Friday, September 20, 2013

Anatomy of (Rewriting) a Thriller

A few people have asked me where The Awakening II is. Which makes me very happy, as I hope it means they read The Awakening. The answer makes me less happy: It's on my dining room table. That is, the first draft of it is. A second/third draft (I rewrite in pieces) is in the laptop. I should add that, actually, first I outline, which sometimes takes longer than the first draft. So I basically write from point to point in my outline, in sort of a mad dash to the end. 


During the first draft, rather than get distracted by the Internet - not that I ever am, of course - if I need to research something I put a bolded note in brackets to check it later. For instance, when I wasn't sure what the national language for Turkey was, I used "Turkish," then in brackets said [check this]. (Turns out it's Turkish.) 

This approach to first drafting means I spend a lot of time rewriting.  I start with the various plot lines. I did a Find in Word for Ray - Tara's biological father, who has a small role to play. I read each scene involving Ray in order, skipping over everything else, to make sure his story fit together, then did that for the other characters.

I'm now pretty much done with that, so my next step is to look at the overall plot to be sure it makes sense, is consistent throughout, and has high enough stakes. Next, I'll rewrite from beginning to end on the laptop, asking myself what each scene's viewpoint character sees, tastes, smells, hears, and feels (both tactile feeling and emotion). Finally, I'll look at the lines and words themselves. This includes lengths of sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Also actual words - is the same word used too many times on a page or in a chapter? Can I say anything more succinctly? As in, can I use fewer adverbs like "succinctly"?

Then I'll print the whole manuscript out, wait a couple weeks, and read it. I'll particularly look for any scene where the characters are sitting and talking or sitting and thinking. Or standing and talking. I don't cut all those scenes, but if there are a number in a row, or one is very long, I'll try to intersperse the dialogue with action.

I also look for too much action. Sometimes a reader needs a break to just breathe and be with the characters. After I've made those changes, and I feel like I'll throw up if I look at it one more time, I'll send it on to first readers. (That's Mr. Bird reviewing some of my writing. I don't always takes his suggestions, but don't tell him, he's very sensitive.)

So, not-so-short answer (I do like to write novels, after all), The Unbelievers (Book II of The Awakening series) is on its way. I'm hoping it'll be ready by Christmas, more likely it'll be somewhere between Christmas and Easter.

In the meantime, if you join my email list by 11/30/2013, you'll be entered into a drawing to have a character in The Unbelievers named after you. Just email me at with your first name and say you want to be in the contest.

Feel free to join the email list after 11/30/2013 as well. No spam, I would never do that to you. Just a short monthly newsletter discussing books in the mystery, occult, suspense and thriller genres and an occasional update on new novels or short stories I publish in between. (And as you can tell, it could be Easter before you get one of those.)

1 comment:

  1. Very informative as to the steps an author goes through. Your reading public is highly anticipating book 2, and hopes that given Mr. Bird's presence you fly through the remaining process.