Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chapter 11

Done.

That's right. Chapter 11 is done. Finally.

Well, shitty first draft done, but still, done nonetheless. It actually happened a few days ