Work, work, work

Posted: August 10th, 2009 under Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,

Progress continues on both the revisions of book two and the first-drafting of book three.   In the original Paks books, I wrote parts of the second and third book in parallel almost.   Here I’m finding revising two while writing three to be just as useful–since the things are So Darned Long, working on the previous one helps with continuity.   A lot.

So…what’s happening now?

More importantly, I guess, how can I talk about it without spoilers shooting up out of the ground and poking everyone?    I’ll try.

Book Two, as reported last week, had a Not Good chapter (now almost fixed–some smoothing of the joins still needed)  and a development in Book Three meant that not enough groundwork for same had been laid in Book Two.   In fact, a development late in Book Two lacked sufficient groundwork, which some comments made here, in this very blog, revealed to me.

Any time you’re writing fantasy, suspension of disbelief hangs by a thread, easily snapped if you put too much weight on it.  What strengthens it to a cable that can hold up a whole universe are the strands of logic (plot logic, character logic)  and consistency that you weave into that suspension thread.    The earlier you establish that “this is the kind of world in which these things can happen, and these others can’t”–whether it’s vampires or demons or little winged fairies with pink dresses or talking trees–and the more you weave in the things that can happen, make them integral early on–the stronger that suspension of disbelief  becomes.   Even things that you can’t mention early, you yourself have to know, absolutely–your certainty and sure handling of other things will propagate through the text and in some subtle way convey what the rules are for this fictional universe.

I didn’t know that years ago, except by instinct–and in this case instinct was right.

It doesn’t work for all readers, of course.   You can put in clues the size of elephants, and some readers will not get it, and will still be demanding to know, years later, why you didn’t put in turquoise winged rhinos or ninjas with occult powers–whatever their pet fantasy element is.   But for most, if you lay the groundwork, if you are consistent and honest in how you present your universe–they’ll go along for the ride you’re giving them.

That being said, plot-bombs in the last half of a book often present things, situations, events, that are perfectly logical to the writer–who knows background stuff never actually expressed–but that will look like Deus ex Machina copouts to the reader, who isn’t privy to the inside of the writer’s head.    In revision, the writer can (should–but it may need the help of multiple alpha readers)  release some of the background stuff, as needed to make the plotbombs fit smoothly.

Where should it go?   Earlier.  Nothing is as obvious a patch as “Four winged turquoise rhinos swooped down and snatched up the enemy commander and his staff–” immediatly preceded or followed by the equivalent of “Oh, I forgot to mention that in this other realm there are these winged turquoise rhinos and they’re good, and they will learn about the evil enemy commander by next summer…”    That’s bad craft.   That’s book-against-the-wall bad craft.    If your brain suddenly hands you winged turquoise rhinos as the perfect–the only–way to get your characters out of a mess, then you have to go back, look at the whole book previous to this “discovery” and rewrite until it’s logical and–though they may come as a surprise at that moment–readers are convinced that yes, this is a world in which winged turquoise rhinos might appear and give a flying whatsis about the evil enemy and your characters.   (You don’t even have to specify turquoise winged rhinos if you have previously established multicolored other large winged mammals…lavender wildebeests,  pink giraffes,  mint-green elephants, polka-dot water buffalo, all winged…and all with some interest in ethics…)

So anyway, dragging my all-too-fertile brain back from the brink of biological idiocy,  one thing you do during revision is check to make sure that the underpinnings for the surprises later are all in place so that the reader gets a surprise but of the right kind–“Omigod there was an X on the other side of that hill!”  and not “Oh, come ON!  You can’t add an X in now!”   It’s very easy for the writer, who sortakinda knows all (pretty much.  More than the readers anyway) to leave out stuff the reader needs to know, as well as infodump large lumps of pure data that the reader does not need to know.

The more prep work you put in on the early part of the book (esp. in revision) the more likely the rest of it is to untangle its tangles and run smoothly.

And now, back to work.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment