Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sunday Bulletin

Just a little housekeeping tonight. Wanted to let you guys know that I’ll be taking next week off from posting due to the holiday. I’ll probably write some during that time, but I’m planning on mostly using the time to review the work so far and make sure that it’s all consistent, free of holes, and caught up with my current vision for the project.

So, I’ll be back on Monday the 8th with some thoughts on all of that. Until then, I wish my American readers a safe and happy Fourth of July. Everyone else, please consider yourselves free to enjoy Thursday to the best of your abilities.

 

-Sean

Friday, 28 June 2013

New Pages. Fresh and Healthsome.

I’ve finally reached new content (and missed another Wednesday post, but, you know, thunder storms, tornados, and internet outages…the usual), and it’s gone well enough. A four page introductory Seb chapter. Nothing too major, but progress nonetheless. I’m going to have to do some catch-up research before I do any more, because—in the rush to outline and implement the new Seb story—I forgot to do any sort of checking on the different time zones that the character visits over the course of the story, or how they might line up with a lunar colony that has it’s clocks synced to UN headquarters in Geneva.

Writer problems, people. Writer problems!

So, you might have guessed from the way that this post is written that it’s late and I’m tired (I honestly don’t know how this will read when I’m fully awake, but at least it makes sense now…which probably doesn’t count for anything) so I’ll keep this short and refrain from further parenthetical passages. Or from using any more phrases like “parenthetical passages.” Word count has risen to 23,330 since Monday night, and the page count is now 81. I’m sure I had something that I wanted to talk about earlier today, but I got caught up with the writing and now it’s gone.

Oh well.

Good night.

 

-Sean

Monday, 24 June 2013

Creeping Up Slowly on New Content

It was a busy week at work, and I’m still wrapping up this short, so this weekend brought us on as far as sixty-five pages and 18,576 words. That’s okay, though. This gets us to the end of the chapter in the morgue where things start to get real…So I’m fine with taking my time on it.

I’ve still got a little ways to go before I get to the first Seb chapter and new content, but not too far. I’m thinking that at this rate I’ll get there by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. That’s kind of an exciting thought, but—given what I talked about a few posts ago with the synchronization between new and old attempts—I am expecting a bit of a decline in daily output, maybe. Hopefully nothing major. I just wouldn’t be surprised is all.

Feel a little better after Friday’s post. Sometimes, when you’ve got something weighing down on you and you know there’s no real reason for it, it just helps to talk it out with yourself on paper rather than in your head. Sometimes it’s the only way to get yourself to listen.

 

-Sean

Friday, 21 June 2013

On How Much is Too Much

You guys remember escalation, right? The raising of narrative or personal stakes in a story for the sake of dramatic intensity and reader investment? Also makes for a killer speech when you hand it over to Gary Oldman in your Batman movie? Great device. Incredibly important, especially in a longer work. Vital.

Yeah. You guys remember.

So, I've been thinking about it lately. I'm about sixty-one pages into this novel so far—17,378 words—and I've been raising the stakes a lot so far. The introduction of the death. The fact that it took place on the moon. The fact that it's the very first murder in space. Sydney's anxieties over the fact that it happened under her watch. The station lockdown. The possibility of a cover-up. It's a lot of goddamned plot, and I'm just hitting the end of the first act.

It begs the question of how much is too much.

Technically speaking, you only need three instances of escalation in a traditional three-act story: The initial instance comes at the beginning and disrupts the status quo of the characters' world. The second comes at the end of the first act, offering an event or revelation which signifies that there is no turning back. The third comes at the end of the second act (leading into the climax and resolution of the third), and represents that things have become so untenable that the heroes must bring about some form of resolution.

That's pretty basic storytelling stuff. Especially if you've got even a passing familiarity with screenwriting. It's the bare minimum, and most stories will move well beyond it without any real measure of difficulty. What I've got going so far is the strategic raising of stakes occurring at least once per chapter. Right now it seems fine, but what about ten chapters from now? At what point does it cease to be dramatic, and become merely silly? When does it get exhausting? When does reader fatigue begin to set in?

I comfort myself at this early date by acknowledging that I'm still effectively in the first act. That I'm still laying groundwork, as it were. Jeez—I still haven't gotten around to introducing one of my viewpoint characters, and wont yet for another thousand words or more. I can afford to lay out a bunch of stuff right now, because it will determine how my characters interpret what is to come, and then proceed. As I move further in, though, I know that I'll have to be careful.

Some books can thrive on constant escalation, barreling along from beginning to end like the final act of a Mel Brooks film. These books are hugely calculated. Carefully controlled chaos. They thrive on it, but are often somewhat farcical in nature. I'm not sure that this book has it in itself to be like that. I'm not sure that I have it in myself to make it that way.

