Another first draft, plus yada yada

by | Nov 7, 2023

It’s the Tuesday after the Sunday when I typed “THE END” at the bottom of about 105,000 words of prose. This rough first-draft manuscript for Rhyfen advances the final installment in the series’ second trilogy from what I now think of as “the hard part” and into what I now think of as “The Fun Part,” and by that I mean “revising,” and not “formatting and publishing and promoting.” Which I think of as “The Annoying Part.” So I’m not in anyway DONE.

But one thing I’ve learned from experience is that a good first draft is the starting line for a D.C. McElroy novel. A standard novel tells one story. Novels in a series also tell a second story (a.k.a. “the series arc”).  But all D.C. Mac books have to tell three stories: The book arc, the trilogy arc, and the series arc. And lemme tell you: It’s not that this is such a difficult thing. It’s that pulling it off requires HAVING a “finished story” so that I can step away from it for a few days and read it like it isn’t mine.

A book-length story only works for me if it’s greater than just the sum of its parts. And I’m fairly confident that this first draft delivered the bulk of the necessary materials to the job site, laid the foundation, established the load-bearing structures and put a roof on top. It’s tempting to just push ahead toward roughing-in and interior decorating. But the next thing that has to happen is the walk-through with the inspector.

If you haven’t guessed already, in this tortured analogy I’m the developer, the architect, the contractor, the carpenter AND the building inspector. The point of taking just a little break between the Hard Part and the Fun Part is that I need to forget just enough that my eyes are sharp and fresh when I put on my inspector hat.

So lots will change between now and the launch date. I don’t know what just yet, but lots of stuff changes in every Darbas book between the initial THE END and the ultimate CLICK TO PUBLISH. And since this one caps a trilogy, I’ve got to stress-test each of the trilogy-arc storylines, check everything against published series canon, and ensure that the finished trilogy arc segues smoothly into the opening pages of Book Seven.

But I’d be lying if I ended the post with that notion, and here’s why: If the single book itself — abesent all the other considerations I’ve heaped upon it — doesn’t resonate, shimmer, seduce and satisfy, then it’s a failure.

Because this really isn’t about building a house.

It’s about haunting it.