For my next book, the third in my Mapleton Mystery series, I decided to give that method a try. My normal writing process is to print out each completed scene and read it in a non-writing environment (usually in bed). Then, the next day, I go over that scene, fixing anything I noted on the previous night's read. This gives me a running start for writing the next scene, and it tightens the writing. Some of the frequent things I catch on this read are confusing dialogue, weak or repeated words, and pronouns that aren't clear.
Sure, using my basic method, if I caught a problem that needed to be addressed in an earlier chapter, I'd go back to fix it. But I'd never gone back to page 1 every day.
How did it work? The first few days felt "normal" because I was doing what I always did, backing up a scene or two and getting my momentum going. But this time, it was more than just reading to get that start; I was editing.
And, because the book is the third in a series, there are characters I already know, and plot threads that have been established in the previous books. How much time should be spent bringing readers up to speed? Reading the first three chapters over and over showed me where I was moving too slowly. I recalled what Michael Connelly said at CraftFest when someone asked him how he dealt with readers who might not have read his earlier works, who didn't know Harry Bosch. He said he made a conscious decision to leave most back story out. "The books are there. Let them catch up."
When I write, I don't bother with things I don't need to know right then. So, if I found I needed to show Gordon dressed for cold weather, I'd go back and show what he was wearing. Paula was initially described in chapter 2 as "a little on the skinny side of slim." (Later, I cut the "a little" because qualifiers are weak and slow the pace). Because I read this phrase each time I went through the manuscript, it 'stuck' and I could show her running five miles even though the weather was terrible, and taking only half-portions from the buffet table, or picking at her meals. Others will do entire character studies before starting to write, but that would drive me crazy. I prefer to let my characters show me who they are.
The result? I have 50 pages that are holding together. I know my characters, I know my setting, and when it comes time to do the final edits, I won't have as much to do.
Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.