Tuesday, August 28, 2018

On my walk for the first time in weeks. Decided to check out the trails at the west end of Crooked River Ranch.

The trail nearest the river was closed for wildlife protection, so I took the upper trail. Immediately could feel I was out of shape, though to be fair, it was mostly uphill. Anyway, the trail wound along the bottom of the cliffs, and never really got close to the river in the two miles I walked. A fisherman I encountered along the way said the trail drops down severely with switchbacks near the end, but I think I'll stop at two miles. Disappointing.

Sitting here writing.

Apparently, on August 1st, the river trail opens, so I'll come back.

I'm going to try to broaden my walking options, as long as the trails aren't more than about 20 minutes away by car. Yes, I could walk in Redmond's Dry Canyon, but I really like solitude as well as more nature than that.

Wrote a second chapter to "New Brave World."

In the middle of the writing, I heard the rustle of a bird above me and looked up to see a hawk perched on a Juniper. Tried to get near enough to take a picture, and frantically took pictures as it took flight, but pretty missed it. Darn.

The book has already veered from where I thought it would go, so that's good. heh.

Monday, August 27, 2018

It all worked out.

35 years ago, I was a recently published author of three mass market fantasy paperbacks. My fourth and fifth books had made the rounds going nowhere, but my sixth kept coming so close I could taste it. I was being rejected nicely by the top editors in the field, big names. In other words, I was on the cusp....

Or not.

I was 30 years old and mowing lawns to actually pay the bills. Sometimes I filled in at a comic shop called Pegasus Books. I got married to Linda (with Todd and Toby), and almost immediately after that, I was offered the chance to buy Pegasus Books.

So I naively thought I could buy the store and sit at the counter and keep writing.

I was immediately disabused of that notion. I tried to continue my landscaping job, but nearly had a nervous breakdown--literally, I was at a stoplight and started shaking and couldn't stop. That's never happened before or since, but it was scary.

So I dedicated myself to the store, putting off everything else, working 60 and 70 hours a week, trying to keep it afloat. It became a wild ride, and always writing was in the background beckoning and I kept telling myself, "Plenty of time."

I remember distinctly thinking--"Hey, I'll be 40 in about eight years. That's not too late."

40 went by and 50 and things weren't any easier.

So I finally quit putting pressure on myself to write. I told myself that the world didn't need any more books. (Which is true but irrelevant.)

The things is, I always wondered what would have happened if I'd just continued writing, asking Linda to more or less support us until I got somewhere.

Even then, I saw this as an enormous gamble. Even "making it" wasn't a guarantee of a living. My mentor, who had written over 60 books and worked in Hollywood, lived a modest life and I do believe his wife worked during that whole time. I also began to see other artists of different fields make the choice to do nothing but art--and they were struggling.

What may have made the decision easier 35 years ago was that my writing was struggling. I had horrible work habits, ridiculous expectations, and lots of doubt.

Anyway, I enjoyed being self-employed, and the store finally got to the point where it paid off, and there was lots of creativity involved, and the product I carried was artistic and fun. In fact, I think I learned a lot from reading comics about sheer creativity and fun.

The store made me more social when I needed to be and I grew up quite a bit.

So when at the age of 59, I had employees who were really good at their job and who I could leave the store with (and I was nearing burnout, as well) I stepped away and decided to write one more book, just to see if I could do it.

7 years later, I've written over 30 books and novellas, many of which have been published, and I've made some money (not enough to live on) and I've really enjoyed it.

It seemed to me that I was back to my 32 year old self, writing the books I would have written, but without the constant money pressure and without the bad habits. (And much faster too--I always had the creative energy, but the system back then wouldn't really allow it.)

Meanwhile, a strange thing happened. I began to notice that some writer's my age--who had made the career choice to be writers--seemed somewhat burned out and cynical about the whole thing, whereas I was excited and having fun.

I also noticed that many of them were struggling financially, even though by my 32 year old standards, they had been highly successful. Turns out, only a few writers really make good money at it.

Anyway, it probably all turned out for the best. I still enjoy writing, I'm not dependent on writing for a living, and I've managed to produce a career's worth of work without spending decades to do it.

Good or bad writing, I couldn't tell you. It was the writing I could do-- and probably better than I would have produced 35 years ago.

