A good session this morning: I’ve completed Chapter 5 of The Spiral Skull in first draft. My first draft, however, is often more like a second. I find it hard to plough ahead without doing at least some rewriting as I go. This isn’t everybody’s style. Many writers prefer to work straight through a first draft without so much as looking back, for fear the muse shucks off her traces and disappears into the sunset.
I work a little differently. My writing sessions usually start with a reread of everything I wrote last time. If I spot things I don’t like (and I always do) I rewrite there and then. So I’m often an hour into a session before I write anything truly fresh. The advantage is that, by then, I’m well and truly in the zone.
The chapter I’ve just finished has Pyx, one of my main dragon characters, in a bit of a spot. Things are so perilous, in fact, that he’s seriously considering running out on his new travelling companion, Abalone. Now, this cowardly attitude wasn’t apparent in my outline – it only came up as I was writing the first draft. So I didn’t play it up too much. But when I was lying awake at two o’clock this morning my mind drifted back to the scene and I realised that, at this point in the story, Pyx’s cowardice should actually be driving everything he does. So I’ve rewritten quite extensively to accommodate this, and boy does it work a whole lot better.
Those same night-thoughts also threw up an interesting new idea, namely that there’s something odd about Abalone’s tail. I’ve no idea where the thought came from, but I liked it at once. It immediately led me to consider Abalone’s back-story – how did his tail get to be the way it is? (And no, I’m not going to tell you what’s odd about it – you’ll just have to wait and see.) So I’ve now got to backtrack and introduce this quirk into Chapter 2, which is where Abalone first appears.
And that’s the balance I’m always trying to strike. I like to have the story evolve as it goes, and that means allowing space and time to thread new ideas back through the narrative, even while I’m still working in first draft. At the same time I don’t want to lose momentum on the book as a whole. Which, I’m pleased to say, I haven’t. Yet.
On the subject of Abalone’s tail, I suspect there’s a short story in there. A kind of companion piece to the novel. A prelude of sorts. Now, when am I going to to find the time to write that?