Sunday, August 19, 2018

Word Jumble

It's clear to me that I could spend a year--or forever, for that matter--constantly revisiting a book, trying to improve it.

Thing is, you can never be completely sure that you are actually improving it. Last night I got it in my head to cut as much of the first 40 pages as I could. In the middle of the process I had messed it up so much that I was afraid I couldn't come back from it. (Worse, I'd somehow lost changes in previous draft.)

I managed to wrestle the story in shape, but it was a near thing. Spent all day with it.

But I'm holding myself to a new standard.

When I first came back to writing, the object was to actually finish the damn books. And then the object was to not mess them up.

Both of these were big problems in my first career--getting bogged down, confusing myself, not finishing, or actually messing up the books. Mostly due to terrible work habits.

So I got the procedure down this time, on the first drafts at least. Now I'm trying the refine the process on the second drafts. It's not as fun, but I think I've figured out ways to make it interesting at least.

Trouble with rewrites is that they open the door to doubts. But doubts are probably necessary to the process, as much as I love the certainty of my first drafts.

So if I'm going to ask people to read my books, I need to make the extra effort.

I was talking to Linda about how many of the rewrite changes are about "technique." And she said, I'd don't think I worry about technique "consciously."

I said, "Consciousness is the essence, almost the definition, of technique."

I was going to give the book one more re-read, but I'm done. I started the last  read through, started to change a few words, realized I could no longer tell if I was improving it or making it worse. What I call "Word Jumble.) Since I can no longer see it with any perspective whatsoever, I'd better back away. Send it off, see what others have to say, but leave it alone from now on. 

The Catch-22 of re-writing is that it exposes my weaknesses, which make me want to give up. I mean, it just shows I need to get better, but discourages me from trying.

Though I did have an interesting experience. After experiencing the word-jumble effect and giving up last night, I started to read some online articles and they seemed terribly written and all I could see was the weaknesses.

Which probably means it's just a frame of mind and if I come back later, I might have a different experience.

First drafts are so much fun. I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Killled my darlings.

"In writing, you must kill your darlings." William Faulkner.

I cut about 15 percent from the first 40 pages of "Fateplay," or about 4500 words, including the original first chapter, the thing that got me excited about the story in the first place. I'd figured out a way to keep it, but then realized it wasn't really necessary.

So as much as I loved writing it, it's been cut.  I'm pretty proud of myself.

That takes more balls than I used to have.

I also unclogged a chapter that had way too much explication, taking about half and moving it to a chapter where it made more sense.

I think it reads smoother now, though I've had to excise some of the invention I wanted to impart about this world. I'm hoping that the background will bleed through. Also had to trim some characterization which wasn't as necessary with the new beginning.

Story comes first. I never want to bore the reader.

I'm pretty much done. It's 115K words now instead of 120K words, somewhat slimmed down.

I think any book with any ambition is probably going to be somewhat a mess in the writing of. And again, I wonder if I could save a lot of problems by having even just a crude outline before I start.

Problems I tend to have.

Meandering starts before the story kicks off.

Middle parts of books that just go sideways.

Ending that don't quite hit it.

Usually, by the time I've released a book, I've ameliorated these problems--or the book doesn't get released.

I've noticed that my 30K novellas don't seem to have these problems.

I have three days for one final read through, then off to the beta readers and editor. Hopefully, get it back in a month and give it one more go through. This will be the most time I've ever spent on a story, not counting Faerylander. (Which has been re-written multiple times.)

I'm going to spend the next month giving my two thrillers, "Deadfall Ridge" and "Takeover" re-writes, concentrating again on the beginnings, trying to slim them down. The second half of Takeover, especially, is really good. The first half was an experiment in characterization which was useful but needs to be changed. Killing my darlings again.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I wrote the prologue and it's a much better kickoff to the story. I'll probably just make it the first chapter instead, since there is no reason not to.

I'm still not completely happy with the motivation for the middle part of the book--the fight for the shares of the company. Yeah, let's root for that. Stock shares, yea!

I've already tried to impart that it really isn't about the shares by having Coyote say, "Follow the mysterious plan." Which is better, but still not great.

So I'm going to look for a spot for Coyote to say, "It isn't about the shares, it's about the people. You must save them and they must save you." Which seems vague, but also a much more sympathetic motivation. Thematically, it's correct too. Because Zach changes or learns in the course of the book. I've already established the unlikely fact that the five people he must convince to help him are people he already knows. So this can be played up as fate, as something that was meant to happen.

It might actually work better without going into detail.

Still doesn't necessarily provide the urgency I'd like, so I still need to think some of this. But better than it was at the start. Maybe something specifically he needs to get from them or something they need to get from him.

I mean, it's the Ten Labors of Hercules idea, so as a plot there is precedent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

No longer dependent on a Gatekeeper's approval.

Read the first two chapters of "Fateplay" at writer's group last night and--if I do say so myself--it was a hit. It sounded really good.

There were a few spots where previously I'd had a few hitches, and I'd rewritten them, and those improvements were very noticeable to me, if no one else. There was plenty of action, plenty of detail, plenty of character development.

It all worked really well.