And meanwhile, I had a very satisfying career in business--mostly because it wasn't dependent on anyone else but my own efforts. If I could pay my bills, I succeeded. Didn't matter what anyone else thought. Thank God for that.

I hope this doesn't come across as smug. It's just interesting to me how it turned out. I'm not sure I would give anyone else the advice to try the same thing.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"New Brave World" as a title. Is that a little pretentious of me?

Not writing has been hard. I think I'm addicted to the fictional dream-state.

I felt completely at loose ends over the last week or so. I kept telling myself I needed to pick a more ambitious project, that I needed to think it through first. And that was very unsettling.

So today, something broke and down went the words, splat on the page. I mean, the inspiration was Brave New World, and I inverted the words and called the story, "New Brave World."

I like what I've written--I always like what I've written at first. I also have no idea where it's heading and I think I'm all right with that.

I may need to talk myself out of the title, though.

"New Brave World."

Is that a little pretentious?

Monday, August 20, 2018

This is how I tie myself up in knots.

When strange things start happening in a story, how do you have the characters react?

It seems melodramatic to constantly have the protagonist saying, "Oh, My God! How can this be happening!! Am I going crazy???"

There is a fine line between too little and too much and it's very hard to gauge. Of course it's probably better to avoid a plot where it happens at all. I know I've been annoyed at movies and books where the characters lingers too long on the disbelief reactions.

I cut three active scenes from the first 50 pages and kept one that I had a few doubts about. Sure enough, now I'm having doubts about the one I kept, and wondering if I shouldn't have kept the three I cut.

I'm tempted to cut the scene I kept (but it would be useful later) and put two of the scenes back (they are relatively short) and on the third scene--the original first chapter-- just keep it but cut it way down.

So I'm pretty sure I'm going to do a "Fateplay" version four; but I want to wait until I've gotten back all the feedback.

This is how I tie myself up in knots.

I know I must seem incredibly wishy-washy, but this is my process. I try this, I try that, I weigh it after it's done.

The thing is, it isn't until I actually commit to a change that I seem to be able to see it clearly. While it is still only possibility, I can't make a final determination for some reason.

It would be great to have readers who could read each version, but even I'm tired of it and getting people to read you even once can be difficult.

Anyway, now that I "committed" to the extend of actually sending it off, I'm clearly seeing things I'd like the change, and I'm clearly seeing how they would be improvements.


Generally what happens--despite some radical departures at first--is that I end up with some version that is close to the first version but with modifications. 

This both satisfies my own need to keep the story I told, and hopefully makes enough changes to make it easier on the reader.

And I'll never know for sure.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Word Jumble

It's clear to me that I could spend a year--or forever, for that matter--constantly revisiting a book, trying to improve it.

Thing is, you can never be completely sure that you are actually improving it. Last night I got it in my head to cut as much of the first 40 pages as I could. In the middle of the process I had messed it up so much that I was afraid I couldn't come back from it. (Worse, I'd somehow lost changes in previous draft.)

I managed to wrestle the story in shape, but it was a near thing. Spent all day with it.

But I'm holding myself to a new standard.

When I first came back to writing, the object was to actually finish the damn books. And then the object was to not mess them up.

Both of these were big problems in my first career--getting bogged down, confusing myself, not finishing, or actually messing up the books. Mostly due to terrible work habits.

So I got the procedure down this time, on the first drafts at least. Now I'm trying the refine the process on the second drafts. It's not as fun, but I think I've figured out ways to make it interesting at least.

Trouble with rewrites is that they open the door to doubts. But doubts are probably necessary to the process, as much as I love the certainty of my first drafts.

So if I'm going to ask people to read my books, I need to make the extra effort.

I was talking to Linda about how many of the rewrite changes are about "technique." And she said, I'd don't think I worry about technique "consciously."

I said, "Consciousness is the essence, almost the definition, of technique."

I was going to give the book one more re-read, but I'm done. I started the last  read through, started to change a few words, realized I could no longer tell if I was improving it or making it worse. What I call "Word Jumble.) Since I can no longer see it with any perspective whatsoever, I'd better back away. Send it off, see what others have to say, but leave it alone from now on. 

