By David Joel Miller, Writer.
After the writing comes the revision.
As some of you are aware, I spent the month of November participating in the NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) contest. This event is the fourth time I have attempted this and the third time I have succeeded in completing a first draft of a novel in one month.
Participating in the contest has taught me a great deal about writing a novel. What I’m struggling with now, even more than writing a novel, is the process of revision, trying to turn that first rough draft into something worth publishing. I would like to share with you some of the challenges I’m experiencing in revision, but first a little background.
Casino Robbery started the Arthur Mitchell mysteries series.
Planned Accidents is the second in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series. Arthur’s adventures began in the book Casino Robbery. After the financial crisis in 2008 Arthur Mitchell, accountant, gave up working at Fantastic Finance to take what he thought would be a safe and stable job working as an accountant for a Las Vegas casino. Arthur was trying to avoid anything risky. What Arthur hadn’t expected was to be in the middle of taking his fiancée to lunch when the casino was robbed. During the robbery, the criminals shot Arthur and killed his fiancée.
Because of the robbery, Arthur developed a severe case of PTSD. Unable to return to work Arthur opened a small thrift and collectible store on a rural Highway between Las Vegas and Utah. Unfortunately for Arthur, it turned out that as being shot wasn’t accidental, someone had wanted him dead, and he was pulled into investigating the robbery. Arthur became both an amateur and an accidental sleuth.
Planning Accidents turned into Planned Accidents.
Arthur has settled into running his thrift store, thinking the danger is behind him, when someone begins contacting the former employees at Fantastic Finance demanding money. First one and then another of Arthur’s former colleagues dies in mysterious accidents. At least that’s what the police think they are. Arthur’s not so sure any of this is accidental.
I started this novel with the working title Planning Accidents. What I found, as I wrote was that talking too much about planning the accidents took the focus off my hero Arthur and started me writing more about the people who could be planning these accidents. To shift the focus back on to Arthur and how he is drawn into investigating these supposed accidents, I’ve decided to change the title to Planned Accidents.
My first draft ended up with a lot of loose threads.
As I began my revision in January, I discovered I had included a lot of events that had nothing to do with Planned Accidents. Several times in the first draft I had Arthur buy some limited-edition lithographs. When Arthur inspects the lithographs, he discovers he has two copies of the same piece of art both with the same serial number. Somebody has been counterfeiting works of art and selling them directly to collectors. Once Arthur purchases the art from those collectors, the fraud becomes apparent.
Of course, the counterfeiters don’t want to be caught, and they make life extremely dangerous for Arthur Mitchell, as in they try to kill him. Once I realized this whole subplot had nothing to do with the Planned Accidents I pulled out the discovery of the duplicate lithographs and left that for Arthur to encounter in mystery number three or maybe even number four.
What do I do with the letters from the dead person?
One of the lots Arthur buys at an estate sale includes a bunch of letters an elderly lady had written to a police detective which were returned to her unopened. The author of the letters wrote to the detective describing a murder she had witnessed. Again, I discovered I had another crime for Arthur to investigate but trying to send him in that direction while he is trying to avoid being killed by someone who is planning his accidental death just mucked up the plot a little much. I pulled out all the material about the discovery of the letters from the witness, and I’ll save that for another Arthur Mitchell mystery. Once I get Planned Accidents finished, I think I want to start on this mystery, currently with the working title of “Letters from the Dead.” I think once we start opening the letters we will find the elderly lady witnessed more than one shocking crime.
Does this book need another page of description?
In the revision process, I struggle to decide whether I have written too much description or when there are insufficient details. I read a lot of other fiction, particularly in the amateur sleuth category. Occasionally I’m impressed by some extraordinarily brilliant description which produces a vivid image in my brain. More often though, when I reach long passages of description, I find myself speeding up, skimming over the description.
I am starting to feel like description, at least in an amateur sleuth mystery, is like spices in a stew. A little bit of spice, especially chili powder, can enhance the dish. But I don’t want my novel to resemble my stew, the time I accidentally dumped in a whole jar of chili powder.
I have an idea. If any of you readers would like to read draft two of “Planned Accidents” sign up for my mailing list or use the contact form and when it’s ready, I’ll send you an advanced reviewer copy of “Planned Accidents” and you can tell me if I’ve included too much or too little description. Of course, other feedback would be helpful also.
Does that dog ever do anything?
Something else I have been fixing as I’m working on draft number two is sorting out the role of Arthur’s dog Plutus. Plutus was important in the Casino Robbery book because he had belonged to Arthur’s fiancé’s Janet. In this mystery number two, Plutus kept turning up in various chapters but not doing much. As I revised, it became plain that Plutus unquestionably has a part to play in this story. Since Plutus helped Arthur solve the first mystery, I think I should put him to work helping to solve mystery number two and beyond.
There are some early thoughts about my revision project. I’ll share more with you in the future.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.