I use to fear the first draft

First Draft 1

There was a time when I had this grand illusion of creating the perfect novel. Come to think of it, it wasn’t exactly an illusion or particularly grand.

Perfection was a stone cold fact.

But something happened in those early days. It became known as the introduction to the first draft. 

 

Cue scary music

The more I thought about the first draft the scarier it became. In fact it was so scary I didn’t want to do anything. It became clear that the first draft would show the world my weakness. A sloppy sentence, a dreary paragraph and lets not forget the laughable (not funny laughable) dialog. I won’t be able to carry a tune in this town.

Who the hell wants that?

But something changed when I wrote Dempsey’s Grill. The story won me over. The characters felt like friends and before I knew it, this fear thing I kept running away from seemed kind of silly.

The turning point came when I asked myself if I was willing to put in the work to create the story I was trying to find. There was a time when the answer was no but something changed. Who knows, maybe I was growing up.

 

Pockets of Gold

I am a third of the way in the first draft of book two. Saving Iris is the name and I hope the title sticks. I’m already finding pieces of gold here and there. Unfortunately some of it is fools gold.

There are places where I cringe and other places where I nod and smile. I’m slowly peeling away the layers to the people and places I’m trying to see.

Instead of dreading the first draft I find myself looking forward to it. The characters are changing direction asking me to follow. The story is growing, but most of all, I don’t mind the stumbles and face plants.

A little comedy is good for the soul.

The first draft is a time where the writer and the story get to know each other. The hits and misses are all forgiven while the home runs are always embraced.

So push away that fear. Enjoy the first draft and embrace all the good things you’re about to explore.

First Draft

My interview with my first editor, Jo Pemmant

When I wrote the first draft of Dempsey’s Grill I was under the illusion that the first draft was the only draft. Yes, I was one of those. But as time passed I realized there might be a chance that I could be wrong. 

Maybe, just maybe, my epic adventure could do without a word or two. Probably not, but just in case, maybe I should call someone and see what they think.

That someone my was dear friend Jo and the adventure we took from this first draft until the very end was a story all of its own.

Jo, take it away:

Jo 2

The final word count was around 84,000. Can you remember the word count from draft one? 

     The first draft you sent me, fresh off the tips of your fingers and, I suspect, sometimes fresh out of your churning brain, was about 102,180 words, not including the chapter headers. (Thank you Google Docs for that information). 

Between that first draft and submission of the finished story to the editor, a lot of words got cut out. Some scenes/ideas absolutely needed to be chopped. Others, I really loved and I miss not having them in the final book, but at the same time, I realize they maybe weren’t vital to the framework of the characters and their stories. 

As I’m reading the book now, I get little ghostly nudges of a scene that used to be there. Sometimes I’m sad about that, but then other times I think ‘good call, Molly and Steve, that one needed to go’. 

 

After you committed did you ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into’?  

     When you asked me to edit for you, I was just starting a new ‘part-time’ job. I was guaranteed a minimum of 20 hours at that job, so I thought ‘Sweet! I’ll be able to really dedicate myself to helping Bryan get this thing going!’. 

Things weren’t quite as I’d been led to believe they’d be, though. I was working 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, then coming home to edit for about 4-6 hours a day. That might seem overwhelming, but I was so jazzed about both jobs that I truly had some endless energy in the beginning. 

After a bit, things settled into a manageable routine and I had to learn to put the brakes on once in a while and take some time for myself occasionally, which you insisted on. Yes, there were times I thought ‘Ugh, what am I doing? 

Did I bite off more than I can chew?” but that was because I felt like I was going to fail and let you down. I didn’t know if I was being thorough enough in looking for spelling errors, proper timeline construction, sentence and paragraph structure, etc. But, I enjoyed the creative process with you, giving feedback on how I was reading situations or when you’d be stumbling with getting an idea across in a scene and we’d brainstorm. 

I liked being the cheerleader when you had down swings in creative energy and I liked reigning you in when your mind took a wild leap into a storm of ‘what if’, ‘should I’, ‘how about this’, and helping you keep things on track. I think I often said “That’s great, I love it, but it doesn’t fit here. Save that for another story”. 

I cherished every moment of what I’d gotten myself into!

 

When we worked through that first draft what was your biggest challenge?

    Letting go of my discomfort with correcting or criticizing. I wasn’t just watching for spelling errors or punctuation. That’s easy. Unfortunately, I found myself in a situation where I was expected not only to find those types of mistakes, but also to find flaws in a line or a scene or a character, any of which might need to be filled in, eliminated, or just modified a bit, in order to feed the story the best it could and, on top of that, I had to communicate my criticisms to the very person who created those mistakes and flaws. 

