Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Put a Bow on it

Yesterday (Sunday, the 16th), at pretty much high noon, I pushed back from the computer, the final chords of the Grateful Dead’s spirited-but-sloppy “Scarlet Begonias” first set closer from July 16, 1976 still ringing in my ears, and said, “Finished.” The latest WiP had been completed.

Not finished finished, mind you. In early evening I sat with my cup of coffee and made some tweaks to the final scene in the manuscript, then searched back a ways to make a couple of changes to an earlier scene that had to reflect that ending. Part of me wanted to wait until Revision, Phase One to make those changes, but it was on my mind there and then, so I did it. Officially, I guess, I didn’t actually put a bow on it until just about 8:30 last night.

This one is currently a monster, 471 bloated pages, almost 138,000 words–yeah, I guess Stephen King really is an influence–but I tend to write long and do a lot of cutting during the revision. I believe the RiP was just shy of 400 pages and in the neighborhood of 116,000 words when I called it a first draft. That manuscript went on a crash diet and went out on submission last year a svelte 98,000 words. This story may well be bigger, but I should be able to get it down much closer to the 100,000 mark. For now, it’s time to let it stew, and then I’ll read it in a few weeks and discover just how bad it is. In the meantime, there’s a RiP that has been too-long neglected sitting on my hard drive…

What about you? Do you draft big, or draft small?

EDIT: Just saw that Agent Carrie has the doors open for another Query Critique! If you’ve got a query you need help with, send her an e-mail and maybe you’ll get a critique. See here for full rules.

4 Responses

  1. I draft small. Once I'm finished, I have to go back and put in more description and emotion. That tends to add LOTS of words.

    Congrats on finishing another book!

  2. Funny, I think I need to put in more description in my second drafts, too, but what I have to take out are a lot of duplicate scenes and redundancies!

    And I'm not exactly finished, but thanks!

  3. Congratulations of completing a first draft! I'm like you–draft big and go back to cut things down later. That way I can word-vomit freely as a writer, and then pull out my inner editor stick later to worry about being concise and getting rid of 'fluffy' filler stuff. Thanks for sharing your success! Keep it up!

  4. "Word vomit"–so lovely! I think I prefer "brain dump", but it comes to the same thing. It's funny how we use certain bodily functions to describe writing: "Bleeding on the page" (though I'm not sure that's a function as much as a malfunction), "Brain dump", "Word vomit"–I'm sure there are others.

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