June 23rd, 2007

writing plot octopus

More technical notes on the All the Windwracked Stars revision

  • When all the bits I am keeping are pasted into the new manuscript, along with a complete scene by scene outline of the stuff that needs written, there is 334 pages of book here, of which the first 269 are contiguous. Of course, 45 pages of that need extensive revision. When I say extensive, that stuff is basically pasted in as a placeholder to remind me what happens in the scene, and the whole scene needs to be rewritten, in a different POV, with all the suck vacuumed out.
  • The plot is completely different, but this is somehow the same book. And possibly *more* itself than before I took it to pieces.
  • I never understand how that works.
  • When I am done with the draft, I am going to have one last grovel through the corpse of the derelict book and look for clever bits to salvage. I don't really expect to find any, though. It's kind of ass. And I might give up in disgust because this old stuff is really hard to read, it's that awful.
  • In eight years, I will also think what I am writing now is ass.
  • The good news is, By the Mountain Bound is already revised. The Sea thy Mistress, however, is looking like a ground-up rewrite. I've already looted the corpse some for this book. And it's getting bits of plot that got taken out of the other two books screwed onto it. That should be fun.
  • Oh, screw it. I pretty much think it's ass now. I suspect this is an unavoidable part of my growth as a writer. You see, when one starts off, one thinks one might be okay at this writing gig. Eventually, as one learns more about it, one also learns that everything one once thought was ok or even good is really quite crappy. One therefor develops a suspicion of one's own sense of how good one's own work is.
  • The book's problem Among this book's many problems was that it had nearly no plot.
  • But it did have lots of angst.
  • It still doesn't have much plot, but at least what it also does have isn't arbitrary things happening in the way most likely to drive the angst. The things that will happen this version make more sense. I hope. And are generally less goofy.
  • This means an approximately 90% reduction in durance vile and also in repetitive injuries.
  • Also, faffing about in sewers and on rooftops is for superheroes, not semi-fallen angels. Stoppit.
  • Durance vile is what you do when you can't figure out a damned thing to do in the next chapter. Also stoppit.
  • It also means somebody else gets to have the near-death experience.
  • Sorry, kid.
  • This is an improvement, because the old version has an awful lot of "I am doing this because I am the Evul Overlord and something has to drive the plot (such as it is)." behind it.
  • The Evul Overlord is much more a pathetic and and desperate overlord now, which is really what I always wanted.
  • Also, the sex is all much more pathetic and deperate, and I think I have expunged the last trace of Fated Love from the damned thing. (I was trying to deconstruct Fated Love, and didn't have the chops at the time to do it.)
  • Man, there's a lot of sex. And not!sex.
  • Really, I could not write when I wrote this thing.
  • It's nice to feel like I know what I am doing, for a change.
  • It won't last, however.
  • My god. After eight years... well, more like thirteen if you count the first stories I wrote about Muire.. and more drafts than I can actually count, I am actually close to done with this book in a manner in which it may stay done.
  • I think I'm a little overcome.
  • This isn't writing-related, but the P.C. just woke up, stretched, yawned, and reached out and grabbed my wrist and hugged it. I am undone.
david bowie black tie - sosostris2012

the future you're giving me holds nothing for a gun

State of the All the Windwracked Stars:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
347 / 400

That's actually only about 2500 new words, but I took all the chunks of the old novel that I'm saving for re-use and stapled them in. I expect they will get much shorter when they are rewritten, as they badly badly need to be. Because they are ass, that's why. And because that thing where my brain tries to have six conversation in parallel was really prevalent in early drafts of this book. It all made perfect sense to me at the time it was written, but I look at it now and think, "Wow, this is random."

Also, when you actually put transitions and scene changes and all that stuff in a book, it makes it a heck of a lot longer.

I have in fact trained myself to be more linear. Hacking my own brain for your entertainment since ~2001.

Also, I got to write the scene where the sort-of-but-not-really-fallen-angel kisses the catslavegirl today. There was a lot of entertainment for my cat in this, as I kept poking at her face trying to figure out the structure of her mouth. Also, somewhere, Cordwainer Smith is just spinning. Or possibly laughing his ass off, one of the two.

Which leads me to a meditation of one of the worst pieces of writing advice I have ever recieved: the venerable and nonsensical, "don't write down anything your point of view character isn't currently noticing."

I suspect that's probably a good third of what's wrong with AtWS: The Original Narrative. Because I didn't. I stuck tightly to Muire's stream of consciousness, and to the action. Which meant there was almost no setting, no worldbuilding--except by incluing--no setting--except for whatever furniture was currently in use--and in general, king of a herky-jerky thing where the reader was adrift in this character's head and only aware of whatever she was focused on.

The first Jenny book has some of this problem too, but by the time I wrote that, enough of my first readers had complained often enough that I was starting to fix it, at least slightly.

Now, what does work is filtering the narrative through the character's perceptions so the reader sees what's important to that character. The murderer notices the knife on the counter; the hungry man notices the open box of Bugles. But part of building richness into a narrative is that incidental stuff, even if a real person would only notice it subconsciously. The texture of cloth, the movement of the air, an itch on an earlobe. It's immersion, grounding, and it matters.

Remember: just because people tell you something about writing, doesn't mean it's useful or true.

That of course goes for everything I say, too.

This morning, while I was sitting in my chair by the window writing, what I charitably presume to have been a very young sparrow got tangled in a spiderweb on my windowledge.

It appeared to be eating something--I presume either the spider, the egg case, or an insect husk, and in the process, sort of fluttered all over the windowledge and then clung to the screen for a while and got spiderweb all over itself and in general acted like it had no clue that I, and the Presumptuous Cat, were sitting a mere ten inches away.

The PC was eminently interested, too, but I got ahold of her before she could go through the screen and fall two stories, in pursuit of the daft thing.

Ever notice how much government resembles ten year old boys with secret clubhouse passwords?

Yeah, me too.

I just found a notebook with a bunch of pithy quotes I wrote down about fifteen years ago, for a purpose no longer relevant. If you like that sort of stuff, well, I'm putting the ones I want to remember here, for my own future reference. (There's a few I mean to use in Chill, for one thing.)

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