The Catch-22 of re-writing is that it exposes my weaknesses, which make me want to give up. I mean, it just shows I need to get better, but discourages me from trying.

Though I did have an interesting experience. After experiencing the word-jumble effect and giving up last night, I started to read some online articles and they seemed terribly written and all I could see was the weaknesses.

Which probably means it's just a frame of mind and if I come back later, I might have a different experience.

First drafts are so much fun. I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Killled my darlings.

"In writing, you must kill your darlings." William Faulkner.

I cut about 15 percent from the first 40 pages of "Fateplay," or about 4500 words, including the original first chapter, the thing that got me excited about the story in the first place. I'd figured out a way to keep it, but then realized it wasn't really necessary.

So as much as I loved writing it, it's been cut.  I'm pretty proud of myself.

That takes more balls than I used to have.

I also unclogged a chapter that had way too much explication, taking about half and moving it to a chapter where it made more sense.

I think it reads smoother now, though I've had to excise some of the invention I wanted to impart about this world. I'm hoping that the background will bleed through. Also had to trim some characterization which wasn't as necessary with the new beginning.

Story comes first. I never want to bore the reader.

I'm pretty much done. It's 115K words now instead of 120K words, somewhat slimmed down.

I think any book with any ambition is probably going to be somewhat a mess in the writing of. And again, I wonder if I could save a lot of problems by having even just a crude outline before I start.

Problems I tend to have.

Meandering starts before the story kicks off.

Middle parts of books that just go sideways.

Ending that don't quite hit it.

Usually, by the time I've released a book, I've ameliorated these problems--or the book doesn't get released.

I've noticed that my 30K novellas don't seem to have these problems.

I have three days for one final read through, then off to the beta readers and editor. Hopefully, get it back in a month and give it one more go through. This will be the most time I've ever spent on a story, not counting Faerylander. (Which has been re-written multiple times.)

I'm going to spend the next month giving my two thrillers, "Deadfall Ridge" and "Takeover" re-writes, concentrating again on the beginnings, trying to slim them down. The second half of Takeover, especially, is really good. The first half was an experiment in characterization which was useful but needs to be changed. Killing my darlings again.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I wrote the prologue and it's a much better kickoff to the story. I'll probably just make it the first chapter instead, since there is no reason not to.

I'm still not completely happy with the motivation for the middle part of the book--the fight for the shares of the company. Yeah, let's root for that. Stock shares, yea!

I've already tried to impart that it really isn't about the shares by having Coyote say, "Follow the mysterious plan." Which is better, but still not great.

So I'm going to look for a spot for Coyote to say, "It isn't about the shares, it's about the people. You must save them and they must save you." Which seems vague, but also a much more sympathetic motivation. Thematically, it's correct too. Because Zach changes or learns in the course of the book. I've already established the unlikely fact that the five people he must convince to help him are people he already knows. So this can be played up as fate, as something that was meant to happen.

It might actually work better without going into detail.

Still doesn't necessarily provide the urgency I'd like, so I still need to think some of this. But better than it was at the start. Maybe something specifically he needs to get from them or something they need to get from him.

I mean, it's the Ten Labors of Hercules idea, so as a plot there is precedent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

No longer dependent on a Gatekeeper's approval.

Read the first two chapters of "Fateplay" at writer's group last night and--if I do say so myself--it was a hit. It sounded really good.

There were a few spots where previously I'd had a few hitches, and I'd rewritten them, and those improvements were very noticeable to me, if no one else. There was plenty of action, plenty of detail, plenty of character development.

It all worked really well.

Ironically, I think this story will work best with those who aren't immersed in the Larp and cosplay culture, or even in the nerd culture overall. The fanboys will probably find lots to pick apart. It's one of the reasons I've stayed away from SF (which this story more or less is). I need to get the technology right and I'm sort of winging that part of it.

I've changed the role-play terms of cosplay, Larping, creative anachronism, and re-enactors into an overall term of Hyper-reality. I'm purposely vague about how far into the future this is (twenty years?) and also not specific about the capabilities of holograms, virtual reality, and A.I. 

If I had my druthers, I'd call it science fantasy, as oxymoron as that description is. But I've always been fine with that mix.