These are the kinds of things that you're always working to balance in writing. These equilibriums between order and chaos, exposition and pacing, clarity and abstraction...They need to be kept in check as you guide the book from nothingness to completion. They are among the many, many things that can mean the difference between failure and success. They deserve to be considered and respected.

A lot of my current flailing over this is unfounded, I suspect. I'm still early in the writing process. The path is still laid out in front of me—long and winding and rife with pitfalls and opportunity. I understand that I have a lot of stuff in the works that I'll need to be concerned about at a later date, and that there is no real point in stressing about this now. I think, though, that it is because I have a long way to go that I should be a little wary. The path can be hard to see at any point in it's course, but never more so than in the beginning when you do not truly know where it leads.

So, for now, I go careful. I go slow. And I stay alive.

There are wolves out there.

 

-Sean

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Working Through Some Stuff

Sorry guys. All of these storm fronts rolling through the area are wreaking havoc on my internet connection. It’s got things going out late like crazy.


Let’s get right to it, shall we? We’re up to 46 pages as of today, with 13,223 words. We’re up through the crime scene investigation now. I’ve also made good progress on the sort story I started on Monday. Good times. Moving on…

Doing double-duty on the fiction as I have I don’t really have anything specific to the day’s writing that I want to talk about, but I’ve been thinking about escalation lately and I’m working on a bit about stakes and escalation. I’ve talked about that a little in the past, but some things bear repeating. And extrapolation. And repeating. (Har. Har. I’m hilarious.)

See you folks on Friday.

 

-Sean

Monday, 17 June 2013

Points of Comparison

We’re up through Chapter Three now, and it will probably become Chapter Four or Chapter Five at a later point because I’ve decided that I can’t really do the long chapters at this point. It got to a point where I felt like it was really messing with my pacing. Just didn’t like it. The earlier sections will get broken down, probably tomorrow, to keep the whole book more in form.

This brings us to 10,422 words and 36 pages so far (That’s as of Sunday, anyway. I took today off because a short story crept into my head this morning, and I wanted to nail it down before it got the chance to run away.). So far, this attempt at finishing the book is moving along a hell of a lot more quickly than either of the previous two. It’s pretty cool. I like it.

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about today. I’m writing a book that I’ve started twice previously. The story is still the same, but I’ve started fresh each time. So far, I haven’t gotten around to writing anything yet that’s actually new. It’s all ground that I’ve covered at least once in the past six months.

I’ve never really been here before. In the past, when I’ve restarted a project, it’s because I lost a file or a notebook, or because I was returning to an idea that I had abandoned years before. I’ve never just looked at the work, decided that I didn’t like it, and then immediately whitewash over it and try again. I still have those earlier partial drafts, too. So today I got curious and went back and looked at what’s there versus what I’ve written recently.

It was kind of surprising—and probably only partially because I’ve never done it before. You hear about writers having a certain style. They write A kind of story in B kind of way, with C,D, & E kinds of characters. A Stephen King book, for example, reads like a Stephen King book. It’s pretty basic stuff. Most everyone develops a house style of writing after they’ve worked at it long enough. It’s not something that you think about, it just kind of happens.

I’m not a hundred percent sure that it’s what has happened with me on this book. It could also be the sheer chronological proximity of the drafts. But…Guys…Considering that this is the first time I’ve looked at the other drafts since I redeveloped the novel last month, there are a lot, lot, lot of correlating passages. Certain details and phrases and descriptive passages that play out the same way at the same points in the text ever time. Shit. There’s a full page in Chapter Two that—with the exception of a couple of choice words and punctuation choices—could have just been Copy/Pasted from the old document.

It freaks me out a little bit.

It’s also sort of fascinating. I’d love to experiment with it some when I’ve got the time. Re-write last year’s NaNoWriMo novel from scratch. Or the short story that got me into grad school. See how they come out. I don’t often think about the things that I’m writing as I’m writing them, at least not in a fully conscious kind of way. It’s rare for me to have forgotten where I left off when I start the day’s writing, but I’ll be damned if I remember the specific words five minutes after I wrote them. What I’m seeing here speaks of a more subconscious sort of retention though.

Maybe I’ll do a little research in my free time…

 

-Sean

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Back Again, But Not For Long.

Sorry for the unexplained posting gap, folks. Things have been more than a little crazy, and I haven’t had a chance to write in a couple of days. I’m very sad to say that I simply have nothing to report.

