Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More On The Novel

This is a straight-up totally unmodified inkblot. I used it as the basis for an illustration in the first issue of Swill but honestly, it works fine on its own. I'll probably color it at some point, though.

So yesterday I did two big writing chores. I'm trying to polish the end of the story that's going in the next issue of Swill and I think -- I hope -- I've made a little progress. Rob has been quite finicky (and rightfully so) but up until the last email I thought his trouble was with the physicality. Not so -- the plot was unclear.


But I hope it's better now.

My big chore was one I've been putting off for the last few days. Of course once I set to work it only took me six hours or so to knock it out.

I went through a bound manuscript of the novel with colored stickers and hi-liters and marked up all the big-picture issues that I need to address. No doubt more will surface as the revision progresses but now I have a solid overall game plan. I marked things on four basis.

1. Time. How many days are covered by the novel? If you'd have asked me before I started this part of the revision, I'd have said about a month, maybe a couple of weeks more.

Nope. It takes place over the course of about ten days. This worked to my advantage -- all of a sudden two subplots linked in a particularly pleasant fashion. One dealt with a busted knuckle that was the result of sexual frustration, the other dealt with a magical healing that was a gift from a feminine principle. Thusly, one of the subtexts of the novel was strengthened and made more overt.

2. Continuity -- where do subplots start and stop? A number of subplots (including the above-mentioned knuckle) came and went in a herky-jerky way. Now I've figured out how to link them together so that A happens because of B resulting in C.

Again, the story is at the stage of development where it's not a matter of, "Oh, jesus, this doesn't work. I need to dump it." Instead, there's an intuitive pattern underlying the whole shebang and there are always simple, organic solutions to plot issues.

I hope; please, o mysterious forces, do not smite me in my arrogance.

3. The Crazy. I've labeled the parts of the novel where moments that seemed agonizing to me when I experienced them (again, there's a great big chunk of autobiography here) are written of in a casual, dismissive fashion. I'm going to be hitting those full-on and bringing out the real emotions and thoughts with which I had to deal.

4. And, finally, I'm going to be expanding on the magical world in a few places. Going over the manuscript that part was in better shape than I remembered but there is still room to make it bigger and weirder and more involving.

So today I'm back to the chapter-by-chapter revisions. With any luck I'll have the rest of that crucial first fifty pages ready for submission to the writer's groups by the end of the day. Which means that before I send them to an agent they'll have been through both groups. Which really makes me feel more confident -- what I'd done to the first three-now-two chapters is going through some real changes based on Monday's critique and I have no doubt that Thursday's will have a similar impact.

's funny. While the growth of this work was very organic and intuitive and knotty and gnarly, the end product is almost a shopping list of what I best like to read, a real cross-genre scramble where literary fiction, confessional autobiography, humor, surrealism, Forteanna, quest fantasy, horror of both the MR James and the Clive Barker variety, crime, and old-school SF are forced into a hideous free-for-all pit fight. Hell, there's even a wee tiny sprinkling of westerns in there.

I think it's gonna be a hell of a read when I'm done.


robp said...

Well, there actually had been a problem with the short story's physicality, and I think you did a real good job with that in the last edit. That just needed to be cleared up before I could come close to pinpointing why I wasn't satisfied with the ending. Haven't read the revision yet, looking forward to it.

I got the go-ahead on the last revision that was still out there, so there will be Swill layout in your near future.

Read the revision of the novel's first two chapters last night. Quite good; will get back to you with crazily marked up hardcopy tomorrow (not major stuff or tricky fixes though).

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Rob -- I'm about to start doing the next draft on the next few chapters. Man, I'm almost ready to start bugging the agent.

After today I'm going to do no more than one chapter a day until Swill is done; given the Shirley deadline and so on, the sooner it's done the better.

But after that? Full speed ahead and then get started on the next volume. And apply for an NEA grant...