Joining me today is the ever awesome Kate George, author of the Bree MacGowan mystery series. I happen to know that Kate is hard at work on her next book in the series. I believe she too is working on revisions, so she was happy to take time out of banging her head against walls, snarling at her computer, and threatening people (fictional and otherwise) with bodily harm, to answer some questions for me about her revision process. No, I am absolutely not begging for help. Not at all. How silly.
AB: Welcome Kate, Give us some background on the Bree MacGowan series.
KG: I started the Bree MacGowan series on a dare, really. I was working at a very posh resort hotel in our area that has secret rooms and underground passageways. It was a perfect setting for a murder and I’d been thinking about it quite a lot. Then, while at tea with some friends, we were discussing a certain author’s books and I rather rashly said “Oh I could write books like that.” Of course then my friends dared me to do it. Not being one to turn down a dare I started writing the very next day. And I’m still at it.
AB: Is your revision process structured and orderly? Wait, don’t answer that. If it is, I don’t want to know. So, keeping my fragile ego in mind, tell me how you start the process of revising a novel.
KG: I finish the first draft. The entire story. After that I read for inconsistencies, I add flavor where I can and polish a bit. Then I send it out to beta readers with specific instructions:
- Who is the protagonist in this scene and what is her goal?
- Who is the antagonist in his scene and what is his goal?
- What expectations have been raised by this scene (especially in regards to beyond the end of the book)?
- What needs work? (Be specific without rewriting).
- What must be kept?
As far as possible these questions should be answered for each scene and the book as a whole.
When I get my beta readers notes back I consider all the feedback, keeping in mind the beta readers are always right. If something pulls them out of the story it must be fixed one way or another. I spend some time thinking about the best way to resolve any problems – then I start from the beginning re-writing to resolve the problems and strengthen the story. This involves much hair pulling and gnashing of teeth.
AB: Personally, I feel like I should spring for a few hours of therapy Or at least a spa day for my beta readers. What kind of information are you looking for from a beta reader?
KG: Beside the specific questions above (which I got from Jenny Crusie, by-the-way. She’s an excellent teacher,) I want to know if they were engaged with the story and characters, and if there were specific points that threw them out of the story.
AB: Do you always know the ending of a book before you start?
KG: No. I almost never know the ending when I start. I quite often sit down to write with no idea what’s next.
AB: How much does the final version usually resemble your original draft?
KG: Sometimes the final is quite similar. Other times it becomes another story altogether. Depends on the story.
AB: For you, when is a book done?
KG: When I can’t stand to look at it any more. I eventually get to the point where I just can’t stand the story anymore. If I have time I put it aside for a month and then look at it again. If I don’t have time that’s when I submit it. You could go on revising forever, really, and never feel done. At some point I just have to let go.
AB: What is your favorite/least favorite part of the writing process?
KG: I like the beginning when I’m excited about the story, when it’s fresh and full of promise. I squeal with joy any time in the process when some connection forms in my brain and I think of something especially clever.
I hate the middle when it seems like it will take forever to finish the book.
AB: Have you ever had to throw a manuscript out entirely? Have you ever wished you had? Not that, you know, I’d like to do that with mine or anything.
KG: I have a couple of manuscripts I set aside and never picked up again. Not to say that I never will look at them again. But then again it’s possible I never will.
AB: This isn’t specifically about revising, but do you work from an outline? Because, um, me no outline. And I think there would be rainbows and unicorns and a chorus of angels if I could just manage that outlining thing.
KG: I sometimes outline parts of a story. Not often, and not the whole thing. I need some surprises to keep me interested.
AB: So what’s next for Bree? Can you give us a hint? Just a teensy one?
KG: A teensy hint? Well, Bree number four is a caper. I thought I’d lighten things up a bit after the last book which was a little dark. Also Bree’s younger brother, Lock, is getting married. And of course there’s Hambecker. Lots of Hambecker.
Thanks Kate for dropping by. If anyone has questions, Kate has agreed to check in throughout the day to answer questions about writing, the Bree MacGowan series, or anything else. Actually, she didn’t agree to “anything.” This is a family show after all. Well, maybe it isn’t, but still, manners, people.