This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.
I finished writing the first draft of Chapter Two and read Clan of the Cave Bear.
Writing the Last Chapter (Almost) First
With the rough drafts of the first two chapters done, I jumped ahead — way ahead, to the final chapter. This isn’t something I’ve tried before, but I thought it would be interesting. I’ve done a lot of outlining and plotting for this book, so I already have a solid idea where everything is leading, both in terms of plot and in terms of character arc.
Writing the last chapter actually turned out to be a lot easier than writing the first and second chapters. Part of that was that it ended up being shorter. There isn’t all that much action. I think a much bigger factor, however, is that the first two chapters were introducing the two plot threads of the book to the reader. The last chapter just has to lead reasonably out of the rest of the book, and come to a satisfying conclusion. At this point, most of that hasn’t been written yet, so I can imagine what it will all be, and write my ending accordingly.
Obviously, this means anything I choose to change along the way may invalidate part of the ending chapter. That’s fine. I expect that by the time I get everything written out, I’ll have to re-jigger the last chapter in a variety of ways. What it really seems good for is to highlight some of the themes and ideas that I really want to push at the end. Now, as I make my way through the book, I can look at that and work on pushing those things as I go, so it all builds up organically.
Writing the final chapter also gives me some ideas about the emotional resonance I want at the end. It’s more about how I want the ending to feel than the plot information I need to get across. All that really happens is that Christopher makes a decision, and acts upon that decision.
The First Revisions
The last chapter was a fun experiment, but if I want to start publishing chapters, I need to get my beginning into shape. My first and second chapters have had some breathing room, and now it’s time to go back and revise.
My first drafts are strictly to get words on paper (or pixels on screens, in this case). Sometimes the words come out amazing, but more often I end up with lots of clunky sentences that generally get across what I was going for, some digressions that seemed interesting in the moment, a few bits that I like, and maybe a couple phrases that feel fantastic. In short, it’s a mixed bag.
I like to give first drafts a little time to fade in my memory before going back to them. Some things that seemed great during the actual writing will feel less great when I reread them later. Sometimes the rough patches where I was just dumping words to get the point across and move on actually turn out to need less work than I thought. It’s hard to pretend you’re a reader of the text you, yourself wrote, but I don’t think there’s a better tool for pulling that trick off than a break between the writing and the reading.
I started working on revisions for Chapter One this week, but there’s plenty more to do.
The challenge I always face when I start revising (especially if it’s been a while) is the temptation to go straight to line editing. It’s easy to read a few sentences and find a word here or there that can be improved, a typo or some missing punctuation. For me, at least, that’s what jumps out immediately.
However, I fight that urge. Instead, it’s better to look at the larger pieces. I try to look for any reason to reorder scenes, rearranging dialogue, or otherwise make big adjustments first. By focusing on larger structural revisions before getting into the nitty-gritty, I try to avoid wasting time changing small things that are liable to need rework anyway after structural revisions.
I wrote a rough draft of the last chapter and started getting into revisions on Chapter One.