, I didn’t allow myself to go back and make edits. The first draft was an unformed, misshapen, freak of a manuscript. There were loose ends and my skeleton characters lived in a sparse world. But…the story was there. And I liked it.
The second draft took several more months of hard work as I straightened out the plot, fixed errors of timing and breathed life into my fictional world. Trees received color and a subplot grew in intensity. A third draft worked on language and what would be considered “line editing,” or dotting i’s and adding scenes to better tell the story.
There was a fourth and fifth draft, doing more polishing, and I moved more quickly through each subsequent draft. By now, I had the manuscript out to my beta readers for comment and a further draft addressed the concerns they had on one of my characters. I combed through the manuscript a few more times, making sure the formatting was correct, and I tried to see the book through a new reader’s eyes.
Finally, it was the best I could do. “Crime Times Two,” the second book in my Wild Crime series, was done. I created a synopsis, wrote a letter and shipped it off to my publisher. It was the best/worst feeling in the world to have it done and submitted. Doubts assailed me immediately: Was there more I could have done to make it better? It didn’t matter. The manuscript was sent, and editors hate it if you send a revision a few days or weeks after your submission. There was nothing to do now, but wait.