Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Made to order."

I wrote a "made to order" chapter for "Takeover" yesterday, and I think it turned out fine. By "made to order" I mean a chapter that was dictated by the needs of the plot. I have about three chapters I need to fill in storyline that way, backdating them.

Then I move forward with the plot. It's all plot now.

But I spent the first 15K words just following the characters, setting the scene. Probably 15K words too many, in the modern parlance. All of it came spilling out without prompting. But it wasn't necessarily plot driven, or dictated by the needs to have action.

I'm sort of perturbed by the Michael Bay-zation of storytelling. Everything has to start with a bang now, even if artificially induced. Sometimes that works, but it needs to feel natural.

This seems to be the advice that everyone is following, demanding. Yet...if you really look at the good books, the successful books, many of them don't really do that. Because a good book is an original book, not a formulaic one.

In a recent book, I felt I needed to do that start with a bang thing ("write me 100 kickass pages!" says the bigly time agent) and it turned out terrible. Months later, I replaced that first chapter--with another action chapter, only this one worked.

I also seemed to be trapped by my walking process. I can't seem to write anything until I've walk a couple of miles into the middle of nowhere, sit down on a stump or a rock, and just lose myself. Inconvenient. I mean, sometimes I can get going at home, at the table or outside on the patio, but mostly it's like my subconscious won't produce unless I'm walking.

I'm up to 20K words in "Takeover." The Murder will happen around 25K words. The solving of the murder and the ending of the first takeover will happen around 35 to 40K words, then the real bad guys come in and I haven't gotten that far with the plot except to know that it will probably be all action after that. Try to get to 65 to 70K first draft, add my usual 15% with description, research tidbits, character development, and making things clearer.

This is the first book where I've tried to be completely serious all the way through. I can't help a little humor here and there, which is weird that I feel that compunction because I never set out to be funny, which is probably good because when I try to be funny, I ain't.

But nothing silly like a bulletproof Bigfoot costume and a Queen Snake. (And these were my previous "serious" books.)

And I've had the realization that I'm kidding myself about writing something "literary." I just don't have that in me, I think. I'm better off sticking to pure entertainment. That is a worthy goal and not easy to accomplish.


Dave Cline said...

I think we've talked about this before... (or maybe that was the other esteemed gentleman with whom I converse?) Anyway:

** Reasons to begin reading a book **

1) Recommended -- by a friend, or associate, or another author (not a relative).
2) Author has established credentials.
3) Fits your preferred genres.
4) Other, that is, random selection, serendipity, cover, tag line, subject matter.

** Reasons to keep reading a book **
1) Recommended.
2) Author's credentials.
3) First page lured me in.
4) First 1000 words engaged me.
5) First 3000 words gave me a feeling of the story arc.

Of these reasons to keep reading, the first two are IN SPITE of the last three. By that I mean, even if the first page sucks, or the first 1000 words were flat and dull, if the book was recommended, or is by an establish name, you would feel compelled to keep reading beyond your tolerance for schlock.

In my mind, no one is going to recommend my books. I won't have an established name. So, I'd better damn well make sure I kick the reader's ass in the first 300, 1000, 3000 words.

Duncan McGeary said...

For me, that means your focus is on pleasing others. Not that there is anything wrong with others liking what you're writing--you want that. But I don't think you get there by trying to. You get there by liking what you're doing.

I've had little patience for people over the years at writer's group who reject improvements because "I want it this way." But here I am advocating that very thing.

I think there is a "good" book that lies somewhere in-between. A book that stands on it's own merits. That's my focus.

Trying the write for the market is a mug's game, I think. Though just about every published author probably disagrees with that.

Dave Cline said...

"Writing for the market" -- hmm, I'm not sure I even could guess how that might work. Writing to compel a reader to keep reading... Maybe I understand that.

From what you've let me read on Takeover, and the technique you applied, I found, was auto-engaging. It felt like a blended diary which, as you can imagine, would draw anyone in, given that the writing is expository which your's fully is. People exposing themselves through testimony. It's got NetFlix written all over it.