Saturday, December 24, 2011

Drifting Right Along

I'm about 25K words through draft 1 of Tales of the Blue Jade (from hence abbreviated as TBJ) book 3. In some ways that's a bit of a worry, seeing as this time last year I had a complete first draft of the Mapmaker's Apprentice, and even then delivered it 2 months late of the June deadline. What makes me a bit less worried is the fact this story is much better planned out than MMA, so hopefully I won't have huge amounts of rewrite and rethink to bog me down in the coming months (touch wood).

I'm noticing a bit of a pattern in the way my drafts develop. Even if I'm happy with the story (which I *think* I am in this instance), a number of things always need substantial work on the second pass. One is geography. The characters of my first drafts usually inhabit bland, hilly lands, perhaps with a few trees or rivers thrown in for good measure. Only afterwards do I spend time thinking about how to make the landscape more exciting and diverse, as well as atmospheric.

In some ways that's not a bad thing. As events, characters and conversations tend to flow in ways I didn't initially expect, so landscapes often need to change to suit the new tone. I may have initially planned a conversation in a green field in broad daylight, for example, only to have the conversation take on more sinister overtones than I anticipated. Gone, then, is the green field, and in it's place is a mist shrouded valley in the dead of night. Landscapes, like every other part of a story, need to be flexible and free to adapt in any way that suits.

Secondary characters also need lots of work on the second draft. To me, my characters are always identical when they're first introduced, and only later do they take on their own personalities and histories. This is a deliberate strategy. I prefer not to spend time thinking too much about the personality of a secondary character when they're first introduced. I like to see how their character develops, how it begins to seep onto the page as they talk and act in the story. They usually end up much more interesting that way (at least to me, hopefully others feel the same way!)

I find now that this combination of planning the story (outlining) while allowing some aspects of the story to evolve on their own is the best combination for me.

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