It was almost a year ago when I got my draft of THE GRAVITY OF MAMMON back from crime uber agent Stacia Decker with her edits and observations. And I’ve been fucking around with it ever since. Well, OK, not just fucking around with MAMMON. I’ve also written a mess of short fiction, which I’ve pulled into a collection and am pitching about, started two other novels and pretty much done everything but wrap up MAMMON so she can commence trying to sell it. Which is really stupid considering the roll she’s been on the last several months. All over Team Decker Land, authors are lounging on cushy mattresses stuffed with copies of lucrative new contracts, and I can’t even get my damn manuscript back to her.
But I’m finally closing in a final draft of it that I really like – and I’ve figured out that the way to actually get that done is to re-write it backwards.
Wazzat, you say?
See, here’s the deal. As I was rewriting in the traditional fashion – moving forward through the narrative, fixing up stuff I didn’t like – it became too much like writing the book in the first place. I started thinking of all this other stuff that could happen. Pretty soon I was introducing new characters, new plots, new angles. I was running off hither and yon. And that’s great when I’m writing a first draft. That’s exactly what I want to happen. That’s where stories come from.
But this time I already had a story. I just wanted to polish it up, address some plot issues Stacia raised, and get that puppy back in to her so she could find it a nice home. And instead I was turning it into some kind of Rube Goldberg novel device.
So here’s what’s happened to help put a stop to my continual false starts and blind allies. For quite a while now, I’ve known how I was changing the ending. So I finally just sat down and wrote that. I usually don’t like to write out of sequence for exactly the reason that I am writing out of sequence now. It eliminated possibilities. It becomes a Point C somewhere beyond the Point A I am at currently, and that kind of mandates the general location of Point B. Traditionally, I chafe against such strictures.
But, in the end, I HAVE TO FINISH THE FUCKING BOOK. And that can’t happen if I don’t pick one out of the infinite possible narrative directions and just write it.
With an ending that I, frankly, love now in place, working backward to the beginning I always have loved has been pretty easy. It’s all Point B. It all has to tie in to one end or the other and meet up in the middle.
So, is this advice? Will it work for anyone else? Will I even ever do it again? How the hell do I know? But it’s working now, and pretty damn soon MAMMON will be back in Stacia Decker’s clutches. Which was the whole point to begin with.