531. I Knew!

I suppose there are writers who finish a first draft and move on to the next book. Louis L’amour was like that; you can tell from his goofs. There will be a statement in chapter three that is flatly contradicted by another statement a few chapters later. It’s the kind of thing that even a cursory second reading would have caught.

For the rest of us, there are always bits left on the cutting room floor. In my case, whole novels worth, but I’m probably extreme.

One thing I like about computers is that when inspiration strikes, you can write down an unrelated paragraph or two right in the middle of the chapter you are working on, and then go back to what you were doing before. Maybe put it in bold to catch the eye. Later, at leisure, you can retrieve it. I do that all the time, and with every rereading the bit catches my eye and reminds me to make room for it.

Sometimes, no matter how good a bit is, it never gets used. That offends the little voice in my head that says waste not, but there is no help for it.

I was revising Like Clockwork today when one of those bits shamed me that I couldn’t find a place to use it. For context, one of my characters, called Balfour, is a kind of ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson. In the bit that will never be used, someone says to Balfour . . .

“You wrote a boy’s book about pirates. Who knew that there was anything more than that in you?”

. . .  and Balfour replies . . .

“I knew.”

Anyone who writes genre fiction will understand Balfour’s pique at the assumption that he was only a writer of books for children.

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2 thoughts on “531. I Knew!

  1. JM Williams

    I know a lot of writers do the craft piecemeal like this. Write a middle scene, then a opening chapter, then the end, back to the middle. I’ve never been able to do it. Sometimes when I am just starting to think about a story and have some good ideas, I’ll take some notes. But once I start writing it for good, I almost always go from beginning to end. Must be how my brain is wired.

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  2. sydlogsdon Post author

    Or perhaps it is the pattern demanded by the book. Jandrax and A Fond Farewell to Dying both proceeded in a linear fashion. So did The Cost of Empire which I wrote last year. Cyan was somewhat jumbled by the decades long hiatus I took in the middle of writing it.
    Like Clockwork has a dozen main characters and three simultaneous story lines, followed by an out of order fourth story line, all coming together at the end. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we try to make time repeat itself, and still make sense.
    I suspect your day is coming, when a story stands up on its hind legs and says, “I am not linear and you can’t write me that way.” I’m looking forward to seeing it when it does.

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