Third Thursday – From Inspiration to Perspiration
The Drafting and Revision Process
We had a quartet of accomplished authors at our May 17 Third Thursday event and they shared the trials and tribulations of coming up with first, second, third and that umpteenth book draft. Our panelists were:
Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Trudy (winner of the 2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature), Border Crossing (Quick Picks nomination, Cynsational Book of 2009) and Calli (YALSA’s Reader’s Choice Booklist Nomination, 2011.)
Harrison Cheung’s first book is Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman, release date May 29, 2012. His first novel, Idol Worship, was a finalist in the Writers’ Guild Fiction competition.
Owen Egerton is a novelist, screenwriter and performer. He is the author of Marshall Hollenzer is Driving, the novel The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God, and the play The Other Side of Sleep.
Kari Anne Roy is the author of Haiku Mama and a periodic contributor of wildly inappropriate essays to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. A children’s writer, she is known as K.A. Holt and is the author of Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, and Brains for Lunch.
For Harrison, the revision process meant that his Christian Bale book evolved through many genres. Initially, it was a biography, but on the advice of others in the publishing world, it became a fictional biography and then a memoir.
Finally, he says, he decided to follow the age-old advice to write what he knew and the book became a biography. Changing courses in this way meant that it took five years to finish the book, which according to other writers on the panel is not unusual for a book project.
Kari finds that if she listens to her characters, they will write the story for her. She got well into one manuscript before she realized that a character had asthma. My voice, she says, finds me.
She has her critique group read her first “messy” draft. After she revises it from their comments, she turns it over to her agent for comments. The result from that round is draft 2.
“You have to have the bones first,” Kari says. “Then you can add lungs and brain – layer upon layer.”
Owen thinks of novels as being like flares. “A flare only lights the way for awhile and then you need a new flare.”
He doesn’t rely heavily on outlines. He might have one, but only to give him a map that allows him to get lost.
Screenwriting has helped him set his ego aside in the revision process. In that field, he says, “everything gets chopped. You have to collaborate with other writers so that takes some of your ego out of it.”
When Jessica gets attached to a draft, it’s hard to “kill my darlings.” Fortunately, her agent is tough and insists on certain revisions. But Jessica keeps her darling draft intact for her own eyes.
She also likes to have an outline to fall back on when divine inspiration escapes her.