Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like…

So here’s a photo of what I looked like after months and months of working on Finch, my new novel, and not leaving the house that much. Or shaving. Along with some of the books that I consulted while working on the novel (to greater and lesser extents). Compare/contrast that with how I looked at the beginning of the year:

(Found here)

Okay, so all joking aside…in two previous posts you’ve seen images of what the novel looked like at the beginning and during the middle stages.

Now let’s put it all together.

(1) Near the beginning, it looked like this, as it began to coalesce into some kind of orderly progression:

(2) About 1/3 of the way in, the novel looked mostly like this:

…although some of it looked like this:

(3) About 2/3 finished, the novel was mostly printed pages with dividers showing the general actions occurring on a particular day to make sure I hadn’t left any gaps in the narrative (the novel takes place over a week and is sectioned off accordingly), as well as tons of post-it notes reflecting ideas that had come to me during the writing process and hadn’t yet been assimilated into the main text:

(4) After making sure the novel had gone through a few revisions, I printed it out double-sided in a plain binder:

(5) Then I gave the novel to my wife Ann, who is my first reader, and she read it with appropriate pomp and circumstance, which looked like this:

After she read it, we went to a local pub and went over all of her marks on the manuscript. In addition, we talked about general plot points and about the characters. I asked her about a thousand questions, things like “Did X’s hatred of Y seem to strong?” or “Was it clear why Z did ______?” or “How was the pacing on that scene? I wanted it to open slow and then close suddenly like a trap.”

(6) Based on Ann’s comments and my own thoughts since I last saw the draft, I then made additional edits (for example, cutting extraneous description, adding better specific details, and rewriting entire scenes):

After making those changes, I sent an electronic copy to my editor, Victoria Blake, at Underland Press, with a cc to my agent, Howard Morhaim. It is out of my hands now. When I have Victoria’s comments and edits, I will do another run-through, which will either be a heavy or light revision depending on how close to the vision in my head the final draft. The novel will be, in essence, complete, except for copy editing and other tightening.

39 comments on “Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like…

  1. Andrew says:

    Looks like a lot of work, but fun.

  2. This is a totally awesome peek behind the curtain, Jeff. Thanks for sharing! I’m now inspired to craft similar documentation for my current project.

    Best of luck with the rest of the process!

  3. I feel like DeQuincey looking over Coleridge’s shoulder.
    This is cool as hell.

  4. Z–Nice job. That’s exactly what those books are.

  5. Larry says:

    Hrmm…is that a Mrs. Butterworth converted into an AK-47 in that first photo?

    Cool look into the writing/revision process, and say, is that Žižek book worth reading? I’ve read his The Parallax View and while I ultimately liked it, there were sections that seemed to be too much Lacan worship and not enough exploration of the themes. But theoretical tomes on violence do interest me from a professional point of view.

    Curious to see how shadow economies will be dealt with in Finch as well.

  6. Sir Tessa says:

    (I can’t be the only person who sees no difference between the before and after pictures.)

  7. Nice, Sir Tessa.

    Larry–It is Armenian brandy in an AK-47 bottle. I was wondering if anyone would ask about that.

    I found the Zizek a bit annoying at times, like his elbows were getting in the way of his legs. Like he was tied up in a sack. But it was still interesting.

  8. Larry says:

    Brandy…even better than syrup! Sounds as though the Žižek is par for the course for him, as the little I’ve read about others’ reactions to him are akin to yours and mine, it seems. Might look into it later, but not until I’ve re-read Foucault’s comments on Power.

  9. I’ve heard good things about the Andy Letcher book.

  10. The Letcher is awesome. I was afraid it would be some hippy-ish freak-out about mushrooms from the inside looking out. But instead it’s a great history of magic mushrooms (which I’ve never tried), beautifully written and organized. Highly recommended. Although turns out there wasn’t much in it that hasn’t already gone into Ambergris in some way.

  11. Daryl says:

    Thanks for the run-down, Jeff. One question — in the picture of Ann reading the ms, is Circumstance the one on the left?

  12. Thank Finch for Ann! (She was guarding the manuscript from your evil cats!)

  13. Will says:

    Roob’s Alchemy & Mysticism is a stellar book. I used it a lot when I was working on urban horror and fantasy stuff and have been eyeballing it more than a little lately for a new project. Great stuff.

    I dig me the city-theory books, too. How is What Is A City?

    You know what’ll look good in that stack? This novel, Finch, I’ve been hearing about.

  14. Those cats…hypnotic…glowing…eyes…must buy…novel…finch…must point others…to this post…Charles Tan…right…we…not…listen…

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Jeff, your bunny self is just so unbelievably cute…not that your post-novel alcohol-gun toting self isn’t unbelievably cute too, but it’s something about those little paws of yours in the first pic that make me keep saying “awwwwww!!!”. Glad you survived the ordeal :) I look forward to reading Finch! Love sis

  16. I dunno. I think you still kinda look like a fluffy bunny, only taller. :-)

    Welcome back!

  17. Joe says:

    Not included the secret missing step where Jeff inscribes a summoning circle on the garage floor and surrounded by purple candles and with a sacrifice of fresh herring summons the Great Squid God Onglurplugle who will give him five special words of power to insert secretly into the text. Onglurplugle likes Jeff because he remembers to bring crackers to put the herring on at sacrifice time.

  18. neilw says:

    Jeezum, Jeff. In that pic you like you’ve turned into some kind of postapocalyptic survivalist.

    “Books? You want BOOKS?! Over my dead body, stranger.”

    But I like Ann’s Robes of Editorship. And the Guardian Familiars, protecting her from authorial intervention until the ritual is complete look especially fierce.

    Welcome back to the land of the living.

  19. The pictures of your process make me want to read the book. Also, I like Ann’s attendants while reading.

  20. I have that EXACT same copy of Alchemy and Mysticism (can’t remember the full cover name- the illustrated guide to alchemy and mysticism, I think) and it is an AWESOME book. I’ve re read it countless times, since it is filled with amazing, surreal, messed up ideas. Perfect for books.

  21. Hey, all. Thanks for the comments. Reading over this post again I think I finally realize the darn novel is actually done.

    Yeah, a survivalist with economy of detail: alcohol and gun in one package.


    Daryl–circumstance is definitely the one on the right. The one on the left has always been pomp-y.


  22. Rob Davies says:

    I’m always amazed when I see how much some people write longhand. I have the penmanship of a drunk, limbless infant and can never decipher what I wrote later on. I would be mute without a keyboard. I’m really looking forward to Finch.

  23. Zephid Bebex says:

    1) the hairiest early version you is actually the cuter you.
    2) you lose hair when you decide not to shave.
    3) you start off as Bugs but morph into Elmer Fudd (complete with gun)

  24. Hee. All of this be true.

  25. Josh Byrnes says:

    This is an extremely inspirational post. Or at least, I find it to be.

  26. Thanks, Josh.

    Will–the city book is good, if not great. A lot of it deal with cities from the perspective of New Orleans after Katrina.


  27. Donnie says:

    When can we read it? I read somewhere it won’t be published till the end of next year!

  28. Donnie: Yes, it’ll be published in late October 2009. There should be more info here:

    It has to go through the editing process, copy-editing, typesetting, etc. And catalogs for booksellers now require sometimes as much as a nine-month lead time.


  29. Liz Hand says:

    I still think you need to eat the magic meshrooms.

  30. Have you really written the first draft with handwriting and how did you decipher your script afterwards?

  31. chat says:

    I still think you need to eat the magic meshrooms. veryy nice!

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