Twenty and thirty years ago I was constantly writing stuff that had anachronisms in it and was constantly told I couldn't do that---it seemed to offend the fanboys and was confusing to the non-fanboys.

Now anachronisms aren't only accepted, they are a feature of much of current fantastical writing. I mean, what else is the Steampunk genre but a big cauldron of anachronisms?

So I'm sort of doing a little bit of a stretch of that, if you will. I'm not letting the mainstream SF thought process dissuade me that way I did years ago.

For instance, I also wondered back then why no one was writing SF or Fantasy Romance. Was told, no one would want to read that. The SF and Fantasy people would reject the Romance, the Romance readers would reject the SF and Fantasy.

So....that would be news to the millions of Paranormal readers. HEH.

Another term for this story would be metaphysical science-fiction, which is probably an anathema to most SF readers. Oh, well.

I'm not going to try to explain the science of it; I'm feeling my way with alternative worlds and quantum physics, with my dim understanding of the overall thrust, if not the specific scientific and mathematical models. 

My instincts were right 30 years ago, but I didn't have the confidence to follow through. (Though if I had, I probably would have been too soon.) This time I'm not letting anything stop me from writing what I want, especially since I'm no longer dependent on a Gatekeepers approval.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

More thoughts about rewriting. (It's almost as if I'm trying to talk myself into being enthusiastic about the process. Probably won't work...)

This I know: I can't plan a book too much in advance. I discover the story by writing. So I'm fleshing out the characters, the setting, the plot as I go along.

The thing about making time for a rewrite is that gives me time to ruminate and think about  these newly created characters, settings, and plots. They are alive, solid, moving--but I can now look at what I've done, live with it for awhile, and what seems to happen is that it all deepens a little bit.

It's like having new roommates, who you start learning more and more about as you live with them. Like moving to a new place and having time to explore the surroundings. Like getting a new job and finding out what the underlying motivations and machinations of your co-workers are.

Monday, August 13, 2018

I feel really good about "Fateplay." That doesn't necessarily mean that it is objectively good--I have no idea. It means I really like it.

Sometimes I feel an actual euphoria when I finish a book. But not always.

I wonder if it's an indicator of something. I don't know. I didn't feel the euphoria when I wrote the first draft, but did when I finished the rewrite. I do believe if I can pull of the dual prologue and epilogue that the book will be fully complete.

Also close to 120K words, which is a big book for me. (That's a 20% increase from the first draft.) As I say, I write pretty close to the bone and my books can always benefit from more detail.

I've got to work at Pegasus for several days, so I just going to think about what I might want to include in the "...logues."

Later: I couldn't help myself. I started writing the prologue. I'm really, really liking it.

It'll be interesting to see where my head is at once I send this off. Right now I'm telling myself not to start something new but to go back and give the same rewrite treatment to my books that are in the waiting line.

The three thrillers, the novellas, and the Lander series all are waiting for me to do something with them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What I notice with a lot of writers when they start is that they put too much importance on any one book. They get hung up on their book as if it will be the only thing they ever do. But if you get into the writing lifestyle you learn there are many more stories to be told.

Most important of all is to write, and then write again, and finishing a book and going on to the next one is essential.

But the opposite can be true too. One of the things that's happening in ebooks is the phenomenon of the more books an author puts out, the better they do. Generally.

But...I can see some of these writers are becoming a bit of a factory. That doesn't mean the books can't be good, but it seems reasonable to assume that the books might be better if they took more time.

I understand the equation. A better book may only be better marginally, but not so much that most people would notice. If the premise or the story doesn't work, spending lots of time on trying to fix it probably isn't the answer. 

I'm trying to re-calibrate my own approach to writing. Since I came back to writing I've both tried to give myself permission to write as fast and as much as I want to, and at the same time, I've tried to tell myself not to settle for "good enough," to always try to put a bit more effort into each book.

Because of that I have about 10 books that have been set aside because they need something more.

Every book is different. Some require more rewriting than others. But I've decided that every book I write from now on will be allowed more time. Not so much in the writing process--that 2000 word a day right to the end of the book plan is perfect.

But no, the time I mull it over before I start, the mulling it over between writing sessions, and most of all the mulling over after I've finished the first draft. My re-calibration is basically to spend as much time after I've finished the first draft as I do actually writing the first draft.

