Tuesday, March 1, 2011

With Forks And Hope

So rather than wait until I felt in full fettle to begin working on the novel, I threw myself back into it about a week ago. Progress has been slow, frustrating, rewarding, enlightening, and terrifying. On the other hand, that's what it's like doing anything these days.

As I mentioned in previous posts, one issue I'm dealing with is the realization that what began as a story addressed to a third party has transmogrified into a stream-of-consciousness piece. As a result, the book has gone from first-person past-tense to first-person present-tense.

I'm finding that this it an intensely bullshit-sensitive approach, and that as a result I'm seeing that a lot of what I'd written was bullshit -- "Okay, here's a half-page of intense description because the book is just starting and I don't have anything good for you yet." "Here's an obligatory bit of backstory that the protagonist would never spend time recollecting in a million years."

This is great -- but it has also led me to question the need for a particular sub-plot and pair of characters.

The thing is? These two were where the damned story started, and were only gradually pushed out of center-stage by degrees. In fact, in the whole big novel, the trilogy, they are central! Pivotal! They provide the continuity between this volume and the main part of the work!

Plus, everyone loves them. Quotes get read aloud at writer's group meetings, which is always fun. And they serve a function if the story is regarded from a mythological standpoint...

But I think they might not need to be there. I need to take a close look at the outline and see what happens if I just take them out. I think the story becomes stronger and more direct. And shorter, damnit, but what can you do?

The big change, however, has been organizational. The affectation of numbered chapters with titles, as fun as it's been, doesn't work in a stream-of-consciousness piece. But since cuts are needed, there have to be points of division in the story. As a result, I'm writing a series of short subsections, much shorter than the length of the chapters that have been the organizational unit of the work until now. The rhythm is totally different, since each subsection needs to have its own rise, fall, and conclusion, rather than the deliberate build to a cliff-hanger that was standard with chapters.

It makes for a snappier pace, but it's acting to further compress a fairly dense work. This is why the bullshit is showing.

I'm also reminding myself that this is the start of the process. The real issue is not the plot. The real issue is hitting the stage of full engagement with the work. Right now I am luring that out as if it's the fucking Snark --

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care
They pursued it with forks and hope

They threatened its life with a railway-share

They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Man, though. The next time around, I'll start working with the idea that I'm writing a novel right from the start. Now that I think about it, it's not so much that I set out to write this novel as I was mugged or hijacked. Oh, well. Inspiration is almost as useful for shaping a life as addiction.

The next book I write will be easy, and simple, and pleasant. I swear.


-W said...

What you're saying makes sense, although if you're talking about the same two characters that I'm thinking of, it's true, I'll miss 'em.

On another note -- I'm really, really glad to hear you're working again.

Sean Craven said...

It's Mr. & Mrs. Popeyehead that are being shown the door. I'm keeping them in mind for volume two, however...

And I'm really glad to be working again myself.