Saturday, December 10, 2016

This rewrite of Fires of the Djinn is something new. I'm going slow on purpose, to give myself time to think about what I'm doing as I go along.

The book is fine the way it is. I like it.

But I'm trying to figure out how to make it better. Up to now, I've had two different reactions to my books. Either they didn't work and they needed work to bring them up to standards--and I have about 9 books sitting in my computer that are like that. Or I've written books that I thought were fine, some needed a little work, but mostly the stories were good, and those I have published or plan to publish.

This is the first book I've written that I thought was up to standards, maybe the best thing I've done, but which I also see ways where I might be able to significantly improve it through some pretty big changes.

One thing I notice when I read is that it feels a little flat--which is deadly. It occurs to me that I just don't have enough character conflict. Now one of my pet bugaboos about stories, especially on TV, is phony conflict.

But it does serve a purpose, even if it doesn't hold up to examination. Arguments and bickering add a little tension in a scene that wouldn't ordinarily have it.

I'm perfectly willing to add "action" scenes that aren't totally necessary to spice up a story, so why am I leery of adding character conflict?

If the conflict is inherent in the characters, then I think it's good. In order for that to happen, I think I need to delineate the characters a little more. I've gotten in the habit of making most of my characters "likeable." I think that's important, but that doesn't mean they have to be warm and fuzzy. I think back to Barbara in Tuskers, who was a hard-ass, but ultimately a likable character.

So I've been going through all the major characters and sharpening them up and looking for where they conflict, and I think I've figured it out.

I'm also thinking of cutting several chapters that feel fuzzy to me. I like them, I impart a lot of information in them, but I think I can dispense with them. I've thought of a way to add an action scene where the story has slowed down.

These are the kinds of changes that can disrupt the whole book. As I said, a perfectly fine book.

It scares the hell out of me.

I'm going to go ahead and finish this rewrite before I attempt that. Bank this version, then see what I can do. If I fuck the newer version up, which is more than possible, I can always come back to this one.


Dave Cline said...

I suppose that is one benefit of telling a multi-pov, multi-timeline story, you can tune the story by adding/removing large chunks.

With a single pov, sequential timeline, yanking a chunk out of the middle (where important info referenced later was added) disrupts the whole story. And the same for injecting new slices of story line. I'm rather boxed in now in this story of mine. You, on the other hand(I imagine), have myriad options.

I wonder if you adopted your multi-multi writing style as you discovered this need.

Duncan McGeary said...

Believe me, there is plenty of disruption in this method as well, enough to scare me.

My #1 rule when coming back to writing was; no rewrites until the book is finished, and then minimal rewrites.

This was because in my last attempt, 35 years ago, I got into some terrible habits. Rewriting until I took all the life out of the story, moving things and changing things until the book fell apart. I never could recover the original story.

My #2 rule is somewhat contradictory. Don't try to publish a book that is "good enough." Make it"good"(my standards) or write something new.

But I've written so many books by now that I'm way ahead. I have time. I can take a chance I won't fuck up this book. (Especially if I set aside the current version.)

I worry about not liking the book when I make too many changes that are "objectively" arrived at, even though I firmly believe that such objectivity, which is more or less trying to see the book as a reader would see it, usually improves the book.

My pleasure in exchange for a better book.

Plus, I'm fucking lazy. (Thus the not publishing "good enough" rule.)