Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Update The First


No, not the kind with flux capacitors and brushed-steel pseudo-sports cars. Nor the kind involving exotic matter and strange mathematical formulae and hyper-geometries dreamt up by mad Harvard physicists. Or even the variety involving downing six-packs of Natty Light on a Saturday evening and then randomly deciding to toss back tequila shots at three in the morning with your asshole roommate. Whose bathroom is this and why am I wearing a ballerina outfit?

No, I just lost two hours rejiggering the plot of my novel. Wrote down some initial notes, looked up: BLAM, two hours gone in the blink of an eye.

I'm planning on making yet another pass at the outline this coming week before I start digging in for reals: it all still seems somewhat partly-baked, but I think it's going to be worth the polishing. I've ripped everything apart, put it all back together. I've killed the babies, demoted characters who got too major back to the minor league, declared goals and put in way points. Spotted some connections which should be lamp-shaded, ripped some things out which had no business being in this book.

There were plot elements that I felt, as I was writing them, that I was forcing, that didn't quite feel like they belonged. Now I know why.

I now have a much better idea where everything is going and it's going to be really fucking cool.

I went at it keeping the following things in mind:

I'm writing for a fairly strict 3 Act structure. 1/4, 1/2, 1/4 chapter splits. Yes, it seems limiting to spell it out like that. Yes, the final result may vary a bit. Adhering to a structure, however, is good for creativity, paradoxically-speaking. You can travel without a map, but who knows where you'll wind up?

I don't put in a chapter that I don't feel excited about writing.  If I'm not excited writing it, who the hell would be excited to read it? If I have a space which needs a chapter and I absolutely can't slash it out, I resort to the next point:

Bring The Weird.  Summarizing chapters in single sentence format really makes it easier to think of things in the abstract. You get less bogged down in specifics. In this case, I kept pushing myself to rephrase events in less obvious ways.

Sometimes it makes more sense to go with visceral nonsensical imagery. Write down strange things which don't make immediate sense: Claire Becomes A Delicate Flower. What the hell does that mean? I have no idea. I haven't written it yet. Oftentimes you come back to what you wrote and you realize that whatever garbage was brewing in your subconscious makes more sense in the long run than your first initial from-the-gut common-sensical approach.

Or you look at the weird-ass notes you put down as you get to that section and you're like, hah, that's hilarious, but it makes me think of this...which is WAY COOLER. And maybe it is.

The main difficulty I think I'm going to have when I start writing--other than losing steam--as the project wears on, is keeping a balance between the wide view and the narrow. Having this broad outline is going to help quite a bit, I think. I really don't pants long-form prose very well. On the other hand, I'm trying very, very hard not to get too specific either because I want to maintain that element of surprise as I write: my first and foremost audience is myself.

Onward and downward.  Next update: Tuesday.

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