Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Monday, July 23, 2012

An Update, A Reboot, A Reminder

It's interesting to me to read that last post, about where the book was and what I was doing with it, and then look at where I am now. How things change, my dearies.

First off, the Reboot. I'm going to start actually posting here. Honestly. I don't have any excuses, other than the fact that when I sit down at the computer it's either to relax or to write, and I'd rather be writing the book. But I need to be better about this. It's a good space for me. I get inside my own head too much, and that's not good. My wife reminds me of this, and it's something I have to learn. Get out of your head. Anyway.

At the time of the last post I had a plot outline with three narrative arcs, and for some reason I was writing each one straight through to the end, with the idea of coming back and tying them together as part of the revision process. A word from the wounded. Do not do this. It is a foolish way to write a book.

The real problem, though, was the fact that I was still on the first arc. I hadn't even started the other two, not one word, and I was at 50k words. 50k words, and I hadn't even reached the quarter point in my outline for that narrative arc. Think about that.

I'll think about it for you, out loud. If I had written that arc to its completion, I'm guessing I would have gotten to Plot Point One at around 65k words or so. Call it 70k. That makes for 280k words in that arc alone. And this wasn't an arc that could stand alone. It needed the other two to make certain things clear, so I couldn't present arc one as a single book, arc two as the second book, and so forth. They had to operate in parallel.

I had a conversation with my agent. People who reduce the agent's role in a work to negotiating with the publisher don't understand how agents work. Or at least, they don't understand how my agent works. I don't always agree with Joshua's opinion on these things, but I do value his opinion quite highly. I think the persistent success of his clients is a tribute to his knowledge, and I'd be a fool to not seek his advice. Anyway. We had a conversation, and I circled around to my outline and recreated it. I formed up very strict outlines for each of the arcs, with word counts and chapter milestones and so forth. I was determined to make this work. I also had a total word count in mind. 160k-180k.

Again, a problem. Even being as precise as I could be, I was coming in over word count. I got to 130k words and really felt like I was about halfway through. So I rethought my outline, realized that I was very near a good tie-off point for all three arcs, and wrote toward that point. I ended up at 145k words. That was almost six weeks ago.

I stayed away from the book for quite a while. I even came up with a new setting, new magic system, and the first sketches of an outline for a completely other project. What's nice about that is I get to shelve it. When I come back to it, the whole thing will already be laid out, and I can focus on story and character, rather than getting hung up in world building. I tend to do that.

And then I did my first reread. You know, I expected it to be worse. I can see some pretty big problems, but they are problems I can address. Nothing that can't be unfucked. Oddly, I think I need to add some stuff to it, so I may end up coming in at that original 160-180k, but who knows.

Point is, I'm determined to make this one good. In the past I've tended to learn my lessons and apply them to the next book. This time I'm committing to the big revision, the dull, desperate work of taking things apart and putting them back together, only better.

So that was the update. Now, the reminder.

You can't make things better by yourself. This is a mistake I've made, over and over, all my life. You can certainly make them worse. Again, something I've learned through repeated trial. But there's only so much you can do on your own. We may not want to depend on people, we may not want their help or their sympathy, but I could never do this by myself. And the more I learn to trust other people, the more I learn to work with someone instead of against them, the better I'm going to be. The better we all can be.

That's all. Get better. Get help. Get together and become something amazing.