Yesterday I finished the first draft of The Sump of Lost Dreams, the third book in my comic novel trilogy. A fantastic feeling after several years’ gestation.
The three books are about, in turn, the presence, the power, and the persistence of grace. These themes are stripped of all Christian language, deeply buried under layers of comedy and fantasy and nothing is brought to a conclusion. The books are supposed to be like the smell of coffee or fresh bread: fun in itself, and setting you off hunting for the source.
They’re part of ‘slow mission’ because (a) they’re my ‘thing’ and everybody’s ‘thing’ has to fit somewhere and (b) because we can’t live on bread alone; we need stories like we need protein.
Re-writing: a checklist
Here (for my reference mostly and because I’ve got to put it somewhere) is my checklist for when I come to re-write the first draft. It’s my best thoughts on what makes a fine novel.
- Premise. Does it drive the book? Are any parts of the book extraneous? Does the premise resonate though the book, even if is not stated explicitly? Is it moving? Does it move me?
- Background. Is it consistent? Accurate enough? Does the chronology work? Do seasons pass? Special occasions happen?
- Plot. Is it believable? Organic? (one thing develops naturally from another)? Is it taut, pulling the reader along or does it go slack in places? Is it satisfyingly tied up or are there loose ends or dead ends? Does the tension in each scene rise and fall away like a wave?
- Characters. How well do I know them? Do they have distinctive voices? Do they change? What would strike the observer about them? Are they operating at full capacity? Are they struggling? Do they get somewhere?
- Texture. Is the dialogue funny, terse, unexpected? Is the writing unobtrusive? Do descriptions drag? Do the eyes skip over parts?
- Overall. Does it delight? Move the heart? Grip? Make people late for appointments? Force them buy it for others? Compete with Netflix and Sky Sports?