After finishing 1st draft of a novel, I have the characters, dialogue, scenes, and a plotline. I used to think this meant I knew where the story was going, and what the book was about.
I have learned over the years, this ain’t so.
As I work through its 2nd draft, characters start to nudge each other. The story itself takes its first soft and shallow breath, and one could imagine he hears a little bit of a heartbeat. Passions deepen, and emotional threads start to weave through what had earlier just been little more than a sequence of events.
On the 3rd run through, the characters stand tall. Some break free of my earlier concepts of what they were all about, what they wanted, how they related to each other, and where they were going.
From then on, THEY set the pace, and I do my best to honor them in becoming what THEY choose to be.
From then on, my friends; we have a story!
By the end of the 3rd draft, I have enough of an idea of where the characters are going, and how their passions empower the story, or tear it apart, that I can start cutting away, and cutting away, anything that isn’t that.
Until we reach the point where there is not a single word left anywhere in the book, that isn’t a vital, dynamic, organic contributor to the living whole.