I’ve been writing for weeks now on a sequel to The House on 4th Street. Yesterday, I knew it was time for the “not fun” part. This is the part I hate. I love research. I am up to my eyeballs in research of Edmond and Oklahoma in the early to mid-1920’s. I found out about the KKK, about the impeachment of a governor, about the oil boom and the depression. I’m still researching. I never stop researching.
But yesterday, I began the process of going through each and every scene and plotting it on my large drawing pad. I’m now up to 23 pages of plot lines, errors, notes to remind me to check facts, notes to remind me that something is out of sequence, notes to remind me I’ve gotten something horribly wrong!
I go page by page through my writing, summarize each scene, make notations, and prepare for upcoming edits. Many writers plot before they write. They have the story in their head and they plan and plot before they sit down at the computer. I’m like Anne Lamott who lets the characters lead her to the story.
I sit and write and the characters and scenes simply flow from my brain through my fingertips and onto the computer screen or onto a notebook if I’m writing by hand. So at some point, I have to see if anything makes sense. That’s when I get out the extra large art pad and begin to look closely. How many pages did I give to scene 1? to scene 32? Should scene 15 be before scene 11? How can I make the dialogue stronger? Did I say she was home when he called in the last chapter?
It is at this stage I begin to see flaws. I hate flaws. I hate fixing flaws. But it has to be done! And so here I am plugging away with my pages of notes, adding, deleting, changing. The next step is to take all of these notes, go back to the original and start making required edits. That leads me back to writing again which I prefer. I will re-write and edit for another three months. But right now, I simply have to look at sequencing, whether I need to delete a few pages in one scene or add a dozen pages to pad another. It ain’t fun! But as my favorite “how to book” by Anne Lamott says, “Bird by Bird”. (one word at a time). She also says it is required you have a “shitty first draft”. and that’s where I sit today — in the midst of my S.F.D.