To New Beginnings
7 years ago, in the evening
I give the hell up. On its present track, Awake Into Darkness simply isn’t working. It’s a tough thing to admit, especially when I’m almost 30,000 words deep in the draft; but if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I’ve known from the start that it was b0rked — because I was doing a shitty job of recycling old material. I knew from the get-go that I ought to just trash the whole thing and rewrite it, and I didn’t, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine.
At least I’ve come to grips with it in time to do something about it. Following much head-desking and a whole lot of emailing, badgering, and drunken grumbling (at self, husband, editor, etc.) about this story, I think I’ve finally got an idea of how it can work — and yes, it definitely involves starting over from scratch.
Jesus, it’s brutal. The original draft was about 90,000 words. I had about a third of that re-done, and I can’t keep any of it if I want a book that isn’t going to suck ass.
Following an intense and miserable deconstruction session, I realized that I had committed some of the following narrative sins:
(1). Relied too heavily upon a bland vehicle character
(2). Set up an Alpha character who was not very interesting
(3). Shoehorned characters into motives that aren’t credible
(4). Forced my least interesting characters into pivotal roles
(5). Failed to establish a solid setting of any sort
(6). Was too dependent upon complicated plot structure at the expense of character development
And dumbest of all …
(7). Kept interesting characters relegated to the background, because I was afraid they would take over the story.
In my defense, I did first write this book ages and ages ago, so I suppose I ought to look at it as a good sign that I’m learning enough to fix some of these amateur hour glitches. And now, I’m going to make some of the following corrections:
(1). Strip out boring vehicle character and untangle the worst of the plot knots
(2). Relegate asshole Alpha character to a more credible position
(3). Adjust events to better define and shape motives
(4). Let the character interaction inform the story development instead of dictate it
(5). Go ahead and set it firmly and precisely here in Seattle (hay, why not?)
(6). Distill cast of thousands down to characters with an actual stake in the story*
And best of all …
(7). Take my strongest, most engaging characters to the forefront, where they belong
Oh, it’s gonna hurt. You can bet your sweet patootie I don’t want to go back to square one on this bad-boy, but I’m gonna — in the interest of ending up with a product that I’m proud of. From my new starting point I’ve launched a new opening scene, with a different protagonist, and a different direction; and after much blood, sweat, and tears, I’m actually sort of squeally about what I’ve got.
Yes! Amazing! I know! I thought I’d never get here, but here I am. So once more with feeling, here are new stats — this time for my simple noir vampire-fest:
Project: Awake Into Darkness (redux)
New Yearâ€™s Resolution Status: Secure.
New Words Today: 3103
Present Total Word Count: 3103 words
Goal: 100,000 words by July 1
Pardon the new word meter, as the other one is broken:
3103 / 100,000 words.
First Sentence: “Underneath the street a low-burning flame chewed warmly on a candle stub — brightening a corner of the hidden room and augmenting the thick, friendly stink of moldering paper with the gummy scent of paraffin.”
Things Accomplished in Fiction: Here’s to new beginnings! I’m actually thrilled silly with the word count today, because I spent almost 3 hours (literally) trying to pin down the first paragraph. It was so hard to switch gears and get moving on something that actually works; but once I got things underway, it just sort of took off. I consider 3000 words to be a highly respectable word count on even a full-length, high-gear working day — much less one wherein I dicked around all morning before getting started good.
Things Accomplished in Real Life: Precious little except for fixing this. Changed the cat’s water; answered some email; walked down to the Walgreens to get a Coke; did some dishes; made the bed.
Reason for Stopping: I have a few other things I need to tackle before my work day officially ends (read: when the husband comes home and I drag him off to supper). We’ve got an appointment with the tax guy next Monday, and I want to sort out some paperwork and stuff.
Total Fiction Words Composed in 2008: Including the now-discarded work I composed over the weekend — but failed to record here — 91,655. Yes, I’m keeping the word count running. Just because I didn’t keep it, that doesn’t mean I didn’t write it. All words are valuable words in their own way, if only for illuminating the sad, sad fact that I’m doing it wrong.
* STAKE. WOCKA WOCKA.