Ironically, I think this story will work best with those who aren't immersed in the Larp and cosplay culture, or even in the nerd culture overall. The fanboys will probably find lots to pick apart. It's one of the reasons I've stayed away from SF (which this story more or less is). I need to get the technology right and I'm sort of winging that part of it.

I've changed the role-play terms of cosplay, Larping, creative anachronism, and re-enactors into an overall term of Hyper-reality. I'm purposely vague about how far into the future this is (twenty years?) and also not specific about the capabilities of holograms, virtual reality, and A.I. 

If I had my druthers, I'd call it science fantasy, as oxymoron as that description is. But I've always been fine with that mix.

Twenty and thirty years ago I was constantly writing stuff that had anachronisms in it and was constantly told I couldn't do that---it seemed to offend the fanboys and was confusing to the non-fanboys.

Now anachronisms aren't only accepted, they are a feature of much of current fantastical writing. I mean, what else is the Steampunk genre but a big cauldron of anachronisms?

So I'm sort of doing a little bit of a stretch of that, if you will. I'm not letting the mainstream SF thought process dissuade me that way I did years ago.

For instance, I also wondered back then why no one was writing SF or Fantasy Romance. Was told, no one would want to read that. The SF and Fantasy people would reject the Romance, the Romance readers would reject the SF and Fantasy.

So....that would be news to the millions of Paranormal readers. HEH.

Another term for this story would be metaphysical science-fiction, which is probably an anathema to most SF readers. Oh, well.

I'm not going to try to explain the science of it; I'm feeling my way with alternative worlds and quantum physics, with my dim understanding of the overall thrust, if not the specific scientific and mathematical models. 

My instincts were right 30 years ago, but I didn't have the confidence to follow through. (Though if I had, I probably would have been too soon.) This time I'm not letting anything stop me from writing what I want, especially since I'm no longer dependent on a Gatekeepers approval.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

More thoughts about rewriting. (It's almost as if I'm trying to talk myself into being enthusiastic about the process. Probably won't work...)

This I know: I can't plan a book too much in advance. I discover the story by writing. So I'm fleshing out the characters, the setting, the plot as I go along.

The thing about making time for a rewrite is that gives me time to ruminate and think about  these newly created characters, settings, and plots. They are alive, solid, moving--but I can now look at what I've done, live with it for awhile, and what seems to happen is that it all deepens a little bit.

It's like having new roommates, who you start learning more and more about as you live with them. Like moving to a new place and having time to explore the surroundings. Like getting a new job and finding out what the underlying motivations and machinations of your co-workers are.

Monday, August 13, 2018

I feel really good about "Fateplay." That doesn't necessarily mean that it is objectively good--I have no idea. It means I really like it.

Sometimes I feel an actual euphoria when I finish a book. But not always.

I wonder if it's an indicator of something. I don't know. I didn't feel the euphoria when I wrote the first draft, but did when I finished the rewrite. I do believe if I can pull of the dual prologue and epilogue that the book will be fully complete.

Also close to 120K words, which is a big book for me. (That's a 20% increase from the first draft.) As I say, I write pretty close to the bone and my books can always benefit from more detail.

I've got to work at Pegasus for several days, so I just going to think about what I might want to include in the "...logues."

Later: I couldn't help myself. I started writing the prologue. I'm really, really liking it.

It'll be interesting to see where my head is at once I send this off. Right now I'm telling myself not to start something new but to go back and give the same rewrite treatment to my books that are in the waiting line.

The three thrillers, the novellas, and the Lander series all are waiting for me to do something with them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What I notice with a lot of writers when they start is that they put too much importance on any one book. They get hung up on their book as if it will be the only thing they ever do. But if you get into the writing lifestyle you learn there are many more stories to be told.

Most important of all is to write, and then write again, and finishing a book and going on to the next one is essential.

But the opposite can be true too. One of the things that's happening in ebooks is the phenomenon of the more books an author puts out, the better they do. Generally.

But...I can see some of these writers are becoming a bit of a factory. That doesn't mean the books can't be good, but it seems reasonable to assume that the books might be better if they took more time.

I understand the equation. A better book may only be better marginally, but not so much that most people would notice. If the premise or the story doesn't work, spending lots of time on trying to fix it probably isn't the answer. 

I'm trying to re-calibrate my own approach to writing. Since I came back to writing I've both tried to give myself permission to write as fast and as much as I want to, and at the same time, I've tried to tell myself not to settle for "good enough," to always try to put a bit more effort into each book.

Because of that I have about 10 books that have been set aside because they need something more.

Every book is different. Some require more rewriting than others. But I've decided that every book I write from now on will be allowed more time. Not so much in the writing process--that 2000 word a day right to the end of the book plan is perfect.

But no, the time I mull it over before I start, the mulling it over between writing sessions, and most of all the mulling over after I've finished the first draft. My re-calibration is basically to spend as much time after I've finished the first draft as I do actually writing the first draft.

I'm finding small improvements daily. Sometimes bigger improvements. I always have a few suspicions about how a book can be improved; sometimes there is nothing I can do about it, but more often I have to ask myself if disrupting the flow of the story for the change is worth it. And that just gives me an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Yes, I might fuck up the book by trying to rewrite. But I also might make it much better.

Since I've written so many books, the danger of fucking up a book seems less important than than the possibility of making it better.