Conception to Completion (pt. 3 of 3)

The Final Installment--in which the book gets finished and a party is thrown.

Further Chapters: This happens concurrent with the following section. In essence it’s very simple, put in-scene the narrative you’ve developed. In practice it’s messy. You may find out that one of your clever ideas doesn’t work. Or, if you’re fortunate enough to find a good critic to read your working draft, they may point out things that need to be changed to make a better story. For one novel not all that long ago, I scrapped two chapters worth of working outline and started over. I kept some of the same events, but shifted the emphasis and removed the supporting characters entirely to emphasize the central role of the protagonist.

Advanced Blocking: This may or may not be necessary depending on your own individual process. I find that when I’m having trouble with a scene it usually means that I need to take a step back from the actual writing and figure out what I’m trying to achieve with a scene and how best to achieve it. So I might put together something like “Chapter 12, Scene one” with a description of what I want to happen and why, then follow with “scene two,” etc. until I’ve fully blocked out the chapter.

Finish/Clean-up/Ongoing Rewrite: Once the first draft is finished (if you haven’t already) it’s time to go back and clean up any messes made by the changes that will inevitably have drifted in from the initial conception and do things like throwing in foreshadowing for a scene not originally anticipated. A person can also do all of this as they go, going back and inserting whatever adjustments that need to be made as soon as they occur, and this is actually the model I follow though I don’t necessarily recommend it. For many writers what it leads to is a dead stall where they are continually rewriting their first chapters and never actually moving forward.

Celebrate: This is key. If you’ve finished a book you owe yourself a dinner out at the very least, and possibly a blow-out party.

A Final Note: I can’t emphasize enough that this is only one way to reach the goal of a finished book. I know writers who have no idea what’s going to happen with the story from day-to-day and who just “follow my characters around and see what happens” and who write excellent novels. I know writers who would be paralyzed by my model, sinking hundred of hours into blocking and outlines and not working on the text at all. Think of this as one possible starting point. Use the parts of it that make sense or help you move forward, discard those that don’t.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog May 24 2007, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)