This Writer’s Essential Flexibility

My writing process mimics crossing a stream. In late summer I hop from rock to rock. In spring I find a bridge. In winter I manage the ice. Same stream. Same goal. Meanwhile, my process depends on the flow and my flexibility. I’ve the perfect writing example this week.

I’ve now gone through Book6, Aramon Daughters, and Book 7, Wrath of Purpose. They represent a joint drafting story, but have since become a contrast.

November/December 2021

After three years procrastinating (sort of, I was writing Pannulus tales), last year I kicked the imaginary muse out and did what writers should do. I took ownership of my creativity and dove into developing ideas for Book6, but Book7 ideas came too. There were multiple reasons:

  • I began the series in 2016 and wanted it done.
  • Book7 is the series’ climatic response to Book6’s crisis.
  • The psychological drain Book6 represented needed an antidote.
  • When the idea floodgates opened they brought both books.

For those reasons, I did the unthinkable. I drafted both books back to back last year. Yup, 250K in 42 days. (125,232 + 124,858).

Kovenlore Chronicles Series

Diagram: CA Hawthorne

Shoot me.

There was a catch, though. No matter how much I planned, I knew I’d inevitably make changes in Book6 on the fly that’d reverberate. Couple that with doing the same in Book7 and instability was inevitable.

Oh, and I was exhausted while drafting Book7.

That, folks, is where things stood for eight months.

Any new ideas became notes, but I didn’t open either Scrivener project. My expectation was Book6 was uneven, but manageable. In other words, a typical first draft. Book 7 worried me. Given its circumstances, drafting it was a blur. I hoped having something was better than nothing.

August 2022 – Book6

An advantage to juggling multiple books is the luxury of letting them sit. If you stare at a timer while it counts down it takes twice as long as when you’re busy elsewhere. Except, of course, it’s your perception of time that’s different.

Aramon Daughters

NaNo Cover: CA Hawthorne

So, Book6…

It was better than expected, its imperfections having grown in my mind over time. Thus, I performed a light edit while writing its revision map for a later, more serious, edit.

Out of its 84 chapters I scrapped one. The remaining 83 have different first-draft needs. There was much that impressed me and its potential inspired ideas I’m excited to insert.

Too, and with the advantage of hindsight, I recognized what Book6 needed to make its sequel work better. Likewise, I knew what Book7 needed to happen in Book6 so it’d work better.

Yet again, the two books fed off one another.

*All this is simple given the files I migrate between projects in Scrivener that benefits all the books.

August/September 2022 – Book7

I recognized right away that Book7 was a different beast. In a way, it reminded me of Book2, which I drafted while suffering a resurgence of HP in late 2016.

Still, I had to begin somewhere and so approached the novel no different than Book6. Other than noting a missing chapter, I hung with that approach through the first eight chapters.

Free Pixabay image.

Courtesy: Pixabay.

Then, chance of showers became a hurricane.

I abandoned any pretense of a light edit. Too, my revision map file reverted to a brief paragraph about each chapter to aid reaching an overview faster. The overview, though, was difficult to grasp.

So, in another file, general issues, I assessed the revision map’s chapter breakdown in segments. That uncovered stretches that were pointless, underdeveloped, or needed varying degrees of editing. Too, ideas were added on the fly, but too late. Others, like those I’d identified while working on Book6, were missing.

In other words, poor segments were tainting the entire novel.

I went through the revision map again using general issues as a guide and generated a revision outline (basically, a new revision map). In it, I identified the chapters to cut and those missing.

Well, a lot more than that, but those are key.

From that, I created yet another file where I outlined each of the new chapters. Whew!

Aftermath

Book7 sounds like a dumpster fire, but the numbers say otherwise. Of the 72 original chapters, 59 will remain. That’s 82%. I call that success.

Version 2

Moments after finishing the two-book draft on Dec 12, 2021. Photo: CA Hawthorne

*I will note that of those 59 chapters, 6 will be substantially rewritten. It’s still a success.

Of the 72 chapters, 7 will be cut. They added nothing to the novel or went off on pointless tangents.

Meanwhile, I’ll write 15 new chapters.

About half are additions to fantastic scenes I strangled to death because they were running long, meaning they’re underdeveloped. The other new chapters will follow a key character who disappeared, but returned late, an oversight when planning. It’s worse because her great thread was critical to the novel.

In the end, drafting the novels together worked, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

More important in the present is how I adapted to each novel’s different needs. One required a light edit and revision map. The other required additional steps to identify the key problems. In the end, I have two novels and a complete series because I avoided adherence to a rigid system. Jumping from rock to rock in a flood is a good way to be washed downstream.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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