I’ve just finished the first draft of The Borman Factor. It’s pretty exciting if you’re an author. Check the spelling, a few small edits and hit publish, right?
We all wish it was that easy, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s hard to resist the urge to get it out and move on to the next one. But, once it’s out there, it’s out there.
After The First Draft
We all have our own process, but I include both redrafting and structural edits in the second phase. Afterwards, it’s ready for a review by beta readers and a final review, with edits in between. Then it’s time to publish.
In reality, everything is on the table at this point, not just text and structure.
Time To Step Back
I resisted the urge to jump in and start editing my first draft the minute it was done. I could be wasting a lot of time polishing up stuff I might throw out. So I thought I would take a bit of time to stand back and take a look at the project and ask a few tough questions about the big picture.
There’s no point spending a lot of time editing what I’ve got if I need to make major changes to some of my characters or the locations or the plot for that matter.
Does It Make Sense
I made a list of some hard questions that I would ask if I were doing an independent review of someone else’s work. I’m glad I did.
Here’s a list of questions I think should be answered right now:
- Does my story make sense? Could it happen in real life?
- Is the plot gripping and exciting or does it need spicing up?
- Does the story flow or is it choppy in parts?
- Do my lead characters come to life? I have a good picture in my mind for each of them, but does that come through in the story. Could the reader picture the characters in their mind’s eye?
- Are the stakes high enough to drive the protagonist past the point of no return? Would the reader be right there with him?
- Finally, is there enough of a worry factor for the reader? Would the reader worry about whether or not the hero is going to make it through to the end?
I’m pretty happy with my story as far as many of these points go, but not all – especially the first one. And that’s a big one isn’t it.
The problem lies at the very beginning. A police detective is murdered and one senior officer manages to stop a murder investigation all by himself. That’s a problem because cops tend to stick together, don’t they.
In real life they would all be fighting for an investigation; even the union would get involved!
How Did I Get There
When I started out, the protagonist (the hero of the story) was a city detective. His partner gets killed in broad daylight and that’s how it all started.
Then, I decided to change that. I wanted something a bit more exotic so I made Nick Borman a high level security expert. That’s more exciting and original, so off I went. And it sort of worked, except for one thing. It’s not realistic enough.
Suspension Of Disbelief
It’s common in science fiction and readers are usually willing to go along. But in a suspense/thriller novel, it is better if the premise makes sense. Sure, the hero often performs near impossible feats but the story itself needs to make sense or it’s hard to get interested.
So I had to ask: Does it make sense for an outsider, even if he is a security expert, to come in and solve the murder of a police officer? Is that something that could happen in real life? I guess it could happen, but it would make more sense for the dead cop’s partner to do it. And that’s not good.
I was thinking about this as I was lying in bed last night. I kept waking up thinking I have to fix this. What should I do? Should I go back and make Nick a detective again?
I had a sinking feeling, something like the picture at the top of the page. It was keeping me up most of the night till finally, round 5:30 this morning, a new character was born. He’s still called Terry Reynolds. He still gets murdered. But now, he’s an award-winning journalist with the Toronto Star.
A half hour later, coffee in hand, I started making edits. I didn’t really have to change that much but I’m much more invested in the story now because it makes sense. Instead of a detective’s partner being killed at the beginning, it’s a really close friend who happens to be an award-winning reporter 🙂
I’m with you all the way in this post, Robert. For me, in Nick Borman you’ve created what I think of as a character ‘with legs’. He started off well and as he makes contacts in his stories his portfolio and therefore his believability factor will increase.
I like your questions too. I go through a sequence of draft, leave (for weeks), print, edit and then do it all over again a few times. It really does work for us if we’re patient. It’s easy to spot the author who simply wanted to get a book out there.
Back on the subject of questions–I have a list of questions I ask each character as I portray them. 🙂
Good post mate.
Thanks for the feedback Tom. I was just reading the post on your site where you describe your writing process—lots of good tips there for other writers!
Interesting that we go through similar processes in writing and editing, Robert. Some of my novels have kept me awake at night, too, because I’ve known there was a flaw, I didn’t want to admit it, but it’s almost always somewhere in the basic plot and until that’s sorted nothing makes sense. Then suddenly, it all comes together and I can sleep again. Great post and a good-looking page.
That is so true Rebecca. I think many cases of ‘writer’s block’ are caused by this type of problem. Once you figure it out, the writing seems to flow effortlessly. Glad you like the new look to the site!