Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

May 11, 2015

Progress Report – The sticky middle

Filed under: Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 12:18 pm

I’m a writer. I am, really.

Only, I’ve barely written a word in the last fortnight. Since Easter weekend – a month ago – I’ve written maybe five thousand words on A Flash of Black Wings. But really, if I were to look at my spreadsheet, I would probably be forced to acknowledge that it’s not even that much.

I put the intial problem down to bad timing. The expected disruption over Easter coincided with the part of my outline that has the vaguest plot points (“there’s an attack by mysterious people”, “our heroes go from here to there, encountering difficulties”). Up until that point in the writing process, I had a pretty firm idea of what was going on, even as my plot-as-written was becoming more complicated than the outline-as-planned.

Then I had to make some decisions. Uh oh. Decisions are NOT my strong point. I am an Olympic-level indecisionist.

I’m stalled on a plot point, being roughly “how do I move the characters from their current predicament through an exciting and essential action scene to the next phase of the story without completely breaking my own suspension of disbelief?” I need them to be somewhere else, but I’ve trapped them in a situation that it makes no sense to escape.

Agh. Structure is hard.

The solution, as far as I can see through the fog of self-doubt, is to just hammer out the scenes I need. Regardless of whether the scenes are justified by or even follow logically from what’s gone before, I need a complete draft. Once I’m finished, I will have something to edit.

That’s the lesson that this novel is teaching me all over again – finish the thing first, edit the thing later. Don’t edit it while you’re writing it.

My own process baffles me sometimes. A big part of the whinging I do on this blog is just trying to figure out how my own brain works and why I keep getting in my own way. And hopefully using the latest insights as a launchpad for resketching my internal road map (to mix my metaphors into a grotesque and unpalatable word-gruel).

So, a plan:

1) Keep writing. I need to get my streak back, because the write-every-day model is one that clealrly works for me. But on the other hand I also need to lower my expectations of my own productivity. When I was at full flight, I was writing an average of 750 words a day. Until I get back into the habit of daily writing, I should accept that 400-500 (a bit over a half-hour’s work for me, typically) is more reasonable.

2) Rework my outline. This is the job I’ve been putting off and putting off (see indecisiveness above) but I really can’t avoid it. My outline doesn’t work any more and I really don’t think I can end the novel where I was planning to. Too many characters have developed in directions that pull against the ending I’ve been aiming at, and I doubt I can get them back there without breaking them. So I need to redraw the map and see where I’m going (or if I need to kill someone I wasn’t planning to kill)

2) Mix it up. I have that half-edited short story (formerly known as “School Hall”) I was talking about above, plus another one that’s about a thousand words from a complete draft, plus another one that needs a rewrite, plus another one that’s been outlined in detail, not to mention a couple of others that are ready to start writing. Except for the “School Hall” edits, I was pretty determined to put off everything else until I finished my novel draft. But I think now that it would help if I have another project or two in my back pocket, for the (inevitable) times when I get really stuck and/or disillusioned with A Flash of Black wings. It’s bound to happen again, and better that I be working on something that wallowing in self-doubt and indecision for the better part of a month.

And with that, I’ll go back to the draft and hammer that bastard into submission.

November 27, 2014

NotNaNo Day 27 – Isn’t editing supposed to take words away?

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 11:46 pm

I just came off a two hour editing stint on Third Violin, which has cleared out all the first draft dross and filled in all the connective tissue to make the story work (I hope). I seem to have been less successful than I hoped I would be at reducing the word count. Before the editing pass it was 4700 words and I was hoping to cut it back below 4500 or even lower.

Instead, it’s now almost dead-on 5000 words. Uh, whut?

So I’ll definitely be doing at least one more pass on that to whittle away at the extremities. I ought to be at least able to knock off the ten percent or so I just added. Maybe.

In other news I am now bitterly regretting my self-imposed rule about not counting editing as new words, because it’s just gone eleven pm. I’m going to kick in a writing sprint and get back to you in just a minute or thirty.

[/musak]

So, yeah, I wrote the opening of a rather fervent council meeting, invented some architecture and cultural structures, and introduced a couple of supporting characters in thirty-five minutes. Things started to speed up towards the end when I started writing dialogue, but now I’m sleepy so it will have to wait.