See you guys on Monday.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Day’s End

8,205 words. 29 pages. Chapter Two is coming along nicely, and Sydney is still quite a lot of fun to write. It’s been a very, very long day, though. And I’m rather tired now. So I think I’ll try to read for a little while (The new James S.A. Corey novel: Abaddon’s Gate. It’s pretty great so far.) and call it a day.

Sorry, folks. That’s all I’ve got for you. Hopefully I’ll be able to put together something more substantive for Friday.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Power Struggle

So, you may notice that this post is late. Like, a full twenty-four hours late. I’m not enthusiastic about it—the lateness—but there’s not a whole lot that you can do when a storm front kills your internet connection, and then your power, and then your patience, and then your internet connection again. This is the first chance I’ve had to get a post written and live since early yesterday morning.

In short: Wacky fun!

Enough with the excuses, though. Let’s talk writing. At least for a little while. Chapter One is complete, bringing the manuscript to 24 pages and 6,731 words. Which is a nice, seriously sexy bump since Friday. Now I get to turn around and start the first Sydney chapter tomorrow, which I’m rather excited about because I always thought that she was fun to write. All the same: Probably won’t get a whole lot done tomorrow, so don’t expect a lengthy or impressive post.

It feels kind of weird, writing a chapter that’s so long. I usually prefer short, snappy chapters that cap out at eight pages and end on a cliffhanger or heavy emotional note. Single scenes that advance the narrative in a strong way. Doing something longer seems really strange, even with periodic scene breaks (Chapter One has four), and I’ve been toying with the idea of treating each chapter like a short story as I proceed. That might make things a little more familiar for me, but I’ll need to consider the logistics of that much more thoroughly before I go ahead with it. It would probably require a little bit of rejiggering with the outline.

Or I could just, you know, write shorter chapters. But whatever, right?

 

-Sean

Friday, 7 June 2013

Forgot About This…

So, I got so wound up in writing my post earlier that I forgot to include the Friday statistics. As of right now, the master document sits at:

2,456 words. 9 pages.

Technically speaking, I’m done with what I was referring to on Wednesday as Chapter One. Since I’m breaking the book up into multiple story-lines with their own POV characters, though, I think I’m going to be combining any plotted chapters that occur consecutively within each story into one chapter with multiple section breaks. That way, there’s less strain in figuring out which plot-line you’re reading at any given time.

Which is not to say that I don’t think you guys could handle figuring out who your POV character is on a moment-to-moment basis. I’m sure you’re all smart enough for that.

Man, I don’t know. We’ll see what I decide to do with it down the line…

 

-Sean

On Starting Over

This is a hard thing to do. It's hard to discard hours and days and weeks of work and start at the same story fresh—even when you know that what came before isn't any good.

It's hard to turn your back on a hundred pages of material and then dedicate yourself to turning right around and starting fresh with the same story. The draw to dig through that old document and cherry-pick passages is incredible, and—sometimes—extremely hard to say no to. You've written all of that other stuff, and surely some of it has to be worthwhile. Maybe it even is. You're familiar with the old manuscript, after all. You know where the good bits are hidden. Maybe you can just go back and...

...Yeah. Not the healthiest way of looking at things, I know. Before you know it, you haven't started over at all.

There's a saying that you have to write a million words of shit before you're ready to start producing real, publishable work. That you have to be willing to dispose of the old, crappy things, and learn from them in preparation of the better work to come. I don't know if that's true for everyone. A million words seems awfully arbitrary, if you ask me. It stinks of the same, terrible hyperbole that plague most of the sayings about writing. I believe in the sentiment, though.

And I don't believe in turning back.

So, when I tell you that I've written X-number of words and Y-number of pages on any given day, I want you to understand that they are fresh words and fresh pages. The plot points may be the same, but the day-to-day work is all new. That old manuscript has been scoured for details relevant to the Outline and the Character Key, and now it's pretty much dead to me.

You might wonder why I would do something like that. Surely, I'm limiting myself in some way. Surely I'm costing myself valuable time by rewriting scenes that I have perfectly serviceable versions of already. Why wouldn't I just go ahead and keep a new document full of bits and pieces on hand so that they can be plugged in at a later date?

Well, yeah. That seems to make sense. One of the first things that I ever learned as a writer, though, was that you often can't write towards a specific passage or line. Especially if it's something that sits in the back half of the book.

This can be torturous at times. Oh god, trust me: It can be torturous. You're writing the first chapter, and suddenly you come up with the perfect piece of sniping banter for the hero and the villain to throw at one-another during the novel's climax. You want to write it down, because you're certain that if you can just get there and slot those words into place, the entire book will click and everyone will love it. And, yeah, sometimes you get there and you write the scene and the banter and it's just fine. Hooray, you.

