Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dreams are also come

Monday afternoon saw my finishing the edits on the latest novel. About a thousand words shy of 90k. I had been keeping a guesstimation of about how many words it would be and was happy to have undershot it. The first novel I ever completed was 55k, and every other book in the series after was 60k. At the time, I thought that was my average, or rather, my limit. I had seen submission guidelines asking for numbers as high as 120k and thought to myself back then that I would be unlikely to reach that. I had other curious thoughts, too, that somehow the word count also determined worthiness, substance, pedigree. This wasn't the first time I've written that many words in one piece, but I'm not hoping for anything. I'm just hoping that it all makes sense, that it's compelling, that at the end of each the reader feels fed, but also wants another helping.

Despite the difference in word count, the pace feels about the same. When I write 3rd person, it's 3rd person limited. I like the camera to sit on a given character's shoulder and everything kind of filter through their senses. Because of that, the novel introduces the various perspectives in the beginning, then moves into the middle part after establishing the central conflict, what various characters desire and hope to prevent, and complications arise as these wants overlap and conflict. Then the resolution is a massive narrative melee. It goes a little quick. I think this is a symptom of how I follow my characters, not very sure myself of where exactly they're going, but once the finish line is in sight, everyone starts sprinting and I'm just trying to keep up. I spend a good amount of time with my premises and characters and the novels always start very tentatively. A few chapters in and I have more confidence about what it is, and what it's about. The middle goes at medium speed comparatively, so I guess the whole thing just accelerates over time. Given no outside complication or distraction. I started sketching this idea early winter 2016. I took a hiatus because of those aforementioned setbacks, but I worked on it most of this year. I'm not sure I could've conceived then what it is now. I think I'm happy with that.

I had the usual imaginary production meeting in my shower yesterday of the book's film adaptation. I thought about what I would say to actors, if allowed, probably overstepping. I thought about interacting with costume designers and set designers. I thought about casting. In some cases the characters have a very specific idea going in; I had an anchor when I dreamed them up. In other cases, I think I would be very interested in back and forth with another creative professional about what they thought, how they saw it. I dried myself assuming that everyone would be agreeable enough to my face but discuss among themselves how I was some kind of ogre.

The last step will be throwing down some breadcrumb notes when I come back around to writing the continuation. I don't know if that's a skill I've worked on beyond of all the practice, but I'm very glad that when I come back to them, the notes generally make sense. Knock on wood. There are times when I come to them and some of it reads like gibberish, but for the most part, the last bit of energy I have for a project is in a kind of "okay this is what happens next, broad strokes" spirit. It's a little odd in this case because it was my objective, when I started, to write one book, no sequels. I had an arc in mind, a beginning, middle, and end and that was it. So maybe I failed at that.

After that though, I will be spending the rest of the month in unknown territory. It kind of fits. Maybe because when I wake in the morning, it's dark out of my window, and when I go to bed at night it is equally pitch black. The entire day feels like night, that I'm fumbling around unable to see. And so, the first act of the play, and the whole of the children's story. Both things I've fallen on my face over, and both things I am determined to begin and compete. I have no map, though, and no light to see if even if I did have one. I'm old enough now that friends of similar age are settled, in their lives and careers. They are locked in to a course, in a manner of speaking, so now questions come up about what they do with the precious free time they have, how do they fulfill themselves when they're alone. A few of them even wonder about what legacies they're leaving behind. The closest thing I can compare it to is looking for the next project, the next idea, the next exploration, and finding the folder empty. A very sobering, a very quiet horror. Cold, like the icy chill of the wintry room just beyond clutching blankets.

Well, it hasn't happened to me, yet, so I guess I'll turn over and dream a bit more.

Monday, December 3, 2018

You'll, tide

Friday was the deadline I gave to myself to finish the novel. Friday was the deadline because I wanted to give myself a month to thoroughly edit the draft into something I could feel confident about, before submitting again. In late fall, a friend pointed out that the open submission might not be a yearly thing. I chose not to verify that, because I didn't want to sap any energy from the process. I didn't finish on Friday, but Saturday was a decently productive day. I think over the course of the whole week I turned in around 12,000 words. That makes me feel pretty good, but it also makes me feel like I planned it all fairly poorly that I had to crank out so much there at the end. I had a year.

