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Perfectionists Ate My Baby

I’m stuck. Yes, again.  I think in some ways the first draft of this novel has broken me.  It is such a mess (hence the total rewrite instead of just editing) that I’m terrified to let the second draft be anything less than perfect.  So I agonize over every word, every concept, until builds into a huge pile of stagnated nothing.

I think I know where I want to go from here. I think I see how to start doing it.  But I can see the little problems that will crop up later, the complications of plot and character that I’m not sure how to write myself free from.  I’m suffering from a desire to get it right the first time, amusingly enough because I didn’t get it right the first time.  I don’t know if I have another total rewrite in me.  I don’t know if I love this story that much.  I feel I owe my first novel a better chance at life than just that one messy draft.  I’m terrified that it will come out just as ugly and misshapen, another monstrosity to expose on the hillside as I tell myself “oh, there there, you’ll have more children.”  What if they are all monsters?

So, I’m stuck.  What’s my plan of attack?

To write.

As they say: here goes nothing.

Thoughts on Rewriting

I’m one chapter into the rewrite of my first novel.  I’m glad I decided to start anew rather than continue trying to fix what came before.  I doubt I’ll use much of the old material beyond the plot, characters, and some ideas.  There are particular challenges, however.  In rewriting I’m essentially constructing another novel from scratch.  This means I have to do most of the work over again.  It would be very easy to overwhelm myself with the concept of “Too Much Work.”

To combat this, I’ve decided on the major large changes and then have narrowed my focus.  I outlined with the major changes.  For this rewrite, however, I’m mainly working on getting the characters motivated.  Looking at the first draft I don’t really feel connected to anyone in the novel.  I feel like I could, maybe, like a couple of the characters, but they aren’t quite there yet for me.  They feel flat.   This is not acceptable.  I read novels 70-80% for the people in them.  I want to write novels that have the same draw.

To do this, I’m plunging in and going (perhaps) a bit overboard.  I’ve done a lot of hand written background brainstorming for everyone.  I’ve made RPG character profiles for a couple of them.  I’ve given them disorders, quirks, interests.  Essentially, I’ve thrown the kitchen sink of character building at my people.  I was in the bath when I realized that I needed to do this.  Before a day or two ago, they weren’t talking to me.  I couldn’t really see the characters as more than wooden dolls in a nice set I’d created.  I don’t want to play with dolls (dolls are creepy. Seriously creepy).

With this focus, now I can continue the rewrite.  Plot and setting can be tweaked.  If I can manage a few compelling, interesting, dare I say memorable characters, the rest can follow.  The rest will follow.

Here’s a list of the changes between drafts one and two.  (In no particular order).

The Dude is now named Ryg.  He’s also agoraphobic and OCD.

Sif talks less.  In fact, she pretty much only talks to Hex.  She’s also far more psychotic and less moral than before.

Sif and Hex are already in a relationship.

Hex is not the jealous type anymore.  He’s now the type to hide his insecurities with sarcasm.  He’s also more accepting of Sif and her issues.

Kadin is a more major character who contributes to a twist.

The setting is quite a bit different.  There are no cars now, just small electric vehicles  and personal transportation.  Stuff is transported on the electric rail system under the city or via carts hooked to the personal vehicles.  I’ve refined and altered the food system as well as government.  The city only has one main street now, the whole thing is a spiral.  The districts are more defined (and in fact can be closed off from each other if necessary).  The setting is much more complex, but also I hope more unique and interesting.  Since I’m focusing on character, not setting as much, I will definitely have to flesh some things out later I think.  That’s what the next bit of editing is for.

The plot is essentially the same, but with some more challenges and complexities tossed in.  I’ve removed the secret society and am working on making everyone motivated due to character desires rather than using the GM Stick.

On another note: sometimes I think I definitely bit off more than I really should have for this first novel.  I’m writing what boils down to a Political Cyberpunk Adventure/Thriller with medical and fantastical elements.  Couldn’t I have just started out with a nice straightforward quest fantasy or something?  It feels like learning to walk by running a marathon.

Premier of Short Story Monday!

Short Story Monday Begins!  I’ll try, for the sake of organization, to keep these Monday posts at least similar in appearance.

Story Title:  Space Bones

Word Count: 4158

Plot Summary: While being escorted to her Court Martial, a Captain and her escort encounter something wondrous in hyperspace.

