A year ago I plotted the second novel in my Western Vows trilogy. It focuses on the sister of the main character of the first novel. I liked what I plotted, then during November NaNo, I tried to take what I’d plotted and write it out.
The story that flowed so easily into note form did not congeal into a story when I fleshed it out in type. In fact, it fell apart before page two of my extensive notes. I back tracked to the point where it began to feel lackluster and attempted to panster the remaining novel. It was okay, but not great. It had enough tender kisses and the dialog between the two main characters snapped, but the story just wasn’t quite there. It was a little like a tulip not yet opened; pretty, but not beautiful.
Tweet: The End, again. It had enough tender kisses and the dialog between the two main characters snapped, but the story just wasn’t quite there. It was a little like a tulip not yet opened; pretty, but not beautiful.
I tucked that story away for months, willing myself to let it marinade. After about five months of ignoring it, when I needed a break from the first, I opened the second and read through it. I did some minor re-writing, but I knew the story still wasn’t right, the all important why was absent.
I was about two weeks from completing my final edit on book one (I hope for real this time). I lay in bed, let my eyes drift closed and Elizabeth and Robert started arguing in my head, they are the main characters of book two. The argument had nothing to with what I’d written about. Now, if you don’t write, you probably think I’m nutters, but for a writer, this is gold. They were fighting over an aspect of book one that I had unintentionally left hanging.
I sat straight up in bed. “Snap! How did I miss that?” I let my mind wrap itself around this new information and the new story, what the story was really about; Elizabeth’s struggle became crystal clear. THAT was the missing element. Before, her only struggle was to find a man (really? Booooring). Now, it’s… Well, you’ll have to read it. She is a much deeper character than I gave her credit for.
This is why I have so much trouble with plotting. I’m not saying I won’t try it again, but I ended up doing three times the work to get a workable first draft of book two as it took me for book one. Others would argue that pansters must rework a complete mess when they finish a draft. I would beg to differ, at least in my case. The bones of what I write, stream of consciousness, stay put. I cut or add bits to make scenes more clear, but the story stays the same.
This is the second time I’ve gotten to write ‘The End’ on this novel. I wonder how many authors get to write first drafts twice?