What I’m Writing: Larkin’s Story

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This is from my current manuscript, Larkin’s Story.  It’s a historical fiction set in rural Ontario in the late 1800s. The story begins with a Coroner’s Inquest into the suspicious deaths of two men who died in a fire.  The story is recounted by a local boy who had some knowledge of the events.  

Entering his bedroom, Larkin moved to the window and pulled back the heavy twill curtain and sat down upon the bed. The moonlight created a brightening that left only part of the room in shadow.  Slowly, almost meditatively Larkin’s hands reached up to unbutton his plaid shirt.  His fingers felt each button as they performed their slow task.  There was a rhythm to the unbuttoning.  Grasp, tip, slip, pull.  Grasp, tip, slip, pull.  He slid off his leather suspenders and shimmied out of the thick cotton, letting it fall backward onto the bed.  Next, he unbuttoned his trousers, the stiff canvas was lined with soft flannel, and he raised his bottom slightly so he could ruck them down his bottom and legs, discarding them in a heap on the floor.  He sat still in his woolen underwear and socks, listening to the wind outside and remembering. 

I’ve bashed out the first draft of Larkin’s Story and am now working on the methodical and often tedious editing stage.  I’m often asked how long it takes to write a novel.   Stella’s Carpet, to be released by Now or Never Publishing in the Fall 2021 took me 4.5 years to research, write and edit.  For those of you interested in my process, I thought that I would share the following:

  1. I think that it’s really important to respect a readership (however small that may be).  So for me, that means taking the time to write multiple drafts when I begin (usually 3 or 4).  Part of my process includes editing the day’s previous pages when I sit down to write and reading it aloud to check for assonance and punctuation. When I think that it’s almost presentable, I do a savage copy edit with a coloured pen and I slash and cut and polish some more. 
  2. Then I write another draft (this should bring me to at least Draft 5).  When that’s done, I have a trusted reader read the entire ms and I ask for general comments and feedback (and try not get defensive).  
  3. Next, I try to address any concerns or issues that my solitary reader has provided and work on yet another draft (about Draft 6).  This draft is what I call my character-voice draft. I read the whole thing looking only for one character’s voice and description to ensure everything is consistent in terms of speech and characteristics and development.  I read it again for the second character, and so forth until I have read the manuscript multiple times, once for each of the characters.  I try to tweak and smooth out inconsistencies while I work.  (The “find” feature in Word is brilliant for searching character names and helps me zip through the pages.) 
  4. Draft 7 (or thereabouts) is ready for another objective read-through by me and by a solitary reader.  Pending feedback, I hope that it’s ready for a professional story-editor at this point.  I typically hire someone to do this for me.  The story-editor makes sure that the “heart of the story” is central to the writing, that the characters are fully fleshed out and developed, and that the story arc works and has a good sense of closure.  
  5. Upon receipt of feedback from the story-editor, I usually buckle down to do another 2 or 3 re-writes, incorporating any suggestions and polishing and finessing the language.  This usually brings me to about Draft 9.  
  6. I next pay a professional copy editor to work on the manuscript. I incorporate their suggestions and do a final draft and polish (bringing me to about Draft 10). Then it’s ready to begin sending out with the hope that someone pulls it out of their slush pile…