I'm finding small improvements daily. Sometimes bigger improvements. I always have a few suspicions about how a book can be improved; sometimes there is nothing I can do about it, but more often I have to ask myself if disrupting the flow of the story for the change is worth it. And that just gives me an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Yes, I might fuck up the book by trying to rewrite. But I also might make it much better.

Since I've written so many books, the danger of fucking up a book seems less important than than the possibility of making it better.

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 16.

Looks like I'm going to finish up the first rewrite today, in about half the time I apportioned for the task. The second half of the book was mostly fine. Line editing only.

All the structural changes happened in the first half.

It's a better book. I hope the tone isn't inconsistent.

I have about 40 pages to read today. I don't expect too many changes. Turns out, I have to work both Sunday and Monday, and I'm busy on Tuesday, so I need to finish this first rewrite today.

Finished! 1st and major rewrite. I have an idea that I want to write parallel larping scenes for the prologue and epilogue, but if I don't really like what I write, I'll go with what I have.

The writing in the last 50 pages or so was clunkier than I expected, so I tried to work on that. If I have time, I might do another run through on those specific pages.

But I do think the book is ready as is, even if nothing else happens.

Thing is--it's a very, very quirky book. It seems like the longer I write, the more quirky I get. Which may also mean the less commercial. The more I sink into my own imagination, the harder it is for me to see if it's any good.

Good isn't really what it's about. Is it what I set out to write? Does it meet my vision?

This is what I write--so be it.

I have about 10 days before I send to Beta readers and editors, so I'm going to give it one more read next week, starting on Wednesday. Seven days of just reading it through without any structural changes, just try to enrich it as much as I can with telling detail.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Daily "Fateplayi" rewrite journal, Day 15.

I'm going to really knuckle down over the next 3 days. I'm working at the store on Monday and Tuesdays are set aside for Linda and me to be together, so I've got to make some progress.

Right now I'm trying to figure how to bring Numera into the story more, as well as Coyote, and also what happened to her Dad. So those all kind of pull together, along with building the love interest with Zach. So I need a mechanism where I get all those characters together that doesn't slow the plot.

I thought of this a few days ago, but nothing has come to me so far.

Meanwhile, back to line editing.

I think I've figured out a solution. There is always a solution.

Actually, I come at it sideways, which actually works better. While Zach is off having his adventures, Numera goes alone to New York to confront the doppleganger. Not sure what happens there, but she comes back devastated. Zach comforts her, deepening their relationship.

Coyote comes along and talks to them thereafter.

These scenes need to happen to tie the front of the book to the back of the book. I think it's the last of the structural changes to the plot--additions, really, which are better than changes.

This again is a result of time. Thinking about it for several days and having the solution come to me. I'm not sure if the book is dramatically better, but it feels more complete to me.

Basically, once I'm get halfway the rest is action.

OK. Inserting the new scene was not as easy as I expected. Had to move the characters from one city to the next--but the explanation for the move wasn't too ridiculous, I don't think. Will also take the existing midpoint Coyote scene and instead use it here.

So other than a few more brief mentions of Numera's worry about her father leading up to this scene, I think I've answered the obvious question of why would she continue without doing something.

The "few brief mentions" turned into quite a job. But I managed to measure out the Coyote visits and the responses to Numera's father's disappearance over the course of a hundred pages, which I think was necessary.

The action in the second half of the book are five "game scenarios" almost like individual short stories. I had great fun writing them, and they are fast moving. Hopefully they are fun to read. So there isn't as much characterization or plotting really needed, so the changes don't affect them much. So I think it should be fairly straightforward now. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 14

I'm roughly halfway through the rewrite. Having a bit of a hard time motivating myself. Partly because there aren't any big changes necessary. Ironically, big changes get me engaged and that engagement expands into line editing.

Line editing alone is excruciating for me, even while I see its utility. Where do I start? Where do I stop? Is this an improvement? Does adding detail slow the story? Is this in the wrong place, if I move it here will it work or will the sequence get messed up? Here's a simple word and here's a better but less simple word--stick to simple? Should she respond here, or would it be more subtle to have her frown. Does this follow or does it follow too closely and need some non sequesters to break it up? Is this just voices in a void? Do I need the dialogue tag or can I find movement? Have I ended the action too soon or should I cut it? Is there a response I'm missing here?

