Monday, April 21, 2008

First Drafts

Vicki here and first off, my congratulations to Charles for Noble Lies'nomination by Foreward Magazine as Best Novel of the Year. Well deserved, I must say.

Speaking of Charles - he tells us that he writes the almost finished version of his books in the first draft! I’m stunned. He says below that he works on one page until it’s done and then moves on and thus has minimal rewrites.

I am always amazed at the myriad of different ways each writer approaches the task at hand. I had an editing teacher once who insisted that you must leave one day’s work in the middle of a sentence and then pick up your virtual pen the next day, finish the sentence and carry on. Now that I know more, I know that everything is correct and nothing is incorrect if it works (see Wodehouse below).

I edit everything I did the previous day and begin the new day’s work from there. I find that gives me a natural flow into the new section without having to sit and think – okay, what comes next.

But I never go back and make changes to previous sections until the second draft. Unlike Charles, my second draft is a major amount of work. If I decide on page 200 that I need a clue earlier, I’ll make a note, but not rewrite the pertinent section until second draft, and continue with first draft assuming the clue has been dropped, or the character introduced or whatever. A creative writing teacher I had once suggested that you should burn your first draft. But, he added, no one ever does. I did think that was rather a good idea – for those of us for whom the first draft is sort of getting the ideas down and straight in our heads. Bit of a disastrous approach for Charles, I’d guess.

I am what my friend Lyn Hamilton (The Lara McClintock Archaeological Mysteries) calls a ‘binge writer’. For the four months over the winter I wrote almost every day, except for a brief interlude when my family was visiting for Christmas. Now that winter is over and I’m traveling again, I haven’t written a word in weeks. As a binge writer I need my physical and head space to be exactly right. I can’t write on the road, and I can’t write in someone else’s house where their time frame rules.

That is something I want to change – I’m house shopping right now and staying at my brother’s in Ottawa (this week the hottest place in Canada – take that B.C!) in the interim. If I’m going to get any work done, I have to change my writing habits. I’ll be back soon with an update on how that's progressing (or not).

Next Monday, I’ll be at the fabulous Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. If you’re around (and even if you’re not) it’s worth a trip to meet almost 50 mystery writers, of reputations great and small, all there just wanting to talk to you about their books. The event is put on by Mystery Lovers Bookshop. For more info go to


Charles benoit said...

I wish I could break myself of my writing style - I envy your speed. Tonight I wrote for an hour and a half and produced one paragraph, 150 words long. True, it's done and I won't be revising it again, but man, that's freakin' slow!
And Oakmont! Rose and I will both be there (her first trip, my third) It's a great, Don't-Miss event.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, I hope you will be working on book #2 of the Mollie Smith/John Winters series. Please, so I can find out what happens next! I'm listening to the 1st one right now and am really enjoying it. I'll post a review on my blog when I finish. Love reading about that area.

Rick Blechta said...

Wait a second! You mean to say that our Charles has been nominated for a pretty darn slick award...and he didn't trumpet it from the roof tops???

To those browsing at this blog, I will say it as forcefully as I can: "GO OUT AND BUY A COPY OF NOBLE LIES!" I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed.

I predict Charles will smoke the competition.

Vicki Delany said...

To Kay, I'm working on the third Smith and Winters. The second is titled Valley of the Lost and should be out early in 2009.

Charles benoit said...

#2, Shadow of the Glacier, is my bestest favorite Vicki D. book.

As for shouting, don't worry Rick, I did!

Rick Blechta said...

I must be going deaf. Too much playing in rock & roll bands during my formative years...

Linda L. Richards said...

Take what BC? We had snow in Vancouver last week. Last week. And bloody cherry blossoms everywhere... and no leaves. You're supposed to feel sorry for us. Not gloat. Our world has been upended. Next thing you know, I'll be heading to TO for some fun in the sun. See: there's something just not right with that!

Happy househunting! (And another great post.)

Vicki Delany said...

Linda, the irony is that I left B.C. on April 6th to come back to Ontario and was really sad about leaving. Hearing about snow in BC went a long way to making me feel better!

Rick Blechta said...

The irony, oh the irony!