Thursday, August 13, 2009

The 100-Page Hiccup on Steroids

I always throw a fit just about the time I hit the 100-page mark on a new manuscript. I’ve even developed a name for it: the Hundred Page Hiccup. At that point I have the story established and the characters introduced and enough pages written that I can get a feel for how the story is shaping up. I go back, do some line editing, print out a clean copy, and sit down to read. And I always, always freak out.

This book is sh*t!! It’s too slow! The idea sucks! What’s wrong? I don’t know how to fix it! Oh my God, my career is ruined!

That’s exactly what happened to me last week when I sat down to read the first 100 pages of The Babylonian Codex, my next remote viewing thriller. Oh, I was happy enough with the first fifty pages or so. Then the story turned into a wet noodle. Since I’m already far, far behind on my schedule, I had a panic attack. Steve said, “Give it to me; I’ll read it.” So he read it, handed it back, and said, “I think it’s good.” I wanted to believe him. But in my heart of hearts, I knew he was wrong.

I headed up to the lake house anyway, planning to spend a few days of intensive writing. I am sooo far behind schedule it’s not even funny, so I really, really needed to tear out at least 75 pages. But before I buckled down to write, I decided to reread. And perhaps thanks to the extra oxygen in the air up there and the super quiet, light bulbs started popping in my head. I sent Steve a text message at 1:30 am that read, “I know what’s wrong with this book!” (Of course he was asleep.)

So what was wrong? So much that it deserves its own post. Suffice it to say that I spent virtually my entire time at the lake figuring out how to fix it (knowing what’s wrong and knowing how to fix it are two very different things). I only managed to write about 20 pages of new scenes to insert, and my reorganization and rethink ended up massively requiring me to rewrite the last 50 pages (I'm still working on that) and completely cut three entire scenes that added up to 16 pages. When you’re already way behind schedule, that’s a killer. But it was necessary.

Is the book better now? I don't know. Once I've finished this planned overhaul, I'll sit down and read it again. God help me.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs Proctor,I’m an editor of Polish website Zbrodnia w Bibliotece (Crime in the Library). We write about all genres of crime in the literature, mainly thrillers, detective novels, mysteries and horror fiction. Now we are the medial patronage of your novel “When Gods Die” (Kiedy bogowie umierają) released by Red Horse Publishers. And I’d like to ask you a big favor. Could you write some words for our readers, please? Why they ought to read this book? And we would like to do an interview with you. Do you agree? I look forward to reading your answer. Sincerely, Kazimierz Świetlikowski

PS your book in our website,kiedybogowieumieraja/,aniolywlondynie/ - review of first part Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries

Charles Gramlich said...

Egads, that sounds like a lot of work. But I'm sure you've fixed the problem. I'm at a dead stop on my wip at the moment. What with Lana's surgery, getting ready to go back to school, and the deadline on another story I promised to do. I may have to do much the same thing with the story I'm working on, though in a smaller way. It still doesn't sing.

orannia said...

That does sound like a lot of work. But on the bright side *puts Pollyanna hat on* - you noticed the problem and you worked out how to fix it...and you're fixing it :)

Good luck with the rewriting/writing - I hope it all goes well. And I don't know if this helps at all but...I started reading Where Serpents Sleep last night and it is sogood! You write so well! And I'm loving Hero :)

Lainey said...

I'm a reader. I know nothing about the writing craft. If you had these issues with The Archangel Project, you fixed it just right.
It flows perfectly. The violence, the points of view, and the character interactions flawlessly move the story forward. So well that I'm on my 4th re-read. - Just to be sure that I catch all the nuances before The Solomon Effect is released!

Steve Malley said...

Ouch. And I thought my process was rough...

If it all seems a bit daunting, here's a pep talk from Neil Gaiman:

You'll get through this!

cs harris said...

Kazimierz Świetlikowski, I've sent you an email. Let me know if you don't get it.

Charles, it has been a lot of work. That's tough having so many distractions; it makes it hard. But I'm so glad to hear Lana came through okay.

Orannia, I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying Serpents. Thanks!

Lainey, I had horrible issues with Archangel! And just when I got them all sorted out and was at around page 200, Katrina hit and I had to do another major reworking.

Thanks, Steve!

Ariel Swan said...

Dear Mrs. Proctor,
I discovered your Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries this summer by accident. I don't usually read official "mysteries" but luckilly I judged a book by its title (Why Mermaids Sing)- and I really enjoyed it. So - I read all of them. And Serpents has me eager for the next one. Thank you for your blog. I just finished a first novel and seeing your process makes me laugh out loud - because boy can I relate. I love that you too have a 100 page hiccup.

-Ariel Swan

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