Spent part of the day at the store putting away books. Getting a couple of shipments a week instead of a couple shipments a month this summer because I vowed that if I was going to invest so heavily in books I'd need to keep up from then on.

So far it's working really well.

Anyway, came back and read another 25 pages, so I'm up to page 200. About another week to finish, I figure.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 13.

Going to do need to do the daily quota plus half for the next couple of days to make up for yesterday. Fortunately I'm in the part of the book where not as much rewriting is needed.

I may not have made much forward progress, but I very much cleaned up the storyline.

I think taking more time on a book gives me a chance to consider changes until I become used to the idea, and then to finally let myself do it. For instance, I think it's bothered me for some time that when Numera's father appears to have been taken away that she doesn't do anything about it.

So today, that's my job, to go back and figure out a response that makes sense but doesn't warp the book.

I've now done this several times. I get a sneaking suspicion that there is a hole in the story, or something that doesn't make sense, and I think, "Will anyone notice?" and I move on. But by mulling the story over day after day, I eventually accept that something needs to be done.

The writing mojo is definitely shifting. I'm trying to spend more time with the characters. I really hope to get more into Zach's head, for instance, in "Fateplay." I want the reader to know that I've spent some time really thinking about it.

It's surprising to me how the creative thought can be so wispy when it enters my head, but become so solid when I write it.

I've heard creativity described as a shy pet you must coax out from under the couch. Sometimes inspiration is a soft whisper, a sudden remembrance, a tentative suggestion. I grab at these fragments because they are often outside the box.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 12.

Lots of small tweaks yesterday. At first I had a hard time getting into it. The trick is to start, to find just one thing to change, and then it starts to roll.

I was working on two chapters that I thought were interesting, I hope, in their own right, but there wasn't much motivation for the first one but, "Hey, we have a couple of extra days let's try to find a murderer!" and for the second chapter the motivation was, "Hey, I'm cooped up on this hotel room and I'm bored so I think I'll go visit the enemy!"

Not great.

So I put in another Coyote scene, where the critter criticizes Zach for straying from the plan, and tells him that it "isnt' important" who murdered his friend. Which gets Zach mad and makes him wonder if he's a puppet (which ties in neatly with an earlier scene where a character is literally a meat puppet) and he decides to investigate his opponent despite the Coyote's warning because he is sure the opponent is guilty of the murder.

So a bit convoluted, but at least lends more meaning to the two chapters.

Going to bed last night mulling over the overall book, as I do before I drift off the sleep, I decided that I like Zach more now, that I'm more in tune with him, and that when the final rewrite comes, I need to get directly into Zach's head and write from his perspective as much as possible. (It's 1st person narration.)

Got sidetracked on the actual rewrite because I decided to go back and change all the "visitations" to either Coyote or Mr. Zander. It required rewriting a few scenes.

Much better! Less confusing, more thematic. I like the change a lot.

Linda and are going to Mission Impossible this afternoon, but as soon as we get back I'm going to get back to doing the 25 pages.

Got back and didn't accomplish anything. It's hard when I have a hard break in the middle of the day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 11.

I may have stumbled across a way to rewrite that I can live with.

The systemic method is necessary first. Picking a reasonable number of pages per day to work on, then going through it sentence by sentence, then thinking about it, and then coming back.

But I've found myself drifting backward as well, doing little embellishments or cuts or changes. I do this by just sort of drifting through the manuscript. landing on a paragraph, reading it, seeing if there is anything that can be improved, then drifting to another paragraph and so on.

The point is to spend the day doing it. Just as I realized that the point of spending a whole day on 2000 words of a first draft wasn't to get it all down as fast as possible, but to give myself all that time to think and wait and write when it happens, and then think about it some more.

Time is the crucial factor. Dedicate the whole day to the rewrite.

I do a lot of daydreaming, and much of the daydreaming has nothing to do with the story at hand, but everyone once in a while an idea pops up. The main thing is to prime the pump, to tell my subconscious, "OK, what would improve this?"

Sometimes I get an improvement that is so small and seemingly inconsequential that spending an hour drifting, almost asleep, seems like a high price. But if I get enough of these small improvements, maybe they add up to enough.

