Now, for those of you who don't know this about me, I used to be in the restaurant business (before I had my mid-life crisis, had a baby and started writing full-time).
One of the many things I did in this business was bartend. I'm sure most of you think it's a relatively easy job (for those of you who know how hard it is, thank you) however, after pouring many countless drinks for patrons over the years, there is a kind of ease one may be able to achieve. Until you have to tap a keg.
I don't care who you are, how many keggers you have been to, or how many drafts you have drunk, there is a subtle art to pouring the perfect draft beer. Now, I'm sure you've seen it done, the bartender holds the glass under the tap, gives the lever a flick and the malt beverage of your choice pours down into the glass. However, did you know that if you hold the glass directly under the glass, you get a glass full of foam? You must hold the glass to the lever so that the beer flows against the glass. As the glass fills to a little over 3/4ths, that is when you hold the glass directly so just the tippy-top of the glass is foam. A perfect draft beer is when there is only a quarter to half inch of foam from the top of the glass. Unless you are at an Ocktober Fest celebration and, well, anything goes.
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with writing. Yes, actually I am too.
I've been working on Richard & Amanda's story for the last two weeks. (Regency romance set in England & America 1816) It is a first draft. I am now up to Chapter 5. Richard & Amanda have met, they have had conversation, and quite possibly sex, he must leave her (for altruistic reasons) and now, he and his humble servant are in the swamps of South Carolina freeing slaves. Up until this point I have poured a perfect glass. The story arc is going in just the right direction, the dialogue is pretty good, the moods are what they are supposed to be.
In doing my research for this book, it seems I have over-researched, so much so that Chapter 5 was turning into a litany of slave trading, abolitionists, and the horrors of being a slave. I forgot to tip the glass. I have too much foam. Now, sometimes in the bartending world, there is a spoon for this sort of calamity, set right there in the reservoir of the draft taps. Too much foam, you take the spoon, spoon it out, refill the glass on the side. Easy. Same is true for over-drafting. I have since pulled apart Chapter 5 and spooned out what I really don't need, as much of a history lesson I would love to incorporate, this is still a romance novel.
In my first book Masquerade I ended up with 124K words. Talk about foam! I didn't realize what I was doing, I just thought I was writing the perfect book. Only until I read so many more blogs and books did I realize I had over-drafted and there was no spoon in the world big enough to help me. Which brings me back to tapping a keg.
When you tap a keg, you must first roll the keg to its spot under the tap. Usually these are mounted on the wall. Now, because you have rolled the keg to its spot, the contents in the keg have been shaken up, the bubbles are bouncing and the beer wants to get out. As you tap the keg, you generally make a big mess with foam and beer getting all over the place. (I only knew one man who never ever made a mess.) Now, as the tap has been locked into the keg, you are ready to pour from the lever at the bar. But remember I said, the beer was jostled, and is bubbling and it wants to get out so when you pour from the lever, all you get is foam. You need to let this run until all the foam disappears and you have smooth running draft.
Now, because Masquerade was the first book I ever finished writing (the first keg I ever tapped) it was foam. Only until I let the book (keg) settle, did I realize what had happened which is when I had to spoon, spoon, spoon much foam from it. It was a daunting task to have to keep spooning foam. But I did it, and now have a beautiful glass of finished beer.
I guess, gentle readers, what I'm trying to say, is when you're writing your book, try not to have too much foam in the first draft. Sure you need a little, who doesn't, it tickles your nose, and looks cute on your upper lip. But as you write, keep the lever against the glass, so what you do end up with is narrative. The more foam you have, in the end, the more you have to spoon it out. And sometimes this is a very slow, agonizing process.
The question for the day -- Do you have foam in a first draft or do you wait until you have poured and then put the foam in later?