Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Thursday, May 31, 2007

He becomes I, and words pile up.

I was browsing my local Barnes and Noble the other day when I found, to my unending surprise, a copy of Interzone on the magazine racks. It was 209, and they were asking $11.75 for it. After shipping, that's actually pretty reasonable, which is why I don't much give it a chance in the States. Always hopeful, though. Anyway, I took it up to the info desk and explained how this magazine loves me. It loves me very much. They're going to contact me when the next issue comes in, so I can sign their copies. For what that's worth. It's worth nothing, because they probably don't want some random punk dripping sharpie all over their nice and glossies. But I'll do the promotion I can. Irrelevance makes me tired.

Here's the evolution of my book: I started in the third week of February, 2006. I took a week off work and wrote that first chapter, reeling text out of an image I had in my head, then spent most of the week decided what it was about and where it would go from there. I spent some time diagramming plot structure, characters, background. About halfway through that process I calved off two plotlines and just stuck with the central line, cuz there was too much going on. I'm not sure when the actual writing started, but it was sometime in March that year. I wrote until November. I accumulated 17 chapters...nearly 50,000 words. I was utterly stuck, and had been grinding along since around 30k, not really feeling the story at all but sticking to my plan and hoping the magic would kick off again. Never happened. I handed what I had over to my writing group at the top of November, they got the review back to me mid-December. I took the rest of the year thinking about what had been said and began...

Phase Two: This was a partial rewrite. I was creating new blocks of text and fitting in material from the old stuff, trying to fix the problems with the materials I had, trying to save the eight months of work, using as much of it as possible. New prologue, first couple chapters pretty much cut and paste, then new text from about chapter three on. I got to chapter eight, just over 20k words. From chapter 5 on, I had no idea what I was doing. My mistake was your classic error of sunk profits. I had put a lot into those original 50k words, and I was trying to make that struggle worth something. And there were scenes that I loved, and if I arranged the plot too much, those scenes would have to go. I was bashing the nail with a broken hammer, so I switched to a bag of broken hammers. Couple this with some pretty serious RL depression and I was just...spinning. Enter...

Phase Three: I think two things happened. One was a fairly prescient commentary from Colin. Thanks, Colin. That sparked some back channel discussion with Sean, and I remembered why I did the DC in the first place. Talented boys. The things that were wrong were...deeper than could be fixed with "scenes" and "character study." So I started again, much to my despair. Am I ever going to get all the way through the first draft? But I started again, because the tools were broken, and I needed new tools. Changed some plot elements, changed the POV (first person now) and pretty much threw out everything I'd done for the last year. That was at the start of this month, and here we are at the end. I'm at about 12k words, all of it new, all of it good. So I think that's the point. I even started naming chapters, just because it feels right. I don't name chapters, like, ever. And they might not even be chapters, they might be sections. Point is, things are going well.

To review:

February - October, 2006 = 50k
January - April, 2007 = 20k
Last three weeks of May = 12k

I think that's good. And it's not like I'm in some fever-dream of continuity or anything. The words have been hard, and I have to push myself ever time I sit down to get it done. But at the end of the night I close my pen and there are another thousand or two words that didn't use to be there. That's kinda nice.


At 1:14 PM , Blogger colin said...

It's a good feeling to have helped, especially since I was worried my comments were so late they wouldn't be any help at all. Feel free to send me chapters, pages, scraps of disconnected words, individual letters even, whenever you feel like it.

Now, Dead Channel... I've got to get something to put up there. So that moves the illustrated serial to the top of my priority list. Forward!

P.S. Novella stands at approximately 21800 words as of last night. It remains to be seen how many of those will need to be thrown out. Letting go is hard, but I think I need to be ready to throw out everything. It's not wasted time, because at least I've figured out some things about my characters and their story, and maybe some things not about them.

At 1:17 PM , Blogger colin said...

P.P.S. I can see it now: Colin Peters, unfinished novel reader for the rich and famous.

At 1:28 PM , Blogger Tim Akers said...

"unfinished novel reader for the rich and famous."

Yeah, there's something about genre writing that maybe you don't understand.

At 2:17 PM , Blogger colin said...

Colin Peters, unfinished novel reader for the poverty-stricken and very occasionally recognized at conventions!


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