The way I write breaks down like this:
Draft One: Dialogue and basic emotion
Draft Two: Setting, description and blocking
Draft Three: Speech tags and nuance
Draft Four: Deeper emotion and subtext
And then I do all that again, ten or fifteen times, in different orders, depending on the subplots and any main plot changes.
Until now, my stories have existed in my head. Since HOURGLASS is my debut, I've never had to really step outside the pages and think about my actual readers - what my words might influence them to believe, what I might unconsciously promote when I'm telling a story.
HOURGLASS started with The Organic Ingredients of Myra's Brain. I cooked up The First Draft for a period of time until it became sour mash, or This Draft is as Good As I Can Make It By Myself.
It ran through cold water (my agent) in copper tubing (my editor) and is now in the process of distilling into The Edited Final Version. Sooner than I think it will go between Two Hard Covers (into a glass jar) and be ready for consumption.
And anyone who makes moonshine will tell you that taking a drink can take you to the highest heights with one shot.
Or, it can kill you.
What's between those pages is a risk. There's a weight to putting this book out there that I didn't expect.
My characters aren't me, but they're part of me. They are flawed, some of them horribly. There are faults that are acceptable in characters, and faults that aren't. Flaws that will get your ass handed to you by readers and critics. It's a delicate balance.
And the thing is, no one really knows. I don't know if what I've written could be offensive until I have readers. A REALLY WIDE sampling of readers. And I won't get a wide sampling of readers until the book is published, and then my friends, it's too late to change things.
I almost wish I could put a disclaimer at the bottom of every page, one that read something like:
I'm sorry if anything on this page angered you, hurt your feelings, or otherwise harmed you. I totally didn't mean it. If you'll send me your shipping address, I will mail you a one year supply of the pastry of your choice.
P and S: Your hair looks awesome today.
But that's not possible. Darn it. So here's how I survive the terror:
I have an immense amount of faith in my Excellent Editor. She's wise, she has experience, she wants this book to succeed just as much as I do. So does my agent, so does my publishing house. Public reaction is out of my control - out of anyone's control, really. Because I am committed to and love what I do, I take a new leap of faith daily. And I have to have faith in MY story.
Considering that stepping out in faith is what put me here in the first place?
*holds out hypothetical shot glass*
Pour me another drink.