That was way outside my comfort zone. I was pretty timid at first. Would you be mad at me? Would I hurt your feelings? Would you never speak to me again? 

Then, I had the realization that this was exactly what you’d asked me to do and I thought, ‘well, if he gets mad at me for correcting his writing or telling him something sucks, he’s not going to get very far when he starts trying to sell a book to an editor who can be hyper-selective because there’s always another writer waiting to submit their story’. 

Essentially, I could just stay quiet, simply correct spellings and go along with anything and everything you had written, or I could do whatever I needed to in order to help you produce a final manuscript that was as perfect and flawless as I/we could manage. 

 

Were you able to see what I was trying to do or did it take time?

Jo 1

     It took time. About a quarter of the way into the book, I emailed a bunch of questions about some things that were going on and your answer was, ‘Hang in there. Wait until the story ends. Let’s talk about it when it’s all over. Afterwards, you might see what I was doing’. 

Needless to say, I didn’t have to wait completely to the end for all of it. You had some great surprises in there. If you remember, I didn’t have internet at the time that we started this project. You’d email me a few chapters at a time to edit. I would take my laptop to Starbucks on a Saturday, upload and send the chapters I’d edited to you and download the new chapters that you’d sent me. 

Occasionally, a chapter would end and I’d realize there wasn’t another page to turn and I’d curse you for leaving me hanging until the next weekend. So frustrating!

 

This is the first and only book you ever edited and it went on to become published. I know your schedule is full but someday I’d like to see you do this again. Any chance of that happening?

     This is the first book I’ve edited that’s become published, yes. I also edited the rough draft of your second book, Saving Iris, which I absolutely loved and, to be honest, I thought it would sell before Dempsey’s Grill. 

I’m not at all miffed for being wrong, though. I respect that you felt Saving Iris needs more cleaning up before you try submitting it to a publisher and I’m super stoked to see how much better it will be when you finish it. 

I have high hopes for that book. I’ve also read through a few chapters of brainstorming you’ve done for a third story that I have faith will come back to you when it’s ready to be written. 

And yes, I absolutely want to continue editing! Watching characters, scenes and plots evolve from an idea to a full-blown alternate world in my mind while also helping to make that world clear and concise to other readers is so gratifying. 

 

Do you find yourself editing when you read?

     Oh, goodness. There’s no way I can try to lie my way out of this and say no without my family laughing me out of the county. The little ticker across the bottom of the tv screen during the news? A restaurant menu? Newspaper article? If something is in written form, it is subject to sub-conscious proof-reading. 

I don’t do it on purpose! It just jumps out at me. I can shake off some of it but, I hate to say, I often roll my eyes and shudder thinking ‘someone spent thousands of dollars to put that ad in all these magazines/on tv/on that billboard, and no one could be bothered to check the spelling?!’. Grrr. It’s definitely one of my peeves. 

 

 

Thank you, Jo!!!!!

Jo 3

My Interview with Molly Martin

A long time ago I learned a valuable lesson: A good editor can help improve your book. But if you find a great editor it can lead to a published book. 

The other thing I learned is chemistry. The author and the editor must have it in order for the book to grow. 

Molly and I had it. 

My dear friends, without further adieu, my interview with the editor of Dempsey’s Grill, Molly Martin.

 

If I remember correctly your choice of entertainment is not comedy/romance. What changed your mind with my book?

In all honesty, comedy/romance still isn’t my genre of choice, but Demsey’s Grill had relatably flawed characters and a compelling story, and – I cannot stress this enough – you were willing to work hard to make the story as good as you could. As an editor, I first fall in love with the story, but if the author refuses to make any revisions, I have to wonder what they’re paying me for. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to accept money for the privilege of reading people’s stories, but I’m told this is not an actual career. When I’m getting paid to edit a story, I expect the author won’t listen to all my amazing suggestions, but they should be listening to most – say about 70-90%. If not, why hire an editor?

So, short answer – your story was fun and you were committed to the editorial process.

 

What was the biggest challenge early on?

Being an editor is a lot like being a psychologist, but for books and people. The biggest challenge was, and often is with new writers, to establish trust between author (you) and editor (me). We were about to go through a crucible together and it was critical that I truly understood and respected your vision so my suggestions served your story, not my interpretation of your story. This required good questioning and listening skills on my part. 

