Friday, December 28, 2012

My exercise book.

NEARLY HUMAN is turning out to be my 'exercise' book.  I'm learning all the things I should do and shouldn't do in the course of writing it.  Rediscovering my writing methods and inventing new ones.

I'm pretty close to being done working on it.  Yesterday, I started telling Linda what I thought was still wrong with it.  About four or five very basic problems with the story

By the time I went downstairs again, I realized I needed to deal with those problems -- at least address them.

A).  For instance, I basically have zombie apocalypse happening in Bend for three days that no one from the outside world seems to notice.  It escalates, so it isn't completely unbelievable.

But I can also address this by having the main villain simply say the Old Gods have closed off communications with the outside world until the invasion is done.  Sure -- magic.  But at least it's an explanation.

B.) A related problem is that life seems to be going on as usual while these weird things are happening.  Again, this can be addressed by the -- hero this time -- simply talking about how humans go on about their business even when it is all falling apart around them -- which is a true enough comment.

C.)  I also have the young daughter of two of the main characters disappearing, and there isn't enough drama around that.  I mean, in real life, everything else would stop -- so I need to have the hero "glamour" them into not running around in a righteous panic.  A "magic" solution, but at least dealing with the problem.

D.) In a related way to all the above, it seems like it takes way too long for everyone to react.  Again, this can be explained by the slow revealing of the facts, but I'm not sure if I'm dealing with it correctly.

E.) And the biggest problem of all -- I simply didn't deal adequately with the perimeters of the main character's strength and weakness, the power of the Curse on him, what he can and can't do, and why he can and can't do -- and what his motivations are for doing or not doing.

If the basic premises of a book don't work, nothing works.

When I decided to limit the main character's powers, to constrain him, to make him the underdog -- then I needed to explain that better and earlier.

It's late in the game, but better late than never.  As I said early on -- as long as I'm still finding problems, I still have an opportunity to improve the book.

I'm giving myself another month to work on it -- diligently.  A real last push to get it right.

So all this is a way of saying, I think I'm getting a good handle on the writing process -- my individual writing process.

Things I've learned.

1.)  As I have said in this blog, I need to write from the heart, not the head.  That is, there has to be a story I'm excited about, and characters I like.

2.) But before that, I need to use my head and fully think out the premises of the story -- not so much an outline, because for me that is a recipe for writer's block -- but early in the process I need to iron out the background ideas.

3.) I need to write the first draft quickly, and not deviate.

4.) In most cases, I probably shouldn't force the issue, but let my subconscious come up with solutions.  In order for that to happen, I have to give myself time to be "on call" so to speak.  That is, not be doing anything else, but be near my computer when the answer comes.

I'm not sorry I forced NEARLY HUMAN, because over a third of a year had passed without making progress, and the same thing had happened with the previous two efforts, and I needed to get something completed.  But by forcing it, I wrote myself into some corners that I'd like to avoid next time.

5.) I'm better at fantasy and in 3rd person and with a likable underdog as the main character.  I'm good with dream imagery, and -- I think-- fantasy settings.

6.) I need to be patient in my writing.  Each step of the way, I think I'm close -- even at the beginnings.  So I need to know that is happening and just keep making the story better.  Live in that story without, hopefully, wearing out my welcome.

7.) Combine all the above with an effective work process.  For instance, I've learned to let the beginning idea glimmer in my head before I start writing a scene.  So I write whatever action or words come to me, even if they are out of order.  I write until it I'm starting to force it, then take at two hour break.  Then come back and start the process again.  Keep doing that until I'm done.  Even the work-at-the-store days are good, because they are the weekly equivalent of the two hour break in the midst of the day.

I've mentioned before that I simply had to stop writing once I bought the store nearly 30 years ago.  If I look at the amount of work and effort I've put into NEARLY HUMAN -- and substitute a typewriter for a word processing program -- no wonder I was in despair!

So thank you modern technology!

1 comment:

Dave Cline said...

Duncan, great stuff in this post. Thanks.