I go back and forth about whether I like the book, which is a function of rewriting. If I don't rewrite, I always like my book, because I enjoy writing the first draft so much.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 10.

I'm having to rewrite more than I thought, but I do think it's better. There is more at stake, which hopefully will draw the reader in.

I'm probably going to need yet another pass thru to get the tone consistent. Which means I need to speed up the rewriting this draft a little, which I'm inclined to do anyway. 10 pages was good when I was doing extensive rewriting at the beginning, but now that I'm just having to adjust things, I probably need to do more to keep my momentum. I've decided that 20 to 25 pages a day is not out of bounds.

I can't tell if the tonal differences are jarring.

There's a very basic problem. In the original draft, I have the death of a character about a third of the way through. It's not a major character, though. Then I have the death of a major character shortly thereafter, but I give it plenty of forewarning and there is plenty of space for grieving.

In the current draft I have the death of the protagonists mother happening just before the books starts, then he finds out his father is missing, and only then does it follow the original two deaths, and this time without the space for grieving. Meanwhile, I still have the same light tone.

So I go back and try to give it proper space, and it seems to warp the rest of the book even more.

Maybe the two versions just aren't compatible, but I had to try to make the book more consequential than it was. I mean, it was a bit of lark and now I suddenly want to make it stronger. 

What's clear upon rereading this is that I was having fun writing it. While that fun can come through, it doesn't necessarily engage the reader, which is why I'm making the changes. I just have to hope they mesh.

I've done 25 pages today. Had to completely change half of one chapter, and then very little for two and half chapters. I hope the two and half chapters are more representative going forward.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 9.

Made some progress today. A short scene with the coyote.

The real problem is--why would they do what the coyote says?  I've somehow got to make something more out of that, some reason that propels them on.

Other than that, most of the changes have just been dealing with the tone of the book. The emphasis of the relationships has to shift slightly, the attitudes. It's a pretty tricky thing to do. I've gone through about a third of the book in 10 days, right on schedule.

The tone of this book was very light. Which if fine, but not enough was at stake. But now that I've made the stakes higher, it's difficult to change the tone. I'm not really trying that hard. Setting the stakes, and then letting the lighter tone tell the story. I just have to hope it isn't too jarring.

The original tone was light and was meant to be light. No way to turn it "serious." It was inspired by Ready Player One, after all. So basically, it's going to be 50 pages of dark surrounded by 260 pages of light. 

As I told Linda when she tries to make sense of it; "I"m feeling my way."

It's not really Science-fiction, it's Metaphysical-Science fiction. (Not something most SF readers are fans of, I'm sure.)

I'm not sure it's better--but the point is, I tried to make it better. I took the time and the effort. I'm at a point where I want to be sure that I gave it my best effort.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 8

Two days of not writing. Maybe three days?

Minor turmoil overall in life, the kind that wouldn't have stopped me a few years ago but now throws me off my stride. A bit more finicky.

It appears that Sabrina wants Mondays back and I'm going to give it to her. I enjoyed working, but she needs the hours. Anyway, I can still come in and hang around; I just need to make sure I do that on a regular basis.

This is sort of a crux point in my book and I want to get it right. I believe--I hope--that after the next couple of chapters it's just a matter of adapting the rest of the book to the changes.

I'm going to push it a little harder than 10 pages a day because while that number lets me ruminate a lot, I tend to end up just ruminating and not writing. I probably need to be a bit more intensive over the next 3 weeks or so.

Wrote the new chapter. It didn't turn out the way I expected, but it did the job.

I can't tell if I'm completely screwing up this story by doing these changes or making it better. More complicated, that's for sure. I guess I'll have to see how it reads when I'm finished. 

Page 63 = talking coyote. Either I'm jumping the shark or making it interesting. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 7.

I've never done a book this way before.

I wrote a first draft that I thought was relatively solid, but decided that I needed to change some major things at the beginning. They were things that would affect the rest of the book but not so much that the basic plot couldn't be kept.

I decided to do the rewrite in a methodical way, 10 pages a day, no more, no less.

What I didn't foresee was giving myself that much time would also give me time to come up with new ideas. Most of these ideas are additions and embellishments. This is good in that I write sparsely and I have always felt that my stories could do with a few more complications.

