Fiction: Is it ever really finished?

I posted some time back that I was done with Old Dogs. And I was. I had written until there was nothing more to be put into the story. There was plenty of stuff to happen later on, but the inital story was done. There couldn’t possibly be more to it. Things happened in a certain order and that’s the way they were. Or so I thought. 😉

But now, thanks to the help of a most excellent and patient beta reader, I’m rethinking the sequence of events, even the events themselves that make up my novel. So I read her suggestions, try them on for size, rewrite and see what happens. So far, I’m loving what is happening, but the daunting task before me is quite overwhelming. To really make these changes and pacing recommendations work, I’m in for one hell of a process. Not that I mind; this novel is my baby and I really want to make it right so that, when I am ready to start trotting it out for potential agents or publishers, it’s the very best it can be. With my reader’s help, it will be, but damn…

I have to remind you that I am such a pantser it’s not even funny. I write in scenes. There is not outline, there are no notecards, not even a computer program to help me lay out my plot has held my attention long enough for me to have even the vaguest of roadmaps for my writing. I’m absolutely hopeless. A scene may be inspired by a book, a snippet of conversation I overhear, something funny that happens at work. Driving back and forth to work is a time for me to work on things. I speak dialogue out loud, take on all the characters’ personas and work them out. Then, when I think I have it down, into the computer it goes, as it comes out of my brain. Then it gets written and rewritten and again and agin. Then the next one comes along. And no, they don’t come to me in the sequence they occur. The very first scene I wrote of Old Dogs was about a month into the story. The next was toward the end. And so it goes, back and forth, like a game of ping-pong, until I get all the scenes down that I think tell the story, or until the characters stop shouting things at me, one or the other.

And then you get a good beta reader’s eyes on it and they challenge the structure and sequence of events and you think to yourself, “Really? That could happen!” And so you make it happen. And the scene that you wrote that happens later has too much information that we already know, or the opening scenes are a giant information dump because you had to write it that way so you wouldn’t forget what the hell happened. And so on and so on. So, yes, I have a lot of work before me. I admit it, I got comfortable/complacent with the way the story was built. And while it has good stuff in it, it can be better.

So when is a piece of fiction ever really done? Apparently not when the wet behind the ears inexperienced author thinks so. So, what about after the beta reader(s) report in? Then? We’ll find out.

How do you write with no feedback?

I must smell funny.

It’s the only thing I can think of. The online writer’s group I’ve hung out with off and on for years, small but helpful and fun, has gotten so small that I think I’m the only one posting anymore. I miss the cameraderie, the sharing of ideas and resources and just the general sense of community. The boards used to be jammed with fellow writers, all challanging and supporting one another. Nowadays I just hope someone posts something, anything, once in a while. Comments on posts are just gravy at this point.

Yes, there are other groups out there that I could join. I’ve even signed up for some of them, but nothing ever sticks. Most have lots of rules, with complex equations for calculating how many crits you can get based on how many you do. There are differing types of crits, all carefully spelled out. I don’t want to do that. I enjoy the informality and friendly atmosphere I have had.

Old Dogs should be further along. I’ve read it backwards and forwards. I still like what I read, but at the same time, I worry that it’ll never see the light of day. I worry that it’s not marketable because there’s nothing spectacular going on in it. It’s just about people, regular people. There are no explosions, nothing paranormal, no murder mysteries, no police crime drama.

I should have gotten at least one complete review from someone other than myself since I declared myself finished. I’m at a loss. I understand people are busy, so am I. It’s only that I’ve been on vacation (at home) that this has really bothered me.  In the four months since I ‘finished’ and gave it to a few, select people, I’ve gotten some comments, some great reviews, but only on the first four chapters. I have one more person reading that has offered some excellent advice, but again, only on the first four chapters and real life has interfered with further progress. I’m afraid I’m going to have to resort to one of those large, anonymous sites in order to get the feedback I need. 

Forgive me, it’s late and I’m tired and whiny. Anybody want to read a novel?