Sunday, 30 August 2015

Executive Decision – Barf

“A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition,” Michael Chabon writes in the margins of his unfinished novel “Fountain City” — a novel, he adds, that he could feel “erasing me, breaking me down, burying me alive, drowning me, kicking me down the stairs.”

-  From the New York Times article: “Why Do Writers Abandon Novels?” By Dan Kois 

That quote from Michael Chabon pretty much sums it up, but I feel a brief announcement is in order for those of you who have taken an interest in my writing (and I thank you for that).  

I’m abandoning my book after 4 years and 2 months. Yup. 4 hours a day, 7 days a week, 4 years, and I’m chucking it. Why am I chucking it? I’m not sure how to answer that. Summarizing with “it just isn’t working” wouldn’t be adequate, and to explain all the reasons could fill a book of its own.  

But it’s the right decision. And I feel awful because of it.   

I’m sure, in a week or two, I’ll feel better. Intellectually, I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve been paddling a boat full of holes for over a year now, and I’ve exhausted myself trying to keep afloat. Plot problems upon plot problems upon plot problems just, finally, became too much to bear. Future projects continued to be delayed. My morale plummeted.

After I passed the time it took to write Gasher Creek (3 years, 6 months), it became clear that something was very wrong. As of today, there is no end in sight for the current book. I’d probably still be trying to plug plot holes well into next summer.

But there is some good news. Now that this project is finished, my future output should begin to increase. Last year, I made two major changes to my writing: first, I discovered a new writing style that is frenetic, fun, and removes some of the old stylistic errors that have consistently slowed my editing process.

Second, I studied plotting and decided that my previous “pantsing” method was eating too much time. Last summer, I tried plotting a western novella as an experiment. Wow, did the first draft roll out smoothly.

As a result of these changes, I foresee future novels taking months, not years, to finish. That’s both exciting and a relief. Burnout is a very real threat to writers, and one I hope I can avoid (or at least reduce) from now on.

Did this experience sour me to writing? No. I love it more today than when I first started. Perhaps it’s the writing process itself that has allowed me to deal with this defeat. Writing is a continual slog of “one step forward, two steps back.” Failure is a natural, everyday part of it.

We punch, we get punched. We get knocked down, we get up again.

Time to get up again. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

New Year, Same Goals

Still alive! Another huge gap between blog posts—not good. However, I have been busy and have a few updates to report. 

Last we left off, I was working on a sci-fi romance and dreaming about a podcast. And now? I’m working on a sci-fi romance and dreaming of a podcast. But I’m happy to report that I’ve made progress in both ventures: 

The Sci-Fi Romance: Sometimes, books love to take their time, and L is no different.  I wanted to be finished by late November, and here we are in January. But I’m happy to report that I’m on a polishing draft that, with any luck, will be finished by late February. After that, it’s another quick read-through, then it’s off to my First Readers. And then I hope this long process will be finished. I’m looking forward to studying some marketing and working on other projects. Speaking of which:

The Podcast: I’m still excited about it, and I’m chomping at the bit to get started. I’ve been refining the concept, and I hope other people will become excited about the idea. Its chief focus is the promotion of other writers, so I think there will be some interest.

That Very, Very, Very Odd Western: Back in the summer, I was given the opportunity to house sit. 10 days in a house by myself. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to a.) test out a nagging feeling and b.) work on that very, very, very odd western.

The nagging feeling? That I should’ve been plotting all these years. From ages 21 until now, I’ve been a solid “Pantser”, that is, taking the Stephen King and Ray Bradbury route of jumping head first into a first draft and seeing where it takes me. And there’s nothing wrong with this method (obviously it works for King and Bradbury!), but after 11 books pantsed (And Gasher Creek, number 11, being the only one I felt was good enough to publish), I wanted to try something different. So I decided to plot the very, very, very odd western. 

I’m happy to report that not only did I get the first draft written in a short 14 days, but I think the editing process will be severely truncated as a result of the plotting. Future books, I hope, will be finished in months, not years.

And I really like the story, although it is as odd as I’d expected. Even I wonder where some of this stuff comes from.

An Expanding Universe: Writing the very, very, very odd western has also rekindled my passion for the "western world" that Gasher Creek takes place in. As a result, I've decided to set a whole series of books in the same territory where the town of Gasher Creek is located. The v.v.v. odd western is just the first of many, including the much inquired sequel to Gasher Creek.

Where I belong: Although my current novel is science fiction, I think future projects will take me back in time instead of forward. I enjoy watching and reading sci-fi, but I don't feel as if I belong in that world. As a result, the next few years will be preoccupied with the past. After the v.v.v. odd western is finished, I'll be heading to the early 20th century for a comedic road trip. After that, it's back to a western, and then on to an adventure in Upper Canada. 

Anyway, that's it for now. 2015 is shaping up to be a tremendously busy year for me, and I hope some of it will prove fruitful. Although I'm not living in my mansion in Hawaii (yet), my motivation has only increased since GC's release. The dream I caught at age 11 is stronger now than it has ever been before, and that's a good thing. I'll need that tenacity and stubbornness if I want to be a success.