Holiday, Schmoliday–Finish That Draft! You Can Sleep Next Year

Hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday! We opted not to travel and to generally be low-key this year, so mine should be relaxing. Unfortunately, I keep watching the clock and calendar, feeling the pinch of approaching deadlines. I have a draft of the fifth Sydney Brennan book due to my developmental editor on January 1st. (My husband and I were brainstorming titles at breakfast this morning.)

When we first set the due date a couple of weeks ago, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed, realizing I probably wouldn’t be able to release the book as quickly as I had hoped. Obviously, I had not looked at a calendar recently for a reality check on how little time I had left to whip my rough draft into slightly less rough shape. Let me give you an idea of its richly textured surface.

I work in Scrivener, and I often add comments to my manuscript, notes to fill in details later rather than interrupt the flow of my writing by stopping to confirm things like what shoes my heroine was wearing when she left the house that morning (usually sneakers) or how old Tallahassee is (it was founded in the early 1820s).

I thought I’d give you an idea of what my browser history looks like over the past couple of weeks by sharing a few of the things I’ve had to look up:

  • What is the plural of Bloody Mary? It is, as I’d written, Bloody Marys. And, never having made one from scratch, do they traditionally contain garlic? No, but don’t forget the horseradish.
  • What’s the name of the square in downtown Tallahassee with the nearby museum and parking facility where I used to occasionally hit the lunch carts? Kleman Plaza
  • Double-check that the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. Not really; I was just tired of looking up everything else and wanted to relive the moment of glory.
  • Are radar detectors legal in Florida? Yes, except in commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
  • I needed a refresher course on how to drive a manual transmission wrong (although I probably could have done that very well just by getting behind the wheel of one).
  • Was the word metrosexual part of our popular vocabulary in 2004? Yes—it was first used in 1994 and popularized around 2002.
  • Does a particular model and size of pickup truck (to remain unnamed) have a bench seat? Yes, which is what I was hoping for.
  • Lots of stuff about guns

I could go on and on—after all, there are dozens if not hundreds of these notes in my 100,000+ word manuscript—but you get the idea. Many of these facts aren’t even explicitly mentioned in the story, but I felt like I needed to know because I’m pretty anal that way.

Meanwhile, as I’m skimming through my fix-it notes, I try not to get too distracted by little things like word choice and typos that I can fix later in the process, but I usually take care of them as I go as well. Here are a few of my early, I’m-not-supposed-to-be-editing observations:

  • Most common typo: form instead of from.
  • Most common pattern of typos: for some reason, I type like a pirate when I’m on a roll, using “me” instead of “my.” For example, “I grabbed me sword and ran the bugger through.” [To clarify, Sydney never wields a sword in this book. At least not in the first draft.]
  • Favorite typo so far: weed shacking carnage instead of weed whacking carnage (I blame autocorrect for that one, but it did make me laugh).

Of course, there are other big picture things I’m seeing with a little distance from the manuscript, including a couple of scenes I need to add, and some things I should probably trim. Didn’t someone give us coffee for Christmas? Chocolate covered espresso beans? When in doubt, there’s always the workhorse French Press. Plenty of time for sleeping in the New Year!