My husband, Bernd, recently started reading the sequel to “Millie’s Adventures in Time.” At least what I have written of it so far, which is actually quite a bit; something close to 80,000 words. Bernd is a good person to read the sequel because his memory for what he has read is not really all that great. So he’d forgotten … well I won’t say much, but he’d forgotten quite a bit about the first novel. In his defense, he remembers what he hears with an uncanny precision. He can quote dialogue from DVDs like you wouldn’t believe.
Here’s approximately how our first conversation about it went. And he hadn’t even read more than about 25 pages.
Bernd, with a questioning note in his voice: “Sweetie, did you mean this to be a stand-alone or part of a real series?”
Me, a little tightly: “I meant it to be a sequel but also able to stand alone.”
Me, a little more tightly: “What’s that mean?”
Bernd, with some uncertainty in his voice: “Well, there are parts that might need more explaining.”
Me, finally walked into the living room and looked directly at him: “Yeah. Like what?” I wasn’t being adversarial. Really. Okay, maybe a little.
He went on to explain. He had some good points. But I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit disappointed and frustrated. I thought I had done a good job of getting enough from the first book into the second for it to make sense. Hopefully without it being pedantically boring to anyone who had read the first novel. And as I said, he’d only read about 25 pages. If there were that many problems so early on, well, I felt I was looking at a major rewrite. As we went further along in our discussion, he also mentioned a couple of places where Millie said something he thought was out of character. Hoo boy.
I’ve read from some authors that they think your first draft should just get it down. If it’s a dirty, muddled mess then you will fix it in the second draft. By the fifth draft, you have a finished and finely polished piece of prose.
I don’t work that way. I don’t really expect to get it exactly “right” the first time around. But I also don’t expect to have to do any kind of major rewrite. Usually, my final draft isn’t that far off from the first. Maybe that’s a total error on my part. Maybe trying to be your own editor is akin to what they say about never trying to represent yourself in a court case.
I guess I will know more once I get some feedback from the couple people I know who have purchased the first novel.
In any case, over the next few days I will re-reread the sequel and see what I might change to make it less confusing. I guess it can never hurt to have a good look at it often. Maybe I’ll find typos I missed the first time around. That’s about as positive as I can feel about it right now. And yes, I realize I have made about a dozen changes to this post since first writing it and pushing the publish button.