It’s been thirteen months since me and my mentor/friend/writing partner Kim Williams-Justesen began writing our collaborative horror novel. Although technically finished several months ago, we are now in the process of revising the final draft. Currently, we’ve been spending anywhere between two and four hours on each chapter and have worked most days of the week. In a novel that contains a total of twenty-four chapters, that’s a lot of hours. (But as I write this, we only have two more chapters to go!)

Although the final round is probably the most arduous part of this process for me, it’s also the most rewarding.  Since writing the words The End, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this novel front to back, but I’m guessing this must be the fifth or sixth time. Needless to say, I would have expected to be sick and tired of this novel by now. I would have expected that whatever passion I’d begun the novel with would have flickered out and died months ago. Strangely though, that isn’t the case. In fact, as we have labored to tighten and refine the novel, my passion has been not only been reignited, but it has climbed to greater heights than ever. I think it’s because this is where writers get to see their work come together, and can view the novel as a whole rather than in fractions. Also, the final round is your last shot to prevent embarrassing yourself before you place the manuscript in the hands of your trusted Beta Readers~ and these are the reasons why I believe this the most important part of the process.

The final round of revisions is the time to address all of the things that bothered you in the previous readings. This is where you must tackle those irritating little, (and sometimes big) weaknesses you’ve been putting off. This is where you add lines, subtract passages, sprinkle detail, rearrange dialogue, fill  in the plot-holes, fine-tune your characters, slaughter your “sacred cows”, and scrutinize all the text in search of grammatical errors and technical blunders. Kim and I currently live several states away from each other, so for us this requires a lot of sitting in front of the computer Skyping and IMing. Currently, my computer sits on a black ottoman in the middle of my living room where I sit on the floor to work. This has given me leg cramps, back aches, and neck and shoulder pain… not to mention a likely addiction to dramamine, given a ridiculously elevated proneness to motion sickness which I seem to have been born with. But that’s okay. This is where the real magic happens.

I went into the final round of revisions with a very clear, singular goal: to heighten the emotional impact. I decided that if something in the story was supposed to have a creepy effect, I wanted my skin to crawl. If a certain scene was supposed to make me feel sad, I wanted to be on the brink of tears. And if something was meant to be sickening, I wanted to feel the bile rise in my stomach. I decided I wanted to know what each character looks like, how each room smells, and mostly, I wanted to feel what every character was feeling.

As we have yet to be finished with these final edits, I can’t be sure how well we’ve done our jobs, but given my own emotional responses as we’ve fine-tuned the story these past weeks, I’m pretty confident we’re damned close to having what we want. In fact, just earlier today, due to my own mounting nausea, I had to take a breather from a particularly graphic scene and ask Kim to please not expound anymore on the topic. I don’t squirm easily, so to me, that’s a good sign.

As an added plus, the final round can reveal some wonderful new concepts. Today, I think Kim and I stumbled upon our perfect working title. As we were rewriting a scene, Kim wrote this beautiful passage that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, and both of us paused a moment, thinking the exact same thing. The project that began as An Evil Heart and soon became Gallery of Dolls, is now about to take a new name entirely: Beautiful Monster. Not that a books title won’t possibly change (or be changed) down the road, but I think it’s important to have a strong title. I liked Gallery of Dolls, but it always sounded too much like The Valley of the Dolls (a novel written by Jacqueline Susann in 1966) for my taste. Besides, I think the phrase “Beautiful Monster” in and of itself, is as contrasted as the personalities of our two main characters and therefore a pretty solid title for this book. Plus, to me, Beautiful Monster just kind of pops.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I haven’t been doing much blogging lately due to the demands of Beautiful Monster (I really do dig that title!), so I just wanted to take some time today to keep the connection in tact. Blogging is a bad habit to break!  In the meantime, my third novel is underway (with a much bigger set of balls now), and due to some weaknesses I’m just realizing, I plan to take my first novel, The White Room off the table for a few months to revisit it and give it some upgrades. I predict that in the next five to seven days, Beautiful Monster will be fit to be looked over by some Beta’s and from there, it’s just a matter of fixing any errors they might find, and then sending it out the door to find a home. By this time next year, my goal is to have three (maybe even four!) full-length works circulating throughout the world of agents and publishers… and to be well into the next big literary adventure.

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Comments
  1. Gabby Streck says:

    OMG that is where you two have been hiding. I’ve been wondering what happened to you Jared. I see Kim online sometimes but not much and especially rarely as of late. I am happy that you two are writing a book, especially together. I can’ wait to read it. I would offer to be a beta reader but the sound of your message implied that you already have beta readers. This is kind of a dark fiction? I can’t wait to read it – you have definitely piqued my interest. I’ve been reading a ton of novels lately myself a few good ones and too many bad ones, many mediocre as well. I’m really not that picky but I buy a lot of Kindle versions and too many writers seem to think that because its a “cheap” Kindle version, there is no reason to edit, even for obvious grammatical and spelling errors. I’m a bookaholic though so its been hard to pull away to ask you where you’ve been but you’ve been on my mind and I’ve missed your blog posts. Please hurry so I can read it ASAP though. I need to sink my teeth into a great book after the bad ones I’ve read.

    • Hey Gabby, what’s crackin’?
      Yeah I stay away from low-quality fiction myself. There’s too little time in life to waste time reading bad books.
      We are currently working on recruiting some Beta Readers for this book. It’s a little difficult this time because, due to the nature of the book, it’s audience is limited.
      It’s nice to hear from you and thanks for stopping by. I hope your new year is going great!

  2. Kim Justesen says:

    One of the great – and somewhat bizarre – pleasures of writing this book (if pleasure is what you can call it) is the opportunity to delve into areas of writing that challenge me at every level. I think in this process there have been times where we have both been squirming in discomfort, where we have both been freaked out by what we wrote, and for me there have been times I have cried with genuine emotion. Regardless of what happens with this manuscript, I will forever be grateful for the process, and for the support that you’ve given me throughout. This story has pushed us both as writers, as friends, and there is no doubt that had we not been the true friends we are, the chaos of the creation of this piece would have made us crazy, and maybe even dislike each other a lot!

    Let’s do it again! : )

    • Ha ha, I agree Kim. You get DK finished and I will get Alejandro out of the way, and then we’ll do that Black Plague book we both want to do so much!
      I am happy with this experience, too. It has been a good time. It’s sad in a way to be wrapping it up… but it’s also a relief. I’m looking forward to the next collaboration with you 🙂
      And P.S. ~ You were right about “The Most Dangerous Game”… I even dreamed of it.

      • Kim Justesen says:

        I tried to warn you about that story! It’s quite a sneaky little bit of literary bliss! I’m glad you liked it. I can’t wait for you to read the Hemingway story!

  3. Linda Bennett says:

    OH! I can hardly wait.

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