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How to write Part 9: The Final Frontier

Updated: Mar 1

                The last step for any architectural writer is to begin to put even more meat into each scene. Like a painting, the scenes will be built up one layer at a time, giving them depth and texture. This is where the architect writer's and garden writer's methods meet. There is little difference to the act of writing now, and you will use the outlines you have left yourself, to write each scene in its true first draft.

First Drafts: Don't get it perfect, get it done.

                A few things that are important to remember. First drafts are the way an author tells themselves the story. You don’t need to be perfect; you don’t even need to be good; you need to be complete. Editing is a different skill set than writing, and many, many authors have said publicly that the editing cycle can mire them in the early parts of a novel and prevent a completed piece. Trust your past self. You already worked out the big brush strokes. Don’t give in to the temptations to make massive changes here unless you encounter something so utterly wrong it can’t be fixed. If you run into this back out of the last round of meat to the bones, return to the skeleton, and work the story there, changing the details you realized that don’t ring right.

                Be excited! This is it. The moment has now come for you to really write the book. Finishing a novel is something very few people ever achieve. That is your goal now. You put in possibly months of hard work at the steps before this one, and you need one big push to see it through.

                Remember the more densely you can write, the more self-consistent your writing will be. This means that you should try your best to avoid leaving a novel behind for months at a time between writing sessions. Find time at least weekly if you can. Remember to follow your outlines and meaty structures.

                Let’s look at one of our examples as it moved from idea, to skeleton, to meaty skeleton and what this last fleshiest one might be. In our previous skeleton we reached sketched stories like what we have below.

-          Father is standing near crib which is holding his second born son. He is gripping the sides white knuckled. Behind him Mother enters.

-          They begin to discuss his eldest son, and his prowess at fencing in the academy today. She waxes poetic about his achievement for several minutes to no response as the grip gets tighter. He then slams the crib, waking the child, startling her.

-          The baby begins to fuss, but is not yet crying.

-          He stalks away to the window, and responds to her finally about how his eldest still can’t get his toes off the ground for more than a hop. He’d be better off passing the house to the infant before he can even read for all the power they will lose.

-          She will counter that he could set up the succession through their daughters.

-          He scoffs and states how that would be losing the family line and inheritance as soon as she becomes some other house’s princess. Or perhaps that is what she always wanted?

-          She protests.

-          He reminds her of the flirtations with a different house’s prince some years before. Maybe his recessive line is showing. She is now holding the colicky infant, but frees an arm to smack him.

Each of these bullet points more or less represent a paragraph or two of writing. Lets do a few. For the sake of argument let’s name the king / father King Lear, the mother Queen Cordelia, and their sons, infant Albert and teen Timothy. Our first bullet becomes something like:

Lear turned his eyes down to Albert’s crib, his head held straight ahead balanced the silver crown’s weight with practiced ease. He slipped his left hand along the smooth wood that once held his own infant form forty years past, and gripped the railings. How recently it felt that he had done the same over the crib of Timothy. Timothy, the grounded.

They whispered that blasphemous name in the halls when they thought he wasn’t able to hear. Foolish. A king’s ears always hear whispers in his own house. Wood creaked beneath his white knuckled grip, and the door behind him opened. The long heavily beaded dress brushed the doorframe as Cordelia spun about, clacking against wood, as she thanked the servants, as though it were not their duty to attend her. They needed no niceties.

We have established it is the king’s POV, that he is not particularly nice to the servants, and he isn’t fond of his elder son. Let’s look at the next piece. How they begin to discuss his eldest son. In the outline there is a detail missing. She walked in, but in my mind, she would not just start speaking straight out. There is an action beat missing from the notes. That’s ok, you can add merging sentences or even a short linking paragraph to move you between the sections you outlined. Hold to the outline!

Cordelia moved past him, running her hand across his shoulders. She walked toward the wine glasses set out on the silver platter etched with the house symbol beneath the rose window.

“Have you seen Timothy yet this evening?”

“Ambassador Stevens just left for Morrehold.”

Didn’t she pay any attention to the court comings and goings?

“He will be thrilled to tell you. Do you remember last week he fenced with Peter? The boy who gave him the bruise on his shoulder? Tay in front of no fewer than a dozen of the dukes’ and earls’ boys he gave him a sound saber lashing. You should have seen him. Don’t act like you know when he tells you later.” She sipped from her crystal. “Ung. Should have let it breath. Too sharp.”

Wood creaked beneath his grip, Albert stirred and let out a soft moan.

“Anyway. He was clearly toying with him. Rapier may not be your boy’s forte, but when you put a saber in his hand we might as well set him to sail the seas in pursuit of bounty. And Jessica was there to watch. He was positively beaming when she took off her lace to clap for him.  Maybe we should get him training with the mounted cavalry. They use sabers in training, don’t they? It would be good for them to see their future king in action so young.”

“And a ladder so he can mount the beast.” He slammed the rail with his free hand and set little Albert immediately to crying.

Are these perfect? Of course not. Are they a passable first draft? Probably. If we continue in this vein all the way through the novel, we are never faced with writing a novel. We are faced with writing a few good sentences at a time. That is the power of architectural writing. It is not for everyone, and different people will have different levels of success using it or chose different depths of using it or choose a different degree of its use.

If you have never tried it, I recommend widening your writing horizons. Remember that writing your novel is in your hands, and you can do it. It is work, but it is rewarding work. Get out there and make your literal dream and imagination a written reality. Nobody else can. Always remember, writers write.

Next series in our writing… Tropes that work. If you have enjoyed this series, remember to subscribe here for more helpful hints and motivational tips.


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