It was also important for you to trust that I had your story’s best interests at heart so that when I told you to cut a beloved scene, character, or subplot, you would be willing to at least consider it. 

Worst case scenario is when the author believes their editor is trying to rewrite or even ruin the story. That’s never my intent, but I encounter so many writers who seem to see the editor as a foe not an ally. 

 

I’m putting myself on the line here….gulp….What was the hardest part of working with me?

The constant, shameless attempts to bribe me with delicious treats and beverages. It availed you naught! You still had to make the changes I ever so gently suggested.

 

You have a wonderful way of connecting the dots. It always amazes me how you are able to see things far in advance. With that in mind, was there a character you were drawn to early that you knew would be a key part of the story?

I knew Hope was a key character. She started out as an antagonist in Gibson’s life, but part of his arch was for him to reconcile with his family. To do that, Hope needed to be open to forgiving him for past sins and moving forward. In early drafts, Hope was a larger-than-life character, almost a caricature. I wanted to bring out her humanity, her vulnerabilities, and dreams, not just her ambitions, failures, and flaws. Fleshing out Hope enabled you to deepen other characters and to develop a romantic subplot for her that would have been almost impossible for Hope 1.0. I think writing Hope in a sympathetic way caused you to really grow as a writer and pushed you out of your comfort zone. You’re welcome.

 

Are you editing any novels at this time? 

I am editing the second novel in Kristin J. Dawson’s The Unchosen series. I also edited the first book “The Lilac Plague” so I feel very invested in the characters. No spoilers, but there’s plenty of intrigue and some heartbreak in Book 2. 

I’m also helping Polly Irving to polish up her novel for submission. Again no spoilers, but I will say is Kate is one of my favorite characters and I’m so excited to see it at this stage of the process.

 

Thank you, Molly. You are a dear friend as much as you are an amazing editor. 

Author Bio: M. K. Martin is a motorcycle-riding, linguistics nerd. A former Army interrogator with a degree in psychology, she uses her unique knowledge and skill set to create smart, gritty stories that give readers a glimpse into the darker corners of the human mind. Her debut novel “Survivors’ Club” is available at Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and various indie bookstores. She writes primarily speculative fiction.

 

 

Molly 3

 

 

Fozzie crashes London

It was a wild day for Fozzie. First he captured the underground and later we spotted him on a bridge. Thankfully he didn’t test the waters. Fozzie wishes all of you a productive and happy week. 

There’s only one you so keep it safe. We need your smiles.

London Fozzie 1

How I saved my second novel from disaster

Disaster

A long time ago I wrote a novel that I named Saving Iris. I had no clue what I was doing but I wrote it anyway. It was really bad. I’m pretty sure there was a plot and maybe a likable character or two but that wasn’t my only problem. 

I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

I forgot about it for a long time until one day I shared it with a writer’s group. Thankfully the opening was strong enough to receive an invite. Sadly, as you now know, the rest of it not so much.

 

PracticePractice

I saw it as practice. A lesson of things to come, so to say. This practice novel taught me work ethic, how to handle criticism and what to do when you can’t shake a certain feeling.

Saving Iris soon became lost in my hard drive. She would sit, patiently waiting as rubble upon rubble of other nonsense do’s and don’t piled over her.

One day I removed her from the pile of rubble and decided to give her another go. The result was a sharper version of the original. A better story, I thought, a tad clever, I guessed. 

In other words, something the reader could really sink their teeth into.

 

Same as it ever was

But the feeling stayed. Something was missing. A piece of the puzzle that didn’t belong. Or worse, a piece that was lost. 

What are you trying to tell me, Iris. I’d ask. I’m listening. I’ve got all day. Don’t be shy.

On the plane ride home from London something happened. For reasons I haven’t exactly figured out I had one of those ‘Of course’ moments.

Maybe I was zoning, or watching a movie or I was really excited because it’s snack time. Long plane rides really mess with your heads. Whatever it was that missing piece was placed where it belonged and I couldn’t get home quick enough to write it .

 

Iris and the missing piece

Funny how it works, isn’t it. An old practice novel lost and forgotten, now I’m 20,000 words in with my goal to finish draft one by the end of October.

I’m not sure I’ll make that goal but the confidence of writing a story a reader will like is there. It’s the same confidence I had when I wrote Dempsey’s Grill. And, just like Dempsey, Iris is starting to take over.

She’s literally taking the pen out of my hand.

Sometimes the stories we write have their own time table and it’s up to us to listen. With Saving Iris I’m glad I did. Now if you’ll excuse me, she’s telling me to get back to work.  

Little girl Iris