Sunday, February 1, 2015

Process

As the snow comes down sideways outside my window with the same sort of inevitability as an impending ice age, I wrap another chapter in the book.

This was one of those chapters I was dreading a little because on the outline it basically boiled down to "wrap up the action cliffhanger from the previous chapter and then have the main character talk to some guy for a bit." I had a few more things I wanted to cover, but the plan was disturbingly sparse.

It turned out quite a bit better than that, for various reasons. It let me fill in some back story of the setting, describe some interesting new locations and people. I fleshed out Steve, the mayor of the Rock, who showed up briefly in Spirals and Triangles. It also gave me a chance to push and prod Neah a bit, who's the focus of the book's subplot.

It was also just a lot of fun to write. There's at least three or four agendas at play in that chapter and writing around them was fairly entertaining.

One of the recurring phenomena I've noticed about my writing is that I always feel like I'm laying down complete and utterly aimless meandering bullshit, even on the days when I'm "on," so to speak. On off days, it's even worse. Let's not talk about those days. In fact, I'm avoiding eye contact with those days right now. I'll probably block them on Facebook in a bit.

I occasionally lose sight of the fact that I always feel like this, that I always have that sense I'm winging everything and filling out words just to fill the empty white space up with squiggly black marks.

And every morning, I come back to what I wrote the day before and I'm like "hey, that's not half bad."

You see, when I lay down a new chapter, I'm sketching out the flow of the story. There might be rough spots, yes, but I'm also layering in seeds. Sometimes just placeholders, sometimes stuff that, in retrospect, is pretty awesome.

Sometimes I do write something that's pretty rough and I'll have to smoke an entire paragraph or two and start from scratch, but usually I'm in the right ballpark.

I go back at some later point and flesh it out, tighten up, correct or see something I think is crap and I'm like, okay, that was all right, but I can make this better.

That's the beauty of writing, that godlike feeling of being able to dig your fingers into the weave and delete, adjust, shift, warp or create things until they mean something that's almost entirely new and unexpected, even to you, the author. That sense of dancing with your story before it's born and watching it grow into something surprising and strange and knowing it came from somewhere in your head.

At the rate of one chapter per week, this book's going pretty fast. I scheduled in fewer chapters in the outline than the last book--only twelve, in the theory that with my general tendency to rattle on too long, it would swell up to book length without much effort. So far, so good.

And damn, it's snowing hard. It's making me regret my decision, born of cosmic laziness, to not do this week's grocery shopping yesterday, even though I knew full well a blizzard was going to roll right over my lazy ass.

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