Tuesday, January 25, 2011

[Novel] Marching On

Everything about this novel is taking longer than anticipated. Some of it is, admittedly, slacking off on my part. I'm sure I could squeeze another few hours of writing out of each week if I trimmed here and there and forced myself to write instead of doing other things. Some of it is that I hit a tough spot and I have to get up and walk away for a bit so my brain can figure out how to handle it. Some of it is just that this takes longer than it seemed like it would. And some of it is fear. I know some of where I need to go next, but there are key details about how to get there that I'm really struggling with.

For example - and this is just a very high-level look at a major issue - how to get a group of people across a significant distance, largely unassisted, when the whole area is infested with vampires. And before you think of fifteen clever ways to solve the problem, realize that the conditions of the world in which the novel takes place will invalidate all of them. There's no technological solution. There's no "series of armor-reinforced way-stations". There's no negotiating with the vampires.

I've actually come up with 2-3 solutions for this, two of which involve making decisions that vampires in my fictional world "can't smell you if you're covered in X" or "are driven off by Y" or whatever, but I have to be careful with that. If I modify them too much, it weakens them as an overall threat. For instance, if they can be driven off by Y, and Y isn't really that scarce, then why doesn't everybody just apply Y to their whole town as a vampire prophylactic?

The other solution involves a magic item - or two of them, actually, each with a different purpose - but I've been struggling with how to get them into the hands of the right people at the right time without raising questions of "Then why didn't Character 1 just use the magic item before?"

It's all fairly complex, at least as it currently sits in my mind. By the time I have it all figured out and written, it'll probably be much more straightforward and logical to the reader, who won't ever know how much brain-power went into telling that part of the story.

The good news is that the extra time this is taking me has given me the time I needed to work through those difficult issues. The worst thing I could have done would have been to attack them aggressively, make up some shitty workarounds, and just push on. I'd have ended up having to go back and change them later, anyway, and the ripple-effect of changing something major is a monumental editing effort. You have to find every word, every sentence that references or is affected by the change and fix it in every chapter impacted. Miss just one, and you've blown your story's continuity, at least for any readers who notice the discrepancy. Plus, I'm really not a big fan of re-writing, which is another reason this is taking so long.

I'm lucky when it comes to writing. I'm good enough at it that I can produce passable work the first time through, particularly in terms of things like essays and college papers, where I'm being judged not based on what I'm capable of at my best, but against the rest of the class and the teacher's (usually low) expectations. In high school and college, I was pretty much always able to hand in a rough draft and get an A. It saved me, frankly, because I was religiously opposed to re-writing. I hated it and pretty much refused to do it.

Now, I'm much more passionate and personally-invested in my novel than I ever was in any of those papers, so I'm willing to re-write to get it as close to perfect as possible. But I'm not going to be enthusiastic about it and I'm not going to do it all that quickly. So it is that I've been dragging my feet a bit the last couple of months, slowly working my way through a second or third (or sometimes fourth) pass at each chapter beginning at, well, the beginning. I'm now "done" with the first six chapters (the prologue plus chapters 1-5) which actually feels great when I write it out like that. On the other hand, I have 17 chapters written so far, which means I'm only about a third of the way through the editing process, and then only on the first 1/3- to 1/2 of the novel. I need to get a move on. My goal for this week is to get through chapter 6 (a long one) for certain, and I'd love to get through chapter 7 as well. If I could get on into chapter 8, boy, I'd be on top of the world. But I'll settle for 6 & 7. At the rate I've been going, honestly, getting all the way through 6 would be a massive improvement.

So that's where we stand. I haven't written anything new for the book since I finished the prologue back in November, but I've made extensive revisions to all the early chapters and I'm really, really happy with where they are now. I'm very anxious to get on to chapter 17 and beyond, and I've been thinking hard about how to make the story progress once I'm ready to write the rest of the book. Stay tuned for more!

No comments:

Post a Comment