Most of the time though, if you let it, getting to that piece of banter becomes your ultimate objective—more-so than finishing the book. You start to write for that exchange rather than for the story. You write an entire novel or short story, not because you had a plot and characters and execution that were worthwhile...But because you came up with a final sentence that was clever.

Hell. It probably wasn't even that clever. You were writing and it was day one. It was probably late. You were probably tired. You were probably wearing a bathrobe. You were probably drunk; on whiskey or creative power or both, take your pick.

Congratulations. Now you've probably ruined your book. Again: Hooray, you.

Okay, okay. I'm sorry. That's an extreme example. I've seen good stories ruined this way, though. I've seen other writers do it, and—more than once—I've done it myself. And that's why I'm not going to be cherry-picking passages from the old manuscript. I wanted a fresh start on this, and—god help me—I'm going to get one. I'm going to get as many as I need until I get this thing right.

Ain't like it's costing me a thing.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Where We Stand

I don’t have a whole lot to say tonight. Partly I’ve spent today dealing with some truly dreadful weather, and it hasn’t been conducive to writing. Mostly, though, I want to spend a little bit more time on a more substantial post for Friday…So I guess I’ll keep this short.

Writing has begun again, in case you hadn’t heard. (It’s okay if you hadn’t. Really.) I’m currently five pages into the new manuscript, and 1,246 words. I’ve finished a brand new prologue and have jumped straight into Chapter One with all good expectations to wrap it up tomorrow. It’s good. It’s exciting. The opening to Chapter One drags a little bit, but so far I like it.

So far, this is mostly ground that I’ve covered in the past. I’ll talk more about it on Friday, but I’m really trying to come at this fresh and avoid copy/pasting parts of the old manuscript into this one. So far, I’ve kept myself to that and I’m happy with it.

Exhausted now. Back with more later.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Writing Begins! (Again!)

(Note: This post was intended to be up earlier, but local weather caused unexpected internet outages.)

I’ve started writing the novel again, which is exciting. I probably won’t get much done on it this evening, but—for the time being—it’s ticking along nicely.

I’ll be back to talk about it tomorrow, but I wanted to take this chance to describe what I’m going to be doing with the upcoming writing posts:

  • I’m not going to be holding myself to any specific daily word-counts this time, because that way lies madness and not getting anything properly done. I will, though, be providing a current word and page-count with every post.
  • There will be little excerpts every once in a while. Nothing major. Just tastes whenever it occurs to me.
  • The writing. Mostly I’ll be talking about the writing. This is, after all, a writing blog. I know that I can sometimes forget to talk about the more technical aspects in these posts, but I’d like to focus on that a little more in the future.
  • Other things?

Okay. You're informed now. Back to work!

 

-Sean

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Little Extra Work

So, today ended up being a fairly long catch-up day with errands and personal stuff after a long working weekend. As such, I didn’t have enough minutes all piled up next to one another that I could sit down and really start to write. It’s frustrating, but I think it’s for the best.

What I did instead (and why I think that it’s for the best) is use those spare minutes to do some thinking about the novel. I spent my time at the grocery store considering the motivations of my various villains, and came up with some ways to add a little more nuance to everyone’s actions and motivations. This led to a bit of a restructuring of my outline, which required an edit on that…Though I had also intended to transcribe the whole thing into a properly chronological series of events (the previous, hand-written version was divided into the individual story-arcs and had notes as to where the three intersected and occurred congruently) that I could print out and hang up.

I also compiled an early list of characters. The twenty named, pre-established characters who I know will appear in the impending first draft in some capacity. Some of these characters come from the initial character posts that I made back in January, but some are figures who were later written into the first attempt at the book. Others still are new creations just for this draft. Having the list—and it really is just a list of names and relevant/noteworthy physical features—will be of tremendous help in keeping the characters straight; especially now that the scope of the novel has changed.

I’ll be printing those, the character key and the outline, tomorrow morning as I get ready to really go to town on this thing.

I do still have one decision to make, though, and it’s an odd one. I abandoned the genre-hallmark first-person narration early in the first attempt at the novel; partly because I was adding Sydney Bessette as a view-point character, but mostly because Dow’s voice had become so inconsistent so early on. I’m considering bringing it back for this version and just heading each chapter with the view-point character’s name, George R.R. Martin style. I’m concerned that this might be jarring in the first-person, though, and am not sure if I want to experiment with it.

Guess I’ll have to sleep on it, and see what comes out of my head when I sit down to work in the morning…

Oh. Also: I think I may have come up with a new, better title for the novel. But I want to spend a few days with it and see if it still seems right before I trot it out.

That’s all for today.

 

-Sean