In my ‘Sucky First Draft’ post, I wrote about the lousy first draft, and then the better second draft, when I figured out to add flashback chapters in between the main thread chapters. For my third draft, I went back and made the story comprehensible, since I was making it up during the second draft, and thus I didn’t know what I should be foreshadowing, and there was no continuity between what I thought would happen, and what happened. After this draft it was comprehensible, so I sent it to my best friend. He said ‘I have to admit that I liked it,’ which was a huge compliment since he has read every book out there and hates almost all of them (of course, he graded me on a curve). But the novel was still pretty rough. The flashbacks were their own set pieces and didn’t tie in enough with the main plot. The writing in the main plot was mechanical and voiceless. Some of the settings and obstacles were contrived. It was preachy. And on and on.
Between writing my third and fourth drafts (about 5 months), I had an idea. Change the main thread from third-person past to first-person present. I would use David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone Clocks’ as my model. And . . . it worked. Most of the advice I’ve read about an author finding his voice is as follows. Don’t try to manufacture it. Your voice will emerge as you figure out the best way to tell your story. This was not my experience. I believed in my story and third-person past was the most straightforward way to tell it, but my voice was boring, and when it wasn’t boring, it was inconsistent with the narrative tone of the rest of the novel. What I realized was that I’ve had my voice all along and I’ve been hiding it. My voice is my personality—and the way to display it was to write as the character, and have him give my asides and thoughts directly to the reader. I don’t think I ever broke the fourth wall, but I beat the holy hell out of it.
In addition to finding my voice, I continued making it less preachy, and bringing the disparate parts together into a cohesive story. This meant removing some chapters and writing different ones in their place, or leaving nothing at all in their place, but covering that scene offscreen by a few sentences from a character.
I was finished (I thought). I was happy, and ready to submit for publication. I imagine this is the step that most of you are interested in. I know I was. The previous posts about the writing process are more personal for each individual writer, whereas the publishing process is more general and applicable to all writers or would be writers. I’ll write about my experience submitting queries and proposals in my next post.