I started “Test Tube Beneficiary” on January 13, 2008, by creating a project for it in Scrivener and typing out the basic idea for the problem facing the protagonist, and the solution. I thought it would be fairly short, and relatively easy to write — a nice diversion from the novel when I needed a break.
I finished the first draft on March 22. It came in at 12,210 words, firmly in “novelette” territory, at least according to the categories recognized by the SFWA. After my second pass through it, it dropped to 12,100. After I made changes based on suggestions from Mrs. Unfocused and more of my own edits, it grew slightly, to 12,400 words.
That’s where things stood when I printed it out on April 29, for the final proofread. I went through it over the next couple of days, made a dozen or so picky changes, and handed it to Mrs. Unfocused.
She read through it on Saturday afternoon. When she was done, she asked me a question about the actions of one of the supporting characters. She didn’t understand the motivation of this character, because if he did what I had him do in the story, shouldn’t he also do X? Having that character do X, unfortunately, would have required me to completely change the ending, and would have defeated one of the core goals I had for the story.
The problem was that she was absolutely correct. I had taken a shortcut: to avoid going through a lot of rigamarole that wouldn’t be any fun to write and might be boring to read, I had forced one of my characters to do something completely contrary to his interests, and then refused to carry that behavior through to its logical conclusion. It had nagged at me a little when I did it, but I didn’t think too much about it, and who was going to notice, anyway?
My wife, apparently. It wasn’t until her third reading of the story, but it was obvious once she asked the question that another reader could certainly have the same question the first time through. I had to drag myself kicking and screaming to the decision, but I finally made up my mind that I had to change the character’s actions in the story in order to preserve the ending, which meant writing out the rigamarole I wanted to avoid.
Sunday night I plugged another 800 words into the middle of the story; it’s now at 13,200 words. I now need to go back through it and fix all the places where those changes ripple through, which I will try to get done this weekend.
The thing that bothers me the most is that if this is what I’m going through with TTB, the editing process for Meet the Larssons is going to really, really suck.