Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cutting the jigsaw pieces before the picture is done.

I put together all the parts (so far) of my book last night, and I noticed inconsistencies, name changes, and continuity problems. I don't know if it all flows or if all the plot elements are in the right place. The book expanded from 10 chapters to 12, and some of the chapters got quite a bit bigger.

I figure I have about another 5 chapters to go. (I don't know for sure -- it might be 3 chapters or 10.) Then I'll flesh it out, which probably will add another 50 pages or so. About 200 pages, which was about how long Star Axe was -- not terribly long by modern standards. But being an e-book it can be just as long -- or short -- as it needs to be.

Inspiration doesn't come sequentially, at least not for me. It comes piecemeal, in fragments, and sometimes even contradicts what came before.

Nor does inspiration come in whole. A new character pops us, who needs a background. A plot element emerges, which needs to be foreshadowed...

A novel becomes a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, where I cut the pieces before I know what the picture looks like.

But it's time to move on and finish, before going back. I'm hoping that what will be needed is a smoothing of the rough spots, adding depth and color and description and plot and character: but not wholesale re-writing of the entire book. Sometimes when I add an element or subtract one, the whole damn thing fall apart.

Then I have to pick up all the pieces and see if it's worth putting together again. When I re-read my 7th book awhile back, I found that I liked it, pretty much. But it didn't fit together. The part that was more or less readable, was rather slight. The more complex part was a jumble. They needed to be integrated better, and I just couldn't face doing it.

Easier, frankly, to write something new.

And as Jerad has been telling me, I have 30 years more living under my belt. (Though I'm not sure getting older really makes you all that much more wise. Less naive, perhaps.)

Truth is, I enjoy writing the first draft and discovering what happens and watching the subconscious creative part of my brain come up with stuff. (At least for me, writing is pretty much ALL sub-conscious. Writers who can cold-bloodedly think it all through are a different breed).

I'm not sure I like re-writing much. I tend to do both too much and too little. Too much in that I obsess over changes and do them too often. Too little in that I'm not effective in making all the effort count; not enough thought and perspective. (I think obsessing, for me, is another necessary component to actually finishing a book.)

Perspective on my own writing is really hard, obviously.

I've tried to come up with work habits this time which will solve this problem.

Pretty strange that it has taken 8 books to learn to do this. The first book was such a mess to write -- that I really didn't learn good work habits. The second and third books came pretty easy. So again, it didn't matter my work habits. The fourth and fifth books I just didn't put the time and energy in that I should have. The sixth book was where all the chickens came home to roost, and I just couldn't face writing it again. And the seventh book, while some of my work habits got better, just took too long.

Work Habit Rule #1 is to finish the first draft before going back and doing extensive re-writes. So far, I've been able to do that mostly -- except in obvious circumstances where I need to go back and fill in. That isn't quite the same as re-writing, thankfully. It's necessary, however, to write those sections when inspiration comes.

Like I said, the biggest obstacle and unknowable, is whether the whole thing fits together without falling apart and making me start from scratch. I don't think I could face that.

So far, so good.

No matter what else happens, I think it's going to feel really good to finish another book after all these years. I'll feel like a writer again. It will be very satisfying no matter how many people end up reading it.

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