Nose to the Grindstone (Mirrored from Universes blog)

Posted: July 11th, 2016 under Craft, the writing life.
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In the “where are we now?” category, the book is, as of today, at 16,000 words (still short fiction of the novelette  or novella type)  and 83 manuscript pages.   The good news is that story is flowing.  It’s going nonlinear in the “threaded plot” sense, as Aunt Grace, Rector of Defense, has just gotten home to find her place booby-trapped, while Ky, at dinner in another location, is about to be unpleasantly interrupted by the persons who rang the doorbell there, and a character from Cold Welcome has taken on a new identity.

A healthy book, at this point, should be accreting material–characters, plot hooks that will link to other plot bits later, details  that will form a consistent background.  Some of the accretion will be plot drivers (or at least attachment points) and some won’t, and it’s impossible to know at this stage.  But it should begin to have both momentum (like impulsion in horses–the desire to go forward) and a sort of gravitational field that draws in “story stuff.”  When a book doesn’t do that, it may not be destined to be a book, so the first 100 pages really matter even if they’re later discarded for a different beginning.   A healthy book “wants to be written.”

It has acquired a good, strong, new character who immediately produced abundant backstory that connects well with the others this character needs to work with.   It’s good to have new characters entering a multi-volume story.  (Where do new characters come from?   Memories, of course, with a mashup of people the writer’s known, but also from chance meetings, when you’ve been thinking “I need a character with this sort of look, this sort of personality” and you walk into a school or store or airport and there they are, right in front of you.  The person you see is remade for the story, of course–this character will be most like the real person in appearance, least like him on the inside–but the real person was tickling my writer sense when I first saw him, and now he’s part of the story.)

The first fifty pages felt good; it’s still feeling good.  A hundred pages is a safety marker…when my books die on the vine (and several have!) they do so earlier.  Usually between 30 and 50 pages, more rarely between 50 and 100.   So on I go, happier with each day’s work that doesn’t totally suck.  (The suckage days will come later–they’re in the mix somewhere, every book but the first, and more in SF than in fantasy.)

I’ll be really happy at the 300 page mark, but it’s unwise to think hard about that until I’m closer to it.   Best practice for right now is to show up for work, start typing, and let the story out a little more slowly than it could be pushed, as the well is filling back up.

1 Comment »

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — July 21, 2016 @ 9:23 pm


    It is always interesting to hear how different people write! Thanks for taking the time to describe it. And may you be blessed by many days without suckage. 😉

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