Pushing Through on a Project

I’m 500 words shy of the 60,000 word mark on MURDER CASTLE, and I’ve been tearing through it. Most days when I sit down to write, I’m pretty sure what I need to do in the next 1,000 words, and it doesn’t take me a terribly long time to get it done. (About 45 minutes of actual writing time, which turns into a bit over an hour once you count the mandatory durdling time.)

But I’m at a bit of a tricky spot, as well. I’m far enough into the book to realize there are some significant problems with it. I’m not sure how significant those problems are. Basically, I recognize that the main character (Etta) is doing too much on her own, without really interacting with other people as much as I feel she needs to. This has a tendency to make the book a bit too cerebral. Not that she’s not doing things, but she’s on her own for long swathes of the novel.

Some of this is just due to the type of book this is. She’s undercover, lying to most people around her, trying to find information on her lost sister. So in many ways, she’s trying to avoid getting to know too many people. But at the same time, I worry that much of the oomph to the book will be found as she interacts with the people who might be out to kill her. I think I might need to watch Silence of the Lambs again to get a feel for the kind of book I’m trying to write. Not that this is a novel where the main character is studying a serial killer to try to catch a different one, but . . .

Actually, the more I think about it, the more the connection seems clear. I’m writing Silence of the Lambs meets True Grit. Go figure.

In any case, my feel for the novel leaves me in a bit of a precarious position. Part of me wants to stop the writing, go back and read what I’ve done, fix it if it needs fixing, and then finish things off. On the other hand, my gut isn’t just telling me part of the book isn’t working. It’s telling me that it’s going to put me right back where I am now after I fix it. In other words, imagine that you’re trying to get from Maine to Pennsylvania. You know the route you ultimately want to go should be over the George Washington Bridge, but you realize you ended up going through Albany somehow. You know that was a waste of time, but you also know that now that you’re already in New Jersey, it doesn’t really matter. You’d be at this spot of road one way or the other. You can go back to fix that Albany trip, but perhaps it’s better to just get to Pennsylvania first.

That analogy makes a whole lot more sense to me than it probably did to you, but oh well.

The bottom line is that I’ve decided to push forward. I’m becoming more comfortable knowing that my first drafts are going to need some big overhauls. I’d love to get to a point where I can just write them the right way the first time, but I don’t think I’m there yet. On the plus side, at least I’m to the point where I can feel what the big things that need changing will be. Right?

Another 20,000 words, give or take, should take me to the end of this draft. At that point, I plan to immediately go back and read the whole thing, looking to see if the tension levels are right, if there’s enough interaction with other characters, if the voice is consistent, and if there’s anything big I still want to tweak.

But maybe I need to watch Silence of the Lambs again before all of that . . .

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