My Novel Needs a Machete

Today is day three of my editing binge, and things are going…okay. When I took a long, hard look at my completed beat sheet, I discovered that the last third or so of my novel really isn’t that great. In fact, it’s almost tangibly worse than the first two thirds, so bad that I don’t think there’s anything for it but to strip it entirely and write in new stuff from scratch.

So I’ve come to accept that. To make a novel, you’ve got to break a few paragraphs. Gamely, I laid into trying to figure out what I wanted to actually have as my ending – there’s no time for shortcuts, like in my first draft. I need to know exactly what to put in there if I don’t want to have to do this again, and I don’t want to have to do this again.

What I’ve been discovering is that I took a heck of a lot of shortcuts my first time through. The whole “no plot, no problem” philosophy of NaNoWriMo is great as far as it goes, but it has definite problems – even when I knew that things weren’t working out, I still plowed ahead just to get the words on the page. Well, I’m not a complete neophyte anymore. I should’ve taken the extra time to look things over and actually decide how I wanted to proceed, maybe even discuss them with some other folks.

Well, lessons learned from next time. I’m still confident that I can make Fugitives from Earth, if not great, at least satisfactory. It’s my first time, after all – better to make the mistakes now.

Ah, time for some links:

  • Mars500 Mission Reaches the Red Planet
  • The brave folks of the Mars500 mission have locked themselves in a completely isolated “spaceship” in Moscow, where they will remain for about 500 days before “returning to Earth.” This was in 2010; just today they reached Martian orbit, and the lander with half the crew aboard is headed toward the Martian surface. Fun stuff – for more info, check out @mars500 on Twitter
  • Genetic Algorithm Car Evolution
  • This is possibly the most awesome thing I’ve seen in awhile. Starting with a random polygon and some wheels, this Flash program learns how to make the optimum car for any of several tracks using an evolutionary process. The cars that make it the furthest the fastest will “interbreed,” and the ones that don’t make it so far will “die out.” Add in a dash of mutation, and you have a surprisingly engaging demonstration of evolutionary processes.

2 responses to “My Novel Needs a Machete

  1. Sounds like it’s time to set your own paragraphs on fire for a change.

    It’s probably a lesson that’s hard to truly learn until you experience it for yourself. I mean, I can read what you said, but never having written a novel beyond NaNoWriMo it’s hard to apply it to my thinking. Though I can certainly say that after looking back at what I’d written after a few months, I certainly wasn’t so much inspired to continue with it as I was inspired to erase it from my hard drive with an angle grinder. But then, editing really is the most important part of good writing (or at least tied with “actually putting words on a page instead of just thinking about it”). And if you were one of the few people who turn out near-flawless first drafts, I’d be obligated to hate you.

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