Prepare for Writing Geekery

Okay, so here’s a state-of-the-novel-revision update. Prepare for writing geekery.

I’ve been working on this book for a long time. I started it after signing with Russ Galen, who represents a lot of very successful commercial SFF authors, and I intended to write a commercial book. What does that mean? Well, I wasn’t really sure, but something fast-paced, exciting, high-energy, epic in scale — that kind of thing.

I tried to write that kind of novel, taking a year or so to do so, and I did research beforehand. I read similar books, watched TV, etc. And then I gave him an 80K word novel draft, full of hope, but also sort of knowing something was really wrong with it. And he told me that yes, it was very broken.

(Side note — I signed with Russ just before the cancer diagnosis, so I think I must have drafted this book largely in the first year or two after cancer, when I really wasn’t at my best. So I’ll excuse myself a little for it being such a mess, as you’ll see.)

One problem was that I’d tried to paste all that commercial STUFF onto the kind of character I typically write, an everyday person just living their life, and it just didn’t make sense that she’d end up saving the planet; it was wildly improbably. ALSO, I’d made the villain cartoonishly bad. And all the action scenes and explosions (SO MANY EXPLOSIONS) had taken the place of character development, which is actually something I’m good at. I definitely was not leaning into my strengths.

I also had a ton of character viewpoints, which I do like generally, and it’s good for writing epics, but given everything else, meant that I didn’t go into any of them in any depth. So the whole thing just read really thin and unconvincing. And I summarized too much. I think I was exhausted, on some level, from the cancer stuff, and so I didn’t have a lot of wellspring to tap in terms of creativity. So many problems with that draft!

I was discouraged, of course. I put it aside for a while. Eventually (a year later?) I came back to it, thinking maybe I could get a decent novella out of it, sell that to¬†Tor.com, maybe. I still liked my protagonist and the start of the book — it had just all fallen apart after that. I stripped away all the POV except my protagonist, and then rewrote, taking out a lot of explosions. I cut it from 80K world to 40K words, and the end results was definitely better.

BUT, it felt rushed. So after a while, I thought, well, maybe this can be a short novel, or a long novella. Let me fill in. So I did another draft, and that took it to 60K words; in the process, I figured out the right overall shape for the book, cutting out major ridiculous plots, etc.

This past month’s revision was no longer major surgery. Instead, I was filling in. The book was still feeling rushed, and I had the space — 80K is more typical for a novel. I also thought the pacing was off — I was trying to make almost everything happen in three days, which was too fast. What if I gave them all a little more time? So I went through, chapter by chapter, slowing everything down, inventing a lot of new scenes that let you get to know people better.

It feels notably easier to invent and be creative now than it did a few years ago; I’m still not sure exactly why. By the end of that, I was up to just about 80K. That was last Friday.

So where are we now? Well, I could give it to Russ to look at again, but I have one more week ’til the semester starts, and a few beta readers sent comments that were helpful, as they read along with last month’s revision.

My plan is to do one more fast pass this week. Instead of a chapter / day, I’ll be aiming for 5 chapters a day, mostly just cleaning things up, getting stuff more in line with the overall themes, etc. all the way along. I’m hoping that won’t take masses of time — maybe 2-3 hours / day? We’ll see.

There are other goals for this week:
– finish prepping for the first week of classes is a must
– spending a little more time with the kids before school starts (video games with Anand and watching Disney movies with Kavi and going kayaking are all on the request list)
– Fiberworld and NASFiC are this coming weekend, and I have panels and hosting duties at both conventions
– and I really would like to finish cleaning the mudroom out and organize the last bit of the basement and clean out the garage….but okay, that probably is going to have to wait. I don’t like starting the semester with the house a mess, but so be it. There are more important things. I’m trying not to let myself get TOO overwhelmed.

(I originally had vacation scheduled for this week. Ha ha ha ha ha.)

Anyway, that’s the plan for this week. I’d like to give Russ the book on Friday, but will allow slippage to Monday if needed. Monday is it, though — my first class is on Tuesday. Onwards.

(These flowers are the ones keeping me company out the window of the writing shed — native Great Blue Lobelia and rose Princess Alexandra of Kent.)

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