Friday, May 18, 2012

Do you prefer to edit your work one chapter/section at a time, or do you prefer to write a completed rough draft before beginning to edit?

Story events are always causally related—this means that everything that happens is caused by the thing that precedes it. Therefore, each scene is inextricably tied to what precedes it and what follows it.

So here’s the paradox: you don’t know where a story needs to be (currently) until you know where it goes, and you don’t know where it needs to go unless you know where it’s been. How does that work out in the actual writing process? I’m not even sure exactly, except that I need to continually weave the story backward and forward, rewriting what I’ve done and figuring out where to go word by word as I develop the story and figure out where it is leading.

Back to the question. I tend to work on a scene until I can see it, then I reread the story before that scene to get the context and pace as I move forward. (However, there are some transitional scenes that I don’t shape too much until I know what happens next—so that I’ll know what needs to have happened to cause that to happen. Make sense?) As details emerge and the story grows I will constantly go back to rewrite the scenes that lead up to the one I’m working on.

My books are typically so complex that as I work on each progressive scene I need to go back and recast what happens—this is especially true in crime novels in which every clue drives the story forward and if you change clue progression you will change the story’s direction.

Finally, when you write, you’re inevitably making promises to the reader about what will need to happen (the would-be lovers need to get together or be torn apart, the detective must face the killer, the hero must find the dragon, etc.). So as I’m writing, I will often think of those scenes in which I keep those promises and sketch them out even though they might not happen for several hundred pages.

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