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Update: The Coffin Haulers

December 17, 2012

I’m nearly 34,000 words into my second novel, “The Coffin Haulers,” which should top out at 50,000 words. I don’t know if other writers do this, but when I re-read what I’ve written I have to see it on paper, so I print what I’ve done. The other day I was going over it and was reminded of what Mario Puzo wrote in his diary when he was writing his first novel, “The Dark Arena”:

Starting to type what I have of the novel. Doesn’t read too badly but it’s pretty thin stuff. Hope it thickens itself in the typing. In any case it’s obvious that the whole thing has to be rewritten.”

What I’ve written so far is also thin, and I know why. I was concentrating too heavily on plot and not enough on the characters. I was creating the plot from outside and superimposing it on the story, contrary to my long-held belief (which I’ve shared in some posts) that characters should create the plot. The writer creates the characters based on the story he or she wants to tell, and the characters take it from there, always staying within character to make the plot believable and consistent.

My story is thin because I need to strengthen the relationships between the characters so they have the proper motivation to create the plot. When I read a novel I’m more interestd in why the characters do something than I am in what they do. When I write one I strive to create characters who cause the reader to say: I get it. That’s why Anton (or Marek or Joey or Claudine or Rudy) did that.

I don’t have to completely rewrite what I’ve done so far, though I consider it a first draft of the first draft, but it will take a lot of work to get it in shape.

Here’s some insight into how I work: I hate, absolutely hate, to rewrite while I’m working to develop the story. Something inside me says I should keep going, I’ll discover something along the way that will open my eyes to developments I had not considered that will make the story stronger. Get the story and characters in place and then rewrite to make everything satisfying for the reader.

Not to mention satisfying for me, too.


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