WorkInProgress Breaks 42,000 Words

I’ve been tight-lipped about the current Work In Progress, a young adult novel about a haunted high school — and that description of it is so succinct that it’s absolutely mis-leading.

I’ve written long form works in the past but honestly, this novel has been a weird joy. Every time I think I’ve written myself into a corner, I’ve been able to stop, reflect on what I’ve already written and continue. I’m too much of a tough-minded pragmatist to give much credence to “The Muse” but my experience writing this book has given me an appreciation for what that kind of language might be expressing.

I’ve only had one instance where I realized that I’d actually made a “mistake” in an earlier chapter. The scene was correct, the setting, the action but it should have had a different teacher presiding. I recognized the error within two chapters. It’ll be a quick fix when I get to revise.

But I didn’t let myself make the change, not yet. I’m naturally dark-souled and critical so I’ve been trying to put off “editing” until I had a complete manuscript. I’m my own worst enemy at times and whenever I start editing while I’m trying to draft, the demons of my lower natures have a field day. Fortunately, I’m more or less on track to have a complete draft by May 1st (lordwilling, ifthecrickdontrise)

ROW Checkin: April 15, 2012

Goal: 1,000 a day on the Haunted High School novel

Progress? So far so good.

Change of goal, slightly. Initially, I started off writing prep material in hopes to start actual drafting during the next Round of Words in July. I completed a good chunk of character prepwork, somewhat less on the scene prepwork. But then I realized I might be trying to write a really old school way.
I saw Scott Sigler interviewed on Sword and Laser and he described that for one of his books he’d posted each chapter as a podcast as he was writing them. Once the draft was finished he presumably took down the podcasts and edited the work together more cohesively. The narrative went off in a different direction, I gather, during this editing process. The idea is fascinating since the podcasts would help drum up an audience for the work in particular and for the writer in general. It would give a treat for the “early adopters / true fans” and it would also allow a writer a way to stay before the public attention while writing a big work. Writing and marketing aren’t as separate as they perhaps once were. Having said all that, I don’t think I’m planning to release my first drafts as a podcast but I am going into drafting now. I know the story I’m going to write, to the degree anyone knows how tales will really turn out before writing “The End.” WHen I sense I need a bit of backstory of plan to help, I’ll devote my 1,000 words to prepwork again but I’m officially giving myself permission to start writing for real.


ROW Checkin: April 4, 2012

Goal: 1,000 words a day on prep materials mostly for my “haunted high school” novel

Check In Status: So far so good.
• I have three good meaty character descriptions for my three major characters — though everything I write uncovers more I could note. These descriptions have lead to a nice collection of quotations and situations that I’ve saved in my “Trapper Keeper” file for when I actually start drafting;

• a good start on descriptions of a couple more characters and I realized that there are other folks who I need to know about so I’ve appended them to my to do list;

• I am most proud of the several fair to good iterations of an outline following the fractal / “Snowflake” method. I started with a one sentence overview that I re-wrote 4 or 5 times and am now up to my third revision of a 5 sentence paragraph outline. The backbone of the story is becoming clearer. I’m trying to allow space around this story for the rest of the “trilogy.”

I find it exciting to focus on “prep work” even though I have a NaNo sized draft of the work. I love the deep revelations that backstory can give and left to my own devices, I fear I would stagnate there. The NaNo draft allowed me to gain first hand familiarity with the story and it got me to just start writing. Granted NaNoWriMo is just a writing spring, but I needed that starter’s gun. Taking the analogy further, I am reminded of the motto of a famous tennis shoe company “Just Go Ahead, Stop Planning and Fidgeting For Cry It Out Loaud and… Just Put a Few Words After a Few Other Words.” I think the tennis shoe company puts it a bit more succinctly.

If all continues to go well, I might be able to start drafting even before this ROW is up.

Ghosts and the Grind

My friend Mark took me out on the town yesterday since he thought I needed cheering up about not getting into Clarion. We went to a Sci-Fi art opening at Funhouse Gallery in the Russel Industrial Center, hit a couple bookstores where I got a second hand copy of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and a couple issues of the comic Mouseguard signed by David Petersen, The Boston Tea Room where I bought a crystal ball and The RustBelt Market where I purchased what I thought were mortician’s tools. (Not so sure they are anymore. They’re still cool as hell though.) I’m not particularly discouraged about the rejection but since Friday was payday, who am I to pass up a little retail therapy? Halfway through the day, my buddy asked innocently enough what my next big project was and a lump formed in my throat, a huge clot of words I wasn’t fully able to get out. Let me try again here.

My next big project is to revise a novella I wrote during NaNoWriMo, though the word “revision” makes the task sound far less daunting than it feels. I’ve written several full-length dramas and an over-sized Masters thesis so I’ve a passing familiarity with revising longer works. The novel in question however has to essentially re-form itself from the inside out due to a realization I had late during NaNoWriMo. It’s embarrassingly obvious now but the story is about a ghost that haunts a high school. I figured out around word number 40,000 that it is in fact a young adult novel which meant that having a teacher as the central character was a little… dumb. I muddled through to complete the required word count but I wasn’t pleased with what I’d written. So, Mark, my next big project is to re-envision, recast and entirely reform the tale from the perspective of the freshman computer enthusiast who confronts the ghost, the school body and ultimately himself.

How? I started by reviewing the prep work I did for the original draft. I already have character work done on most of the major figures, including the character who’ll now be the protagonist. Re-reading his backstory, I am simply shocked that I didn’t realize he was the hero earlier. File this under “Listen to your characters.” While I was fleshing out two of his friends, I realized that they had the potential for their own novel-length narrative arcs which means I might have my topic for NaNoWriMo 2012 already.

I have a few days off in a week where I’ll retreat from worldly distractions long enough to re-read the whole work and make a spreadsheet of the scenes. Then I’ll brood, tap my fingers and drink lots of coffee while I try to see the world of the story through my new major character’s eyes. My goal at the end of that week will be to have an outline of the tale as young adult novel.

Then I’ll let the idea brood until late June when I have more time off, the time I had already cleared to attend Clarion. My goal by the end of August is to have a book length manuscript that is better than a first draft. This time, Mark, I won’t be too ashamed of it to let you read it.