Tally: 360

New fiction words for the month: 13, 380

“Countess Tessa Strickland,” Soffatt announced, stiff and formal.

 The introduction was unnecessary. The four men and two women assembled were intimately acquainted with Earl Strickland’s wife. Some of them knew her from childhood.

NotNaNo Day 26 – Editing is the hard kind of writing

Filed under: fictionchunk,news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 12:34 am

I spend most of my spare time today editing the back half of Third Violin, rewriting about two-thirds of 2000 words.

I find editing incredibly difficult work. My mind still resists it. “No, don’t change that clunky run-on sentence with four adverbs and two tenses!” my brain shouts. “It’s prefect!” [1]

Even knowing there are passages that contribute little or nothing to the character development, the themes or the advancement of the plot, I still struggle to wield the word-cleaver. It’s not just that I overvalue every pristine textual pearl I’ve scattered through the manuscript, though for sure I suffer from an undue attachment to my own blathering style. It’s the concern that I might cut away good flesh along with the necrotic zombie-stained garbage. Worse still, that I might do that and then not notice, creating some sort of story-ruining, reader-offending vacuum in the heart of the piece that sucks so hard joy itself cannot escape.

And what about that witty exchange of dialogue, or this insightful narration, or that evocative description is too clever, two original, too brilliant to lose? Well, those bits are gold, aren’t they? I mean, sure, it’s gold that’s sort of dull brown and not so much metallic as nutty and smellier than gold usually is and oh my god my story is full of excrement, isn’t it?

What I’m saying is that editing confirms all my worst suspicions about how much of a derivative, cheating hack I am. Better to not edit at all than to confront an awful truth, right?

Right?

Okay, fine. Mutter, mutter. Tomorrow I’ll go back and explode the first page and a half of the story, reinsert the one or two bits of essential information, and then pretend like I wrote a much tighter story in the first place.

(But that’s tomorrow. Tonight I’ve done a good job, dammit, and I deserve some play time. So I am going to start writing a new fantasy short story which I outlined some time ago. Its codename will be The Countess until I come up with something better. The tally will refer to that new story, because I’m not counting editing in my ‘new words’ totals, even if the editing involves substantial rewrites as they it did today).

Tally: 350

New fiction words for the month: 13,020

This is how the new story starts:

Soffatt was waiting on the rain-soaked dock, guttering lantern in hand, as the Countess’ punt emerged from the mist. 

She kneeled at the fore, still and composed; the veteran poleman behind her did not need to compensate for her weight. Charcoal, her falcon, sunk his talons deep into the shoulder of whaleskin slick-jacket. The bird turned its head one way and the other, watching the punt’s master and Soffatt in the same smooth movement.

 

[1] sic

November 25, 2014

NotNaNo Days 21-24 – The wheels are wobbly but they still turn

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 12:04 am

I’m in full editing mode at the moment, so while I am still hitting my absolute dead-minimum writing targets, the blogging has suffered a little.

I should clarify that “full editing mode” means, in practice, that I have printed out a copy of Third Violin and am drawing all over it. I more or less know what I have to fix from the first draft, but my concentration span when I try to focus on it line by line has been…not good. I am slowly building a rhythm, I think. I hope so. Third Violin has a deadline of sorts, since I wrote it for a specific market that closes on the 30th of November. I am reasonably confident I’ll have it in good shape by then.

Over on the new-words front, I am adding new scenes to the dog’s breakfast of Serpentine Precipice. I’m still poking at the setting, adding new ideas and chopping off old pieces. I had a breakthrough this afternoon about what it is my protagonists wants to achieve. Character motivations FTW! Until now all I knew was that he was not especially invested in the job he’s been given to do. Now I know what direction his moral compass is pointed, and why he seems to keep wandering off-course from the plot. It’ll be a tricky job to marry his secret motivations up with the plot as it stands. If it comes down to a question of plot versus character, the plot can look forward to a rocket-propelled jettisoning.

Tally: 420 + 250 + 250 + 620 = 1540

Total new fiction words for the month: 10,740 + 1540 = 12, 280 (on track to make an acceptable, if not inspiring, 15,000 words for November)

“Swagger, bluster and a full purse will get you far in life, it’s true, but they will not lay open every door in your path. And we both know you lack one or two of those characteristics these days.”

 

Powered by WordPress