Thursday, March 17, 2011


How I came to write this book.

I thought answering that would be a no-brainer. I mean, a copy of Late Rain, is setting right in front of me. I can reach over, pick it up, and open it to any page I want.

However, I’m not sure I can exactly untangle how it got here.

Five drafts. 1650 pages. Depending on how much life gets in the way, one draft a year or year and a half. Only the last two drafts resembling each other. That’s the way it usually works for me on a novel, and that’s how it played out for Late Rain.

Getting to that final draft is a messy process.

I don’t show the first three drafts of a novel to anyone. Inevitably, they are the equivalent of lab accidents. Characters’ names change frequently. Their back-stories bloat and shrink. Plot-lines appear and disappear and recombine. Style mutates. Good guys discover they’re not so good. Bad guys bang their heads against genre conventions until they draw blood. Lines of dialogue appear, and I have no idea who uttered them or why. Random images pile up. The style mutates again.

The pages and notes pile up (Late Rain eventually filled three and a half large boxes), and I begin to inhabit extended bouts of doubt and panic. I go on long walks and try to sort through the characters and plot elements and image patterns and find a structure and style to accommodate them. I spend a lot of time staring off into space. I obsess. I drive my wife nuts.

When I finally accept I’m lost, that’s when I know I’m ready to start drafting the novel I’ve wanted to write all along.

So, by the fourth draft, I get out of my own way and set the characters chasing after what they want and wait for the collisions to start.

I know who the characters are by then and what they’re capable of and not capable of, and because of that, they can still surprise me.

Hopefully, by the final draft, the same will hold true for readers.

Lynn Kostoff is a professor of English at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. His first book, A CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES was published by New Pulp Press.


Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks for hosting Lynn.

Lynn - I know all too well what you mean about first (and second, and third....)drafts. I'm the same kind of writer, and I really like your analogy. Thanks for sharing your path to Late Rain.

Nigel Bird said...

wow. that's a lot of writing. how hard you work to get it right - it's impossible to be unimpressed by that. the very best of luck.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm probably scared to wander quite so much but early drafts can certainly be mostly exploratory for me. Writing your way toward what you will eventually write.

John Kenyon said...

That's a lot of work, but it clearly pays off, because Late Rain was a great read that seemed effortless in its plotting and construction. From a purely selfish standpoint, it's nice to hear how much you labored over it. If something this good came easy, it wouldn't be fair.

Anonymous-9 said...

Ya sold me! I love reading about others writers who put such care into their books. Thank you!

Elizabeth said...

Arduous process for you, sublime result for your readers. Late Rain is one of the best books I've ever read, hands down.

Thanks, Patti, for hosting Lynn.

Grant Jerkins said...

Damn, Lynn. That's a crapload of drafts. I've got your book in my to-be-read stack. Elizabeth White's review convinced me it's not to be missed.

Anita Page said...

Lynn, it's generous of you to take us through your process. What an act of faith it is, plunging into the messiness. I look forward to reading your book.