I sort of finished the first draft of the perhaps never to be titled Possible Third Book Tuesday evening.
I say sort of because Wednesday morning I woke up with a completely new next to last scene and a nearly complete revision of the last scene, both of which I wrote before supper (how Flaubert would have loving working on a computer).
My plan is to write this blog entry (already underway, in case you hadn't noticed), then eat breakfast (one of those little insights into my life that make this blog so special), do some rewriting before I forget (nothing too big), go to the bank and the supermarket (see above for the little insights comment), come back home (it's not like I intend to move into the supermarket) and read P3B in its entirety.
Although I am certain I'll think P3B the greatest thing ever written (I always feel that way about my work until someone tells me otherwise, which, alas, is inevitable), I plan on keeping pen and paper by my side and jotting down thoughts on changes that will need to be made.
Without having actually read the book, and with my memories already hazy, my perception is the first 50 pages or so are basically okay, and the last third, give or take, is very good. Unfortunately, that leaves about 1/2 of the manuscript in definite need of revision. Big hefty chunky revision. Surgical removal of that which used to be known as excessive bleakity bleak, until one of my many Anonymice suggested in a comment that I never use that phrase again. Well, excessive is okay for me to use, just not the rest of it.
I don't intend to do any of the big deal rewrites unless I hear from Harcourt that they're interested in reading the manuscript. The little deal rewrites I plan for this morning I'm doing simply out of concern that I'll forget them otherwise.
A number of you offered advice and counsel on certain scenes which ended up in the manuscript. For the most part, I stuck with what was in the outline for those scenes, but here's a relatively quick summary of how each one went (assuming I remember):
The Man In The Woods: Caitlin goes into the woods to collect kindling. Man in the woods grabs her. Caitlin screams, knees him, and escapes back to camp, where she discovers Will, her kinda boyfriend, being restrained from running into the woods to rescue her. Caitlin, who actually hasn't spoken for the past 100 pages or so, shouts loud and clear that she isn't going back into the woods. Her defiance enrages Derrick, one of the two men in charge of the troupe. By the way, the characters that absolutely leap off the pages for me are Derrick and Jimmy, but unfortunately in the first draft they come off as monsters. I realized 2/3 the way through that what they are is (are?) zealots, with their only commitment being to the survival of the troupe. I love that, but in the revision, I will have to tone them down.
The Dead Town: Because of a tornado, supplies haven't gotten to a town where the troupe has performed. It's suggested that they go to the nearest federal city to see if they can be paid there. When they get there, Caitlin, Jimmy and Rashad (Derrick's nephew) walk into the city (for reasons that make sense within the story, but are too complicated and embarrassing to go into here). There they find heaps and tons of dead people. They return to the troupe to report their findings. Most likely the water in town was bad and everyone died of cholera, but Derrick is concerned it might be the food instead. Tyler, a member of the troupe who Caitlin has recently gotten into trouble, suggests that Caitlin be made to drink the water. If she dies, they'll know it's the water and can take food out of the city. If she lives, they'll know it's the food. Derrick decides against this because there might have been a toxin in the city that contaminated both the food and the water, and the false sense of security could lead to the troupe's death.
The Hanging: No one gets hung. Caitlin is thrown into jail on trumped up charges, but really for the sole purpose of being substituted for the sheriff's niece, who's about to be taken to the coal mines in a recruitment. Jimmy shows up with Lark, the soloist and most obnoxious of the girls in the troupe. Jimmy shows the sheriff that Caitlin is marked (her left palm has an X cut into it), which would be discovered by the guards as they take the recruitments away. People who are marked are forbidden to be recruited (this is kind of an Alice's Restaurant joke for me), so the guards would know Caitlin isn't the sheriff's niece, and the sheriff, his niece and her mother would all be executed for fraud. The sheriff is very annoyed about this, but Jimmy offers Lark as a substitute (along with a couple of bottles of booze). The sheriff is concerned that Lark isn't healthy enough (she coughs), but Jimmy says she's strong enough to get to the transport train, and that's all anyone will care about. So the deal is made. Caitlin goes back to the troupe with Jimmy, who informs them that from then on, Caitlin will be known as Lark. Lark, not Caitlin, is sacrificed for the survival of the troupe. The understudy has triumphed and become the star.
I have no problem,by the way, with Caitlin not talking for a hundred pages or so. She sings, she dances, she does comedy routines- she just doesn't talk. I'm always intrigued by characters who deal with horrific conditions by simply turning off their emotions, but editors tend to find them too passive. So if I do the extensive revision, I'll cut back on some of the horrific conditions (making the ones I keep stand out even more, which is a good thing) and while keeping Caitlin silent, will show her feelings more obviously.
After all these years, I've finally learned how to think like an editor.
Speaking of which, probably every editor on the east coast has already had breakfast (it's those kinds of professional insights that make this blog so special). Why should I be hungry if they're not? Only because I love you so, Anonymice and all.