Time to write first draft: About 4.5 hours.

Other Comments:  This story is actually in two parts because I got to what felt like one ending and wanted to continue from there just to see how it worked.  So the first part is 3332 words and the second is 826 or there abouts.  When I sat down to write in the wee hours, I had nothing but the title.  I liked the title, however.  I started and got about a paragraph into one story and realized it wasn’t the Space Bones story.  So I cut and saved it to a note file for later and started over again.   After working so much on my novel, which is third person omniscient, I really wanted to write something in first person.   I find first person much easier to sustain than third, so it’s sort of like taking a big old brain break.

I used The Rough Guide to the Universe by John Scalzi to generate some places and names and ran with it from there.  The story is a rough sketch, sort of like the bones referenced.  I like that about it.  We’ll see what my unfortunate readers think.  Because, oh yes, I’ve created a nice little list and I’m going to mail these Monday stories to my dear friends.  Don’t pity them too much. They can opt out, I won’t hate them for more than a year or six. Truly.

Now, back to breaking my brains on Casimir Hypogean.

24 Hours Sleepless and Counting

Insanity tastes like…  Everything said here might be a giant lie someday.   We’ll see.

I’ve been thinking about practice.  I read a quote by someone (or someone quoted it to me? I can’t quite recall) that referred to art, but I’m going to appropriate the meaning for writing.  Basically the gist was that if you want to be good at drawing, draw something 1000 times and you’ll excel.  I think the idea has merit, which is good because it is essentially the idea behind the Ten Novels in Ten Years project of mine.  If I do it ten times (and really, with all the rewrites, drafts etc… it will be triple that at least), I might get halfway decent at this whole writing thing.

So I’m going to extrapolate this concept out even further.  I’ve decided that since I now have the time, and certainly the ideas, I want to write one short story a week.  I accept they won’t be good.  That’s fine.  Some will likely be variations on a theme in nature.  Who cares?  I can sort through later and revise the ones I like, steal from the ones that have promise, and murder the ones that should never see Others‘ eyes.  So from now on, Monday is Short Story Day.  Each Monday for at least the next year, I plan to write a short story.  My only rule for myself is that it has to be at least 2000 words (about 6-7 pages double spaced depending on dialogue etc…).

So begins Doom, part 2.

Now, I go sleep. Maybe.

Novel is creeping along.  I think aiming for ten solid pages a week is good enough. Yeah.

Tidbit of a Beginning

So… I started the rewrite.

I’m calling it Casimir Hypogean until further notice.

And now, for your enjoyment, here are the first few lines:

“…. Mist, pervasive and cloying, settled in between the tall buildings of Casimir’s spiral streets. The fog dimmed the bright advertisements pasted on screens, blurred the shining lamps and ever searching eyes of the security drones. On the far outskirts of the shell, beneath the conical towers of the aeroponic gardens, two shadows were up to no good.  ….”

(Now, to get things going properly, because I got two pages into the first chapter and realized it would work better as the second chapter.  So I restarted the first chapter.  I like it okay so far.)

Note To Self

Self,

I give you permission to screw up this draft.  I give you permission to write 100,000 words and realize that in the end product you will wind up using only 10.

Self, you also have permission to hate the first few pages.  Or even the first few chapters.  I will understand that sometimes it takes time to get warmed up, time to sink into a world entirely of our own creation.  I give you permission to stumble in your first steps as long as you are able to dust off your skinned sentences, your twisted phrasing, and keep going.  Keep going, Self.

The fact that if you fail entirely, no one will ever see this is not a curse.  This is a gift.  Right now you possess the complete freedom of having nothing to lose.  Self, you have permission to lose the battles you must in order to win your wars.  Today there are no deadlines, no dark clouds, no bad grades.

Scream. Pound your fists on the keyboard.  Break pencils.  Break rules of grammar.  Break the English language if it helps you feel better.  If it keeps you going.  (Caveat: please try not to break the computer…).

Use bribery without shame.

You have my permission to fail, Self.  Use it. Fail it.

Fail epically.

Just, you know, write the damn draft first.

Thank you for your consideration,

Nobu

Into the Dark

All right.  The (final, maybe? hopefully?) outline of Dangerous is done.  I’ve tweaked it as much as I can without actually starting to write the damn thing.  Writing begins tomorrow.  I’m terrified.  However, I can already see the shape of things to come.  Even the outline has more tension and peril than the rough draft.  I’ve removed extraneous plot bits and jammed it full of character conflict.  Will it be enough to make a story I like out of this mess?  No way to tell except to write and see what happens.

