LTUE talk part 7

Continued from Part 6

Yesterday, we left off with the outline stage of In the Serpent’s Coils. Let’s continue with the rest of the revision process. Like I said yesterday, Tiffany went through 6 different drafts with me from first sample on 8/29/05 to turning in final draft to me on 7/31/06. So, over the course of a year—and this includes writing time, due to the nature of this kind of series work—she went from sample chapter and outline to full, fleshed-out manuscript.

For your own books, it might take more than a year from starting your first draft to finishing a final draft ready for submitting to a publisher. Holly Black spent five years working on Tithe before it was published, and Susanna Clarke, famous for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell worked on that for 10 years before it was published.
However long it takes you, just don’t be afraid of the revision process, and don’t be afraid to get a trusted set of eyes to give you the kind of feedback that will improve it. Ask yourself the hard questions as you revise, and get someone to ask you the hard questions when you feel you’re too close to the work to see any problems. 

Then, when you’re working with an editor, this process continues, and that editor will be the person asking even more questions. 

Let’s look at the first chapter of the first draft, and see how it’s changed (click on the thumbnail for the full image).
As you can see, she starts the chapter off at a completely different place than in her sample. I really liked this, because I got a chance to get to know Corrine before we bundled her off to reform school.
I don’t believe I said to Tiffany that we needed more at the beginning for build-up to the scene with the uncle, but Tiffany’s instincts hit on that before I ever had to tell her.
Corrine going through the desk wasn’t right in the first chapter. She needed the motivation to be going through the desk, we needed to set up what was going on in the plot.
A good two or three chapters were added to the beginning of the book to establish who Corrine is, what she’s going through, who her uncle is, and why he doesn’t want her in his study.
All very important to getting her out the door to Falston, where the real mystery begins—and all indispensable to the story, because each of these scenes sets up the mystery Corrine must investigate and the danger that’s stalking her.
However, it still wasn’t quite finished. Questions I asked at this point:

  • Mostly big-picture, but some details
  • How can we increase the sense of mystery?
  • Why are the letters so intriguing to Corrine? (be more specific)
  • What is Corrine’s motivation? (perhaps she’s a “detective”/snoop, curious girl who can’t stop investigating) How can we establish her personality better? 
  • What is Corrine’s talent (magically)?
  • How can we flesh out the characterization of minor characters?
  • How many students at the school?
  • How did reform schools work in that time period?
  • How can we condense/expand to give a better
    sense of the passage of time?
Overall, we still needed more buildup to make her wonderful ending really pay off. So we concentrated on that for the next draft.