Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Completing the First Draft of Your Book

By Mary Martin

The Second Draft of the novel.

I thought I’d muse about the problems I inevitably encounter when writing a second draft. Mostly, these are my thoughts as I work away on the second draft of the second novel in the Remembrance Trilogy—provisionally entitled The Fate of Pryde. It follows The Drawing Lesson, which has the same protagonist, Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape painter.

This is just my way of working through questions and problems and is no way general advice. Everyone ends up having his/her methods and “tricks”. So, please take this as my thinking out loud.

To say that I’ve completed the first draft of the second novel in the trilogy is a bit like a sculptor saying she has selected her stone. Now the sculpting begins. Much work ahead.

I think I will try to apply the lessons learned in writing The Drawing Lesson. As scenes floated up to me, I did my best to get them down—not really knowing why they were the way they were and how one related to the other. My first rule of thumb was—Don’t throw anything out, at least not yet. And trust yourself. Something in you is guiding you to write this.

This has been my first day back at the manuscript since the end of August. What have I done? I’ve thought a lot about the themes which will hopefully connect everything. Themes? Yes. There’s the theme of how you see the world and the people in it. That is likely one of the major themes. But, the most important theme is how Alex comes to understand how the very worst and the very best of humanity can be contained in one human being.

Here in Canada, we’ve just had a horrific example of this question posed to us. A high ranking military officer, Russell Williams, was charged last January with terrible crimes of murder and rape. He ended up pleading guilty. Then the Crown Attorney [the state prosecutor] introduced the evidence in court. I have never really understood why so many of these murderers and rapists keep careful records and videos of their cruelty. But, they do. In any event, the evidence was truly horrific. Most people had to turn away. And yet, this man was on top of the world. He was head of a Canadian Forces Base in Ontario. Lots of medals and awards. We are left to wonder—How could we have not seen this?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but it greatly intrigues me. The antagonist in this new novel is neither a murderer or a rapist but he poses a similar question. How does the best and worst of humanity exist in one person? With this book, that is the question I’m struggling with.

But back to the process. I have spent the day writing notes on my computer about the characters and their journeys, the themes and the symbols. I use the term symbol loosely to cover all sorts of things. For example, in Chapter 2, I have Alexander Wainwright and his friend Peter Cummings, a famous author, going to the book launch at a shop in London. Peter’s mentor, a philosophy professor, will be speaking. I have them walking through an arcade in London.

For me, arcades in London, Paris and throughout Europe are fascinating. They are dark spaces with vaulted ceilings—perhaps a bit church like—which fill me with a sense of mystery. Today, it occurs to me that I really must build this scene greatly. Something needs to happen as they pass through this arcade which will add to the mystery. By the end of the day, I made a very long list of things to develop and relate to the themes and the characters. And so, the very lengthy process of sculpting begins. More on this another time.

Mary E. Martin, a lawyer, wrote the legal suspense novels of The Osgoode Trilogy, Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One. She has just published the first novel in the next trilogy, set in not in the world of law, but art—The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance. Presently, she is immersed in the second draft of the next novel in this trilogy, provisionally called, The Fate of Pryde. Married, she and her husband live in Toronto and have three adult children. http://www.theosgoodetrilogy.com/   You can download The Drawing Lesson by Mary Martin for your Kindle for only 99 cents! http://ow.ly/3ns0t

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