So, I have a first draft written; it's hazy and I haven't looked at the thing in a few months. When I read it, I can't remember writing some of it. I think this is a good; I can now read the thing like a reader without wanting to change things too much. Also, as I read it, I can see gaping holes in the story and character motivations. I think it's a total piece of shit. I realize what a better writer I have become over the past couple of years. I also realize I'm going to have to re-write almost the entire thing in order to keep up with my improved writing style and to keep the tone consistent. The job is intimidating and scary as fuck. Nonetheless, I power onwards as I always have, working on it piece by piece.
Here is a section of my novel, just to give you guys an idea of the process. Okay, first draft:
Everything about his grandmother’s house was weird it seemed. Besides these memories, he hadn’t had very much to do and had spent a lot of time wandering aimlessly about the house, looking at the pictures on the wall, examining his grandfather’s tool shed, stuff like that.
Thinking about this stuff, Garty looked over at the painting on the wall from his place in bed. It was an oil painting and it looked as if it had been done by the same artist who had painted a lot of the other paintings hanging up in the house. This one was a lavish landscape, a rolling hill covered in a high-growing wheat-like grass that tumbled down into an open valley. A lake of the deepest, almost turquoise-green colored, blue lay at the base of the valley. The colors in the entire painting were rich and vibrant like the lake; a Technicolor dreamscape. When Garty looked into this painting it felt like a dream. He felt like he’d like to be standing at the top of that wheat covered hill, feeling the cool breeze and smelling the algae growing in the lake. When he looked into this painting he felt sure the place it revealed must be close by, as if he could take a quick stroll and end up at the top of that hill.
It was like the painting in the hallway he called the ‘goat kingdom.’ In that painting, which had similar brush strokes to the one in the bedroom, a king and queen sat on a pair of golden thrones, their hands folded together, their heads half-smiling goat heads. An intricate stained glass window in the shape of a crescent moon was behind them, multi-colored rays of light cascading across the throne room.
There were paintings like these all over his grandparent’s house, and the more he examined them, the stranger he felt about them. It was just that he had a certain impression of his grandparents and the kind of people they were and these painting didn’t seem like the kind they might come upon at some flea market and decide to buy for their house.
But it didn’t really matter. Garty knew he was just creeping himself out. It might be nice to be able to relax and not have to worry about things for once, but he needed to get out of this house for a while. He thought maybe he’d give his friend Sam a call. Or, at least, he’d explore outside the house today.
Garty pulled himself out of bed. His grandmother continued to sleep in the bed next to him. She wouldn’t be up for another couple of hours.
Garty stretched. Yawned. He looked one more time into the depths of the painting across the room. He shuddered, suddenly filled with the overwhelming feeling of impending destiny. He imagined himself running through the wheat fields, but this time he didn’t have time to enjoy the gentle breeze or pure natural smells. This time he was running from something, something dark and malevolent, something with wet and glistening claws, its goat head grinning with murderous intent.
Garty shook his head to clear it. He stood, headed for the bathroom, and tried to think of something else.
I know, I know; that's a lot to read, but here's the second draft section anyway:
The little girl was drowsily kicking a pine cone about the yard. Garty watched from inside his grandfather’s old office, as he often did, but his eyelids kept sliding down and, after having lived in this strange house with his grandmother for over a week now, taking his grandfather’s place in his grandparent’s bed, he kept seeing the wheat field; those rolling hills and the cool breeze; the smell of algae in the deep-turquoise of the lake.
Garty snapped his head up. There was a oil painting hanging on the wall in his grandmother’s bedroom depicting this scene he kept slipping in to. It was lavish and colorful, the wheat that covered the hills a deep auburn, the sky a rich swirl of blues, and the lake, almost green in color. The artist had had an eye for detail and, using the finest of brushstrokes, had created textures of such quality and realism Garty could almost see the red wheat rustling in the wind, the billowy clouds drifting, the lake water rippling, out of the corner of his eye when he turned away. Staring into the painting, it felt as if the place it depicted were close by, as if he might take a quick stroll and end up at the top of that hill, feeling the cool breeze, the pleasantly organic smell of algae. And, in his haze, every time he nodded off, he imagined that place as if it were real. Sometimes he imagined the little girl from across the street in his daydreams, walking beside him, her face grim but determined.
There were other paintings by this same artist all over his grandparent’s house and the more time he spent drifting through the hallway, poking around in the spare bedrooms (including the room at the end of the hall where he’d slept during his visits as a kid, although it gave him the creeps), opening drawers listlessly, the stranger he began to feel about his grandparents. One of the paintings, hanging in the hallway, depicted a king and queen sitting in their thrones, behind them a colorful stained-glass window, their faces half-smiling and goat-like; horns curling from their heads. He shuddered just to think about it.
But he couldn’t stop the thoughts; his imagination seemed to run wild as he wandered through his grandparent’s house day after day. He kept remembering things, little things--moments from his childhood surfacing like mist through the cracks in the old hardwood floors.
He’d found a bug behind the couch when he’d been just a kid visiting his grandparents for the holidays. It’s body had been bulbous and fuzzy, as if dusted with mold; its legs spidery; its eyes on elongated stalks that actually blinked. It had been like no insect he had seen since and he had pulled the plug from a lamp that happened to be handy and thrust it at the bug, not wanting to risk a bitten finger. The bug reared and seethed; it regarded him warily with its rapidly blinking eyes. Then, a horrified shriek; a foot came down, grinding the bug flat, and he’d been gripped under his arms and pulled away. He could still remember the guilt, the taste of having done something unnaturally wrong, running down his throat like a bitter syrup.
Last night, he’d been stumbling down the hall, half-asleep and looking for the bathroom, when another memory began to surface, something dark he’d repressed but still swam in the depths of his mind. He’d snapped awake and jerked his hand back, realizing he’d been about to push open the door to the spare bedroom at the end of the hall. He’d gasped raggedly and hurried away, almost running, pushing the memory away, fearing something that might grasp his exposed ankles in the dark.
He’d not slept well the rest of the night and when he had, he’d been running through the wheat fields again, running in the dark. He held the little girl’s hand and when he looked at her, her face was a panicked mask; she flailed next to him, trying to keep up. They were running from something; something large and malevolent, with wet and glistening talons, writhing tentacles, its goat-like face grinning with murderous intent.
If you've made it this far, having read both sections, you'll notice some major changes right away. The writing is better, but that's the way it should be. In the first draft I was generating ideas as I went and writing at a furious pace so I was less concerned with language. For the second draft, I've been most concerned with foreshadowing and story continuity so you'll find a lot of details in the second draft that allude to future events in the near and distant future of the book.
Okay, congratulations and thank you very much! If you've read this entire post I appreciate your interest and (as always) comments and critics are welcome. I'd also love to hear about your novels-in-progress and how that's going.
Catch ya' later!