Fifteen pages into The Faith Machine and it was clear that one of the plot threads was hopelessly convoluted. A kidnapping without an explanation, and the recovery of a lost cellphone from those same kidnappers while a car battery was being stolen for reasons that made sense in the outline but fell apart once words starting being put to paper. It was only one of three opening threads but unfortunately it was the core plot and the entangling had ramifications on all the others. Out of those fifteen pages I think I can keep one.
Nobody spins gold one the first draft. I can’t remember how many times I rewrote the opening to Picking Up the Ghost but it was more than four. If it was later in the book that plot might have been saved. But the first chapter should be about introductions, character, setting, style, genre rules. It’s not about plot twists, there isn’t a plot to twist yet.
It’s back to the outline and I more confident at this pass. Every pass makes it better. And it’s better to get the rewriting in now than after the polish.
First drafts suck, both the production and the product. That’s easy to forget after being in a state of having had written for over a year.
I’ve been plotting The Faith Machine for over a year and it’s time to start actually writing. Plotting is addictive. Not only does it take research, which is fun, but it’s easier than writing prose and, since no one will ever see it, immune to critique.
In this interview with Tim Powers he advised to pretend that the first draft was written be someone else and it’s now your job to fix it. I’m going to use that to get some distance when I go into editing and as reassurance that these words will get better after I can fix them.
I hope you get something out of this post but isn’t for you, it’s for me.
As of this posting it looks like Hurricane Sandy is taking a hard right up the coast to Maine so I should be in luck weather-wise. You never hear about planes getting knocked out of the air by a storm but there’s always a first time.
Exciting times ahead, I’ll be moderating the following panel:
THE CHANGING FACE OF YA FANTASY, 10:00 a.m. VAUGHAN WEST Fantasy works for young adult readers have changed over the years, perhaps even more than their counterparts for adults. The themes tackled are more cutting-edge; a wider variety of cultures is explored; locations are often more realistic, more gritty and urban, than in the past; a more diverse cast of characters is brought into play; and the heroines and heroes are perhaps more realistic than their predecessors. Our panel will discuss the popularity of YA fantasy, its changing face, and its future. With Laura Anne Gilman, Hiromi Goto, Morgan Keyes, Amanda Sun.
The first act is pretty solid and the second act is coming together. I figure the third act won’t take too long to outline since I’ve had most of it in my head since day one but I’ve said that before.
Last weekend was spent transcribing into Google Docs. I’ve been walking around with 40 scenes of outline and about 10 more pages of miscellaneous notes, putting far too much faith in my ability to hold onto things.
I thought I had a solid outline for Picking Up the Ghost but it broke down towards the middle and I didn’t get any feedback on it. I’ll be running this outline by some people before the actual writing starts and hopefully I won’t have to rewrite the second half of this book.
This has also helped juxtapose and manipulate ideas before they gel. Originally I had five golden rings as MacGuffins but not only are rings played out but they were supposed to be relics of the Soviet Union and small and shiny doesn’t evoke the USSR so I changed them to big clunky chairs. This demobilization had all kinds of implications for the cast and plot which I would have been reluctant to do if I was 40 pages into the prose. But in an outline it just took a few hours to adjust.
I received a particular rejection email recently from a local company:
Thank you for your inquiry.
I typically don’t reply to a candidate if I feel it’s not a good fit, but in this case I’d like to offer a small piece of advice for your future job search. I definitely sensed a bit of pessimism in your email which was the main reason we disqualified you.
I’m not sure how wanting to leave my current job is pessimistic.
Also not sure how writing a novel on spec is pessimistic. A year of evenings hunched over the laptop against the odds of the final product being published or even publishable, is that pessimistic? Then another year rewriting after a peer review hated the second half of it, was that pessimistic? To keep submitting through 45 agent and 4 publisher rejections, maybe that was pessimistic? And after I beat the odds and had my first novel published, and a 6 months of lackluster sales, what did I do in a fit of pessimism? I started outlining my next novel. Maybe that was pessimistic.
She doesn’t want to hire me, that’s okay. I can take rejection. And after receiving this email I don’t want to work for her either. I definitely sensed that she’s a poor judge of character. Just a bit.
The San Diego Book Award for Published SciFi, Fantasy, & Horror went to the lovely and talented Lisa Kessler’s Night Walker. Congratulations to her!
The evening wasn’t a total loss for the Milazzo’s I met three more San Diegaen writers of speculative fiction, which is what they call networking. But more importantly, the A Year in Ink Vol. 4 by San Diego Writers, Ink won for Published – Anthology/Short Story Collection. Melissa has a piece in there but didn’t know it was in the running. So she came as my date and left as a winner. Go Mel!