Thursday, March 20, 2014

Continuity

John here.

I live and work at a New England boarding school. Hockey season is over, the hiring season is coming to an end, the 50-odd girls who live in the dorm to which my house is attached have gone home, and I’m on a two-week vacation.

I’m using March break to check for continuity in my current project.

Saying I’m “check[ing] for continuity” sounds better than admitting that I’m re-reading the first 50,000 words of my current project to make sure that if the book begins in June on page one that I don’t have spitting snow on page 200.

Yup, I actually caught that one once.

I’m working on what is currently called Fallen Sparrow (I’m a Hamlet junkie), the 2015 Peyton Cote novel. I’m 50,000 words into it, but I started in August. I read somewhere (On Writing?) where Stephen King says you should never spend more than three months writing a novel. Well, it takes me nine months to a year, usually. I try to write every day, but I miss a day or two a week.

A novel is the equivalent to a spider’s web: there are multiple threads all inter-weaved and subtly connected. Because of that, by the time I get halfway through writing a book, my primary focus is on the novel’s arc. I’m constantly going back, rereading chapters, reviewing sections, rereading dialogue to make sure character X speaks with the same dialect throughout the book.

In short, when I get well into the novel, I’m making sure the logic behind the novel holds up. (I wrote about character motivations a couple weeks ago.)

Therefore, admittedly, I lose sight of some other issues: The waitress who had blue eyes on page 10 might have green eyes on page 310. So now I’m starting at the beginning, using text-to-speech to listen to – and revise – the novel.

It’s not a fast process, and it’s rarely enjoyable. But it’s certainly necessary.

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Looking for something to read that perhaps you have missed? Recently, I stumbled upon this list: “The 10 Best Mystery Books” by Thomas H Cook in Publisher’s Weekly. Some titles are classics; some (perhaps embarrassingly) I haven’t heard of (too much time spent rereading Hamlet?). Thought I’d share the list with you this week.

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