By my calculations I need to write about 6 pages a day to have the novel done by the time classes start.  I’d like to have a draft I can hand to people by then.  I’m not sure how feasible having a manuscript worthy of trying to sell by December is at this point, but I’ve got nothing to lose in trying to get it done.  Hopefully if my readers can get me comments within a month (and if the novel isn’t totally broken again), I can power through some mad editing and get a semblance of a decent book ready for queries.  It’s bad that I still don’t have any idea how I’d sum up the plot in a couple sentences, isn’t it?  Oh well, maybe by end of this draft I’ll have that nailed.  And a decent title.  Because “Dangerous” is a stupid title.  I suppose I could call it “Casimir” (the name of the city it takes place in) or some variation on that.  “Casimir Conflict”?  “Casimir Hypogean”?  I don’t know.  Any ideas?

I’m aiming for 18 pages this week, then 30 each week after.  And I’m taking weekends off, damnit. I will not burn out.  This is do or die time now.  It’s unlikely I’m ever going to have as much free time ever again as I do now.  Plus it will give me a decent feel for how well this whole writing for a living thing might work someday if I’m fortunate (and persistent) enough to be able to do it full time.

Shameless Pimping

I started a cafe press shop based on my travels and photography. There will also be a poetry chapbook up there soon. There are magnets, greeting cards, mugs, notebooks, and other neat gift or decorative ideas. Each features a photograph from one of my travels, everywhere from Venice to Bruges to Ireland.

Please check it out. All proceeds will go towards defraying the costs of graduate school.

http://www.cafepress.com/nobuart

Lie To Me

Tell me it gets easier after the first one. Tell me that after the months of uphill slogging, the view will be spectacular and that it is all downhill from here.

I’m working my way through the 4th outline of Dangerous. I’m going to change some basic elements of the story. I’ve been reading a great deal now that I’m free and lately one common element of books bugs me. I  get a little annoyed at a story when there is a secret power or society or special character who knows a great deal and pulls the strings behind the scenes too much. It can be done well, but is done so often that it stands out to me as a glaring conceit. Wrapping everything up neatly due to someone coming in and waving some sort of magic wand is too nice, too tidy.  Human situations rarely resolve tidily.

I’m guilty of this. In my first draft there is a secret society that seems to only exist to wrap things up easily and provide loose and convenient motivation for the characters to be together. It reads more like a one shot RPG session than a tightly plotted story. The first couple of outline rewrites moved the society first into a more prominent role with more of a back story, and then the latest has them more understated. The new rewrite? Well, I’m going to get them out of the story entirely. Instead I plan to make some of the characters actually a part of their own group, doing exactly what the idea was for the secret group, only now with a lot more at stake because they’re really more like a sleeper cell of societal activists than just a few criminals who got hired by the right (wrong?) people. This is going to require a lot of intricate introduction and plotting.

I’m starting to both hate and love this novel. I feel like this rewrite will make it something real, a creature I’m proud to have given form instead of a misshapen foundling. I’m not sure how feasible my goal of having a draft down by the end of September really is, however. I’m not only revamping the plot, I’m changing how the city works, how people get around, what they eat, everything. It’s going to barely resemble draft 1. Which is terrifying.

It’s like the first time you run a whole mile. You feel wonderful. Then you realize that you “ran” that mile at a pace most people walk it. Not only that, but you are sore and tired now. And you still have to get up and run it again. And again.

I don’t want to believe that. I want lies. Filthy wonderful lies. I want to write a novel and have that be the end of things, not the beginning. I wrote this, here, take it. I want to run a 3 minute mile without any training. Without pain.

Well, maybe not. But, I’d like to believe in the possibility of it.

Which is probably why I’m a writer and not a runner.

Into the Scary

My other job is over now.  Starting this week, I’m a full time writer.   Hopefully I’ll even get paid for it someday.  It is a little terrifying to be launching into trying to write for a living without having anything ready to sell, but the timing worked out this way what with graduate school, my (ex)job having some serious issues.

First up is tackling the rewrite of Dangerous (I really need a better title for this novel).  I’m aiming for writing or writing related things being worked on for about 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I’d like to have the second rough draft done by the time school starts at the end of September.