I just posted this commentary over at my web page, but it’s really more of a discussion of how I’ve changed as a writer since Cavern of Babel, so I think I’ll post most of it here, as well.
I’ve always heard authors talk about how they’ll look back at something they wrote and cringe, because they would change it so much now. I don’t think I’ll ever cringe at Cavern of Babel. It represents my best work at the time, and my best effort toward what I wanted it to be and what the publisher asked it to be. At the same time, there are certainly ways I’ve changed as a writer, and I would do some things differently now.
My biggest change in my approach would be that I would have been sure to have the book plotted out–at least generally–before I began my second draft. I’m not yet ready to say that I will always plot a book out before I write it, although I’m certainly leaning in that direction right now, but I will say that by the second draft, I plan to always know exactly how the book is going to be plotted. In other words, the first draft is often a “draft of discovery” for me. I may think the book is going to go one way, and then it goes in a different direction. This is all fine and good, but the end result of this is that sometimes the first draft can have a sort of “patchwork” feel to it. It starts out as one sort of a book, then it morphs into a second and changes into a third or fourth by the end. For me, I think it can be advantageous to let the first draft do this. In Buttersby’s case, it’s what led me to the story of the Arks and the alpaca mythology, which in turn led to Ozzy and so forth. However, when I use this technique, I’m beginning to realize how important it is to take the time and iron out the plot before I move on to the second draft. Don’t be afraid to completely lop out sections that no longer fit the book, or create new ones that will fit it better. With Babel, I believe I should have changed the beginning of the book more drastically than I did. Taking the time to look at the plot as a whole would have shown me how to do this.
I’ve always had a problem summarizing my novels to other people, and I think this is one of the main reasons why: I never took the time to step back from the story and see what it was really “about.” Understand what happens when and why. This is something I first tried with Ichabod, and now I’m applying the lessons learned to my rewrite of Lesana, and it’s going very well. There are still some bumps I’ll need to iron out in the third draft, but the story seems much more structurally sound to me now.
Anyway, that’s all I’ll say for now. I think it’s interesting to look at my writing and see how I’m changing and growing as a writer. Encouraging.