Fun fact: The Pulitzer Prize winning play Doubt—upon which the film of the same name was based—was written by John Patrick Shanley, who was also responsible for the screenplay behind the dreadful Michael Crichton adaptation, Congo. He was also the writer on the children's’…film…We’re Back! A Dinosaurs Story. As a result, I’ve never known whether or not to respect the man or view him as an object lesson in not knowing when to get up and walk away from a project.
Today, I’ve reached the point where I would normally get up and walk away from this book. Despite any optimism that I’ve been expressing here…Despite any insistence that I’ve had that I’ll fix the book’s problems in the edit…I’ve got some serious goddamned reservations about this thing.
It doesn’t feel right. Somewhere along the line, I’ve added all of these different plot threads and narrators on different planets and across disparate time-zones, and I’ve ended up with this overcomplicated mess of a plot that’s so full of holes that nearly a third of my writing this month has been personal notations on what to fix or add later. And, upon review, I can’t help but notice that there are very few ideas there about how to fix the problems.
This happens sometimes. A book just gets bloated and overcomplicated. I sometimes wonder if I’m more familiar with it than some other writers because I started doing this young, and had a general philosophy of throwing every idea at the page and seeing what stuck. I thought I had outgrown that, or at least dodged it on account of all of the planning that I had done…But here I am again, sitting at a computer and looking at a manuscript that seems fit for little more than salvage. Doing mental calculations like a butcher: “What characters can I take to use later? What set-pieces can I chop off and slide into that other story that still needs something? Can I grind the plot for backstory sausage on some other book?”
The little voice at the back of my head that hates work and loves videogames keeps telling me to go for it. “Kill your darlings and all that,” it says. “Oh, are you going to cry over this book? Give up and replay The Last of Us instead. Cry over something that’s actually well written and has characters worth caring about, you bitch.”
And, for what it’s worth, I keep telling that voice that he’s a dick and that I’ll replay The Last of Us when I’m good and ready and not so emotionally compromised from last time.
Because—bottom line—I don’t want to give up on this book. I want to finish it and publish it, because I know that there’s a good book here somewhere. I just…Lost sight of it somewhere in the last few months. And I made a promise to all of you, and to myself, that I would put out the best book I could at the end of this thing. Also, if I’m not mistaken, I also promised you that I would get sloppy at some point and turn into a train wreck of self-loathing.
Welcome to that, by the way. Again.
So. Yeah. I’m going to keep going here. And I’m going to run a few experiments over the next couple of days to see if I can’t find something that works better for me. Something that will turn this mess back into the trim, cynical piece of hardboiled sci-fi that I wanted it to be. I’ll keep posting as I work, of course, and keep you up to date on any changes. And I’ll hopefully be able to pull of a massive train dodge and be able to strip the existing manuscript for parts rather than start from scratch.
Fun stuff, right?