Reinventing the wheel
You would think that after, God, is it sixteen novels? the seventeenth would go pretty much like the others. First draft in three or four months, a sort of expanded outline (since I am constitutionally incapable of doing an outline beforehand) that tells me what the book is supposed to look like; giving it to my editor to have her tell me that yes, the places I think it lacking are indeed the places it is lacking; four or five months rewriting what I put down in order to have it actually look like what I envision it to be; another editorial round (I am blessed with a Real Editor); a last revision; off it goes to line edit and copy-edit; the really last revision on that poor cross-marked and Post-It’e2’80’99ed thing; off to type-setter; a final really absolutely last niggling set of changes (until the bound galleys come out and then my peppering Longsuffering Editor with uncaught typos and unnoticed chronological anomalies so that I begin to feel like that character in Sayers’ GAUDY NIGHT, whose book must be ripped from her hands and given to the typesetters; after al of which I’e2’80’99m so sick unto death of the book I never want to think of it again, so I go on tour and get to talk about it nonstop for a month.
That, in theory, is how it goes. So why with this book, to be the fifth in the Martinelli series, am I going back to the way I wrote THE BEEKEEPER’e2’80’99S APPRENTICE eighteen (heavens!) years ago?
That, too, had an impossibly short first draft to which I went back and added an entire chunk, transforming it into a novel not just in length, but stylistically. (I’e2’80’99m not going to tell which it is; let’e2’80’99s see if you can guess which section I’e2’80’99m talking about’e2’80’94and no fair posting it as a comment if you’e2’80’99ve already heard me tell this before.) And this Martinelli V (nameless, yet again, sigh) is an impossibly short first draft of barely 300 pages, to which I am going to be adding a large chunk. As it stands, it is two novellas wrapping around each other, so what I have to decide is, do I make it three novellas and count on the third to tie everything together, or do I work enriching threads through the larger of the two, as I had intended to in the first place but got bored or ran out of threads or something?
None of this makes a lot of sense to someone who hasn’e2’80’99t seen the manuscript, I know, but I just thought that any of you struggling with a first novel would like to know that even someone who had been through the process sixteen times before just keeps sitting there and reinventing her wheel.
Although why the hell I should imagine anyone wants to know that it doesn’t get any easier, I can’t think. Maybe this is just one of those ways writers try to discourage possible competitors in the field, and the truth is, anyone who has published a few novels discovers the secret method that flings a book out in polished form in three months.
Yes, that must be it.