Sunday, November 3, 2013

I think I may have finally got it.

There comes a moment in every book when it becomes real to me.  Maybe not to anyone else, but to me.  This is the prerequisite for a book being put out into the public.

I'm not saying the book is great, just that it feels like a real story.

I have to identify with the book.  That seems obvious, but believe me -- you can write a lot of words that you think are interesting, and build a plot, and have characters -- and still be missing that.

If I had to pinpoint the moment, it's when I start to feel for the characters.  When I start to identify with them.

That happened almost immediately with The Vampire Evolution Trilogy.  I liked each of the main characters, I saw them as separate people with their own personalities.

With Faerylander, I've struggled to reach that moment.  I had to go back again and again and redefine the characters, make them more understandable and sympathetic and unique.  Much harder to go back and do that than start with recognizable characters in the first place.

But I've worked and worked at it, and I finally feel like I've achieved it.  I finally want to follow what these characters do and say.  I finally see them as real people in my mind's eye.

It also happened right away with Led to the Slaughter -- maybe because many of the characters are historical characters who really existed.  Linda says a really nice thing -- "It feels like that's the way the historical event really happened to me."

So with Faerylander, I had to go back and make Cobb an underdog and a sympathetic character.  I had to try to develop the love story between him and Lillian, and the love story between Parsons and Sandra.  I had to put the characters I care about in jeapardy.

I took out all the snark, beginning with removing the first person narration.  I beefed up the main villain (he's in three out of the first five chapters...)  and fleshed out some of the other villains.  I tried to create tension by having a timeline and characters on the track as the train bears down on them.  I tried to streamline things and make it flow forward, not sideways.  And so on.

It's been a major overhaul, followed by major overhaul, followed by major overhaul.  Out of a 120K novel, I've probably added 50K words and tossed 75K words, and then changed my mind and brought some scenes back and ditched other things.  I've rearranged the chapters every which way.  

I've worked on the premise and plot until it finally made some sense.

Last night, for the first time -- I felt like I got it.   The first 50 pages work.  That's where most of the problems were, so now I feel confident I can fix the rest

By the time I'm done, it will have been a full 3 years since I started writing something called "I'm Almost Human."  I've set it aside for months at a time, only to come back to it and try again.

That's an eternity when I can write a first draft in a few months.

It's the most work I've put into a book since my first book, Star Axe.  I worked off and on on Star Axe for five years.  I suspect I've put more real work and time into Faerylander, actually.  (I also worked my butt off on Deviltree, but again -- I don't think quite as much.)

Every book can probably be improved, again and again -- but I think Faerylander is finally ready.  So I think this will be the last rewrite.  (How many times have I said that?-- but in each of the previous cases, I always had big doubts.)

The problems that remain are somewhat inherent in the concept and probably can't be completely fixed.  But I've fixed the parts that I can.  More than this, and I'd be better off going off and writing something new...

It will take me at least the rest of the month to do the rest of the rewrite.  It's work.  I have to force myself to do it.  But when I change something and it is an obvious improvement, that does give me some motivation.  I still don't like rewriting, but I'm getting the hang of it.

I've somewhat tricked myself.  I ask myself on every paragraph if there is a telling detail or character embellishment I can add.  I ask myself on every paragraph if there is something in the way, or that isn't needed, or can be said more succinctly.  If I approach it that way -- like building a brick wall -- I can see the steady improvement.

But boy is it hard.

I'm probably still months away from putting it up for reading, but I can see it happening now.

No comments: