The First Reading

Last night’s goal was to read through all of the Essential Guide to Supervillainy. I wanted to get through the entire draft to get a better sense of the book as a cohesive whole rather than thinking of it in individual chapters. I also thought this would help me interpret the critiques and other notes I have waiting for my attention. Except in major circumstances I did not allow myself to change anything in the document during this pass.

As I tend to write fairly short chapters, I set a goal of reading three chapters before I could do anything else online. Those of you who follow my twitter account got quotes from different parts of the boo, during my mini breaks. 11 sets of reading later and I’d finished reading. This took a couple of hours I should have used for preparing for my history vacation this week, but the gains were valuable.

One of the first things I noticed is that my tendency to avoid dialogue tags in longer conversations does in fact get confusing. I don’t need tags on every sentence, but I should use more of them. This is definitely true when I have more than two characters involved in a free flowing conversation. Such conversations are common in the band and English class settings in this book. If I have to stop and figure out if it is Chance or Nigel or Sadie speaking, that means readers who aren’t close to three of them will have to stop.

I am tentatively pleased about the pacing. In the first half of the book, the main conflict is internal as Sadie has to overcome her fears and assert herself in a new situation. In the second half of the book, the conflict becomes external as she has to use her fledgling self-confidence to respond to a case of malevolent identity theft. While some pieces of that secondary conflict need to be seeded earlier in the draft, it did seem to hold together in a logical manner. One of the early chapters needs to die a horrible death as it is basically an infodump to Sadie’s cat. I like the inner dialogue she has in that chapter as she makes her decision about what to write, but she needs to do this in a different context, one that has a human element.

Reading EGtSV all at once also allowed me to catch a continuity error that had missed my early passes and the earlier readings by some friends. It does not work to state early on that Hunter and Sadie went to the same middle school without having a class together and then many chapters later say that they attended different middle schools. That’s not on the same level as in my Star Wars days when I temporarily had the Millennium Falcon on two planets at once, but it was still a good moment to headdesk.

I’m left puzzling over one character’s role in the story. Hunter, another page at the library Sadie works at, is very antagonistic at the beginning of the book. He demands perfection out of Sadie and heckles her at every turn. He plays some work-related pranks on her that are not funny at all. As she learns the reasons why he behaves the way he does, he pretty much disappears until the second to last chapter of the book. I need to find a way to make him an active character throughout the whole book or decide if he needs to be axed out all together. One thing I’m doing for sure is changing some of his backstory. I made his family situation a touch too dramatic in the soap opera sense of the word.

I’ve found at least one place where I need another scene or chapter. Sadie and Chance receive a detention, but then that detention was never seen on page or even referenced after the fact. This doesn’t make sense given Sadie’s nature. A detention would be an Event, and I let it fizzle away to nothing. It would be a good time to work on developing their relationship more as well as it has some leaps in it that requires some evening out.

This post has been a long way of saying this: Reading a draft all at once can help a writer conceptualize their draft as a book rather than seeing it as the scenes you wrote individually. It also helped me see the big picture instead of getting caught up in the individual lines.

The next goal is to go through the draft again and make chapter notes. I’ll be recording the characters present in each scene and the conflict(s) in each scene. I’m either going to try doing this with Storybook (open source novel writing software) or with OneNote.

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