I'm not trying to explain most of these complications logically but feeling my way. This story is SF in structure, but fantasy in explanation. Science fantasy, if you will. I originally thought that by thinking about it and researching it, I could put in a SF underpinning, but when it came time, I'm relying on my imagination even more than before.

Nevertheless, it has to be internally consistent, so that's what I'm striving for.

I'm not trying in my mind to nail down the structure but to do it intuitively. As in yesterday's thought that I needed something dramatic and major to happen, something that would "cleave" the book and set it off on a different course.

It so happened that I had a major character who I needed to do something with, and that killing him violently fit perfectly. (Writers are weird.) So I know I want this to happen, but I'm still sort of dimly envisioning how it happens. I know I want a break from current reality for the two major characters (Zach and Numera) which creates a stronger bond with each other because they're the only two to see it, and finally, I'd like to add a new companion along the way.

I don't know who that companion is--nor can the companion explain too much. But that can all be fixed by simple explanations. ("I am not allowed to interfere with your reality.) I'm trying to decide if it's a sprite that everyone else can see or everyone else sees it as something normal, when Zach and Numera see it as--I don't know, a fox, a dwarf, a robot--something extraordinary.

It's funny. I was thinking about some kind of little bird, flitting about their head and when one of the other characters asks, "How do you know that?" They answer, "A little bird told us." Nah.

So that's the feeling out part. I know basically the beats I want to insert, and vaguely what they entail, but not of the details. Giving myself all day, or even longer, to coax out those details is what I'm allowing myself this time around. At this rate, it will be months before this book is finished and that's all right.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite, Day 6.

My friend Wes visited yesterday and in the end I didn't really get any writing done.

But I did get some thinking done. The most important thing that hit me was that something big, something that cleaved the story like an axe, needed to happen next. Something big that carried forward.

I didn't know what it would be.

I also had a character who died in the middle of the book in the original chapter. I had him being sick and everyone getting all sad, but now I have a different character who motivates the story by disappearing, and since they are similar characters, I figured two of them was too much to quietly leave that story. At least that way.

But if something explosive happens, then it kind of motivates the story better. Slept on it and realized that's what I needed to do--take the character who dies a little later and have something drastic happen, and then have one of the visions of some kind tell the survivors that they needed to carry forward with the plan, that the answers would come that way.

This morning I woke up with the idea that something really big happens--like a robot protecting Que, following him around, and no one seems to thinks that's strange though in the world Que knew there weren't robots who could follow him around.

It's that kind of story. Heh.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Daily "Fateplay" rewrite journal, Day 5

I think the major structural changes are done. Now I just have to adapt the rest of the book to what I've changed. That will show up mostly in the interpersonal dialogue between the characters, but hopefully it won't be too hard.

Basically, the first 46 pages, or seven chapters, have been changed substantially. If I then jump to page 57 of the original draft, the story should continue unhindered. (So by reorganizing, I cut 10 pages even though I added a substantial amount of story.)

There was a lot of "wish fulfillment" in the first draft--the main protagonist won the lottery and is legendary as "Que"--to him being young man coming into his own. A completely different history if similar personality. That will be interesting.

When I changed Numera's response to him from friendly to unfriendly and skeptical, it turned out to be easy, so I'm hoping the same will hold true through the rest of the book. 

I had a chapter where Zach talks about the five people they have to approach, how he met each one. That has been removed and each of these vignettes will now be placed at the beginnings of the chapters where they meet in the present.

The only other major change is that I've introduced these "visions" and "delusions" and "dreams" that Zach keeps having, and I need to plop those in on a regular basis to keep that theme going until the explanation comes along toward the end of the book.

I decided I need to create some tension and jeopardy from the beginning, and so I added a little scene toward the start of the second chapter. 

To me, this process is proof--if I needed it--that I probably should do this to every book. And so far, I pretty much have, despite the temptation not to.

From the beginning, even back in the Star Axe days, it was my inclination to say, "good enough" and stop.

What I've been trying to do is thread that line between "good enough" and rewriting so much I turn the book into a word jumble where I don't feel a thing. Everyone who's done any kind of art project knows there's that moment where you need to leave it alone, where if you go farther you'll ruin it.