And as one might expect, there is no open house at the publisher in question. There are other places, of course, but the reason I was attracted to that publisher, and others, was because of their seeming willingness to accept writing that was a bit non-standard. They seemed that much more willing to take a chance on something less conventional. In real life, just about every day I'm interacting with other humans, I get strange looks. From the way I think about things, to the way I talk about them, there's an adjustment period, a kind of translation that's necessary. And writing is nothing if not a conversational interaction between a recipient and spinner of dreams. So, I'm looking for that kind of home for my fables, and its disappointing when my earnest efforts don't quite transmit.

Also during the last week, right on time, my mind was flooded with future ideas. On Wednesday at 5:00 am a contemporary short fiction idea woke me out of a deep sleep. I laid there for a few moments wondering what had happened, and why, and what I had seen or heard or smelled or eaten to cause such a thing. Even later the same day, I tentatively poked at the idea, put hands around it to see if it would vanish under any weight as if it weren't real. It stayed; it even grew as I thought about it.

So, much like the year in a month's time, I'm looking to turn some pages, figuratively and literally. I had a kind of breakthrough about the children's story I tried and failed at in previous years. This season I'm going to finish it, terrible though it might be. I have a longer list of things I want to see happen, but the top half of the to-do list, is the part I like to call the "will be done" list. I will also be editing the novel I just finished, polishing it and what not. I'd like to complete the first act of the play I have been outlining. And I'm going to make some decisions about what to do with the rest of my urban fantasy series, the one suffering under crippling difficulties at the current publisher. Honestly, I had forgotten about those old stories, and I guess so much time had passed, I had resigned them to twisting in a kind of limbo on into perpetuity. But then I remembered that I had self published, that I could self publish. But to do that, I need editing help, different eyes than my own. And I need cover art, something to present as an image for each book, and the series as a whole.

All of which is to say I'm going to be busy. I'm not really sure I'd have it any other way. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

But only if

Part of me thinks I'm close to understanding the flow of a timely blog. The other part of me feels like I couldn't be further away. I know one particular artist that works visually, and just about every day her social media is peppered with her current project progress or future progress aspirations and notifications. I think it's a really excellent system. I wish I could adapt it for myself. But things don't clarify in the same way for a writer. An image can become crisper, as the darker lines bring confidence and by juxtaposition the hesitant strokes become grayer and grayer until they're almost the color of the paper. Paragraphs only work that way with very close inspection, and even then, it remains subjective. When a non-abstract visual artist moves forward, the representative image becomes more and more of what it's supposed to look like, as if it's slowly transitioning from solely within the artist's mind to a place where everyone can see it. To this day, even if the sentiment of a sentence becomes more focused for one reader, it may not for another.

On that note, I got some more feedback. It was a surprise, which made my day. I got a chance to ask questions about what the reader took away, what things were clear, what parts were confusing, what was the picture they developed of the characters' contexts. I was fed, and the day was good. I think at this point I have my answer on the different between two stories I was trying to compare, the Ballad of Beginning and Blood for the Soil. Both were intended to be introductions into a larger narrative framework. But one, the latter, was written after that framework was already constructed unlike the former, which was the first foray into that story's architecture. I don't think it was any fault of what I did in the writing, but more how I thought about the writing. The fact that one story was waiting to be written and the other was already drafted made all the difference. It wormed into my pace. In the end, what I was left with was a first chapter. Which isn't necessarily bad, as it was not what I sat down to accomplish. On the other hand, the reader did say they wanted more, that they would've kept reading.

In other news, it is November. Actually, it's almost the holiday, which means it's almost December. NaNoWriMo is almost over. I was asked this year, like I'm asked every year, if I was going to participate. And like every year I said no, not exactly. I think that a lot of people are, a lot of people I know. I think a lot of people are thinking about writing, and that encourages me to do the same. I try to take advantage of that, to push my own objectives forward. So I set a goal for myself to finish the novel I've been writing off and on most of the year, the one I want to submit to the open house submission in December. I was told that counted, that I had a writing goal for the month. That made me feel good, to be participating in spirit. The following pressure was like a really tight hug. I have outlined, to that end, and drafted chapter 20 this morning. I estimate somewhat around five left, and a week and change to do it in. Once I finish the draft that gives me a decent cushion to flip it over and scratch through the pages front to back. To feel sad and angry and disappointed and resigned. To put it away at the same time that I put the year away, which has been its own journey of peaks and valleys. 

I'm almost ten years past the point where, physiologically speaking, the male brain stops developing and starts breaking down. Yet I feel like I've learned more and grown more than I have in all those years combined. Maybe it feels that way because it's fresh. Maybe it is that way because I've fallen down so much recently. I'm glad, if only because the stories I have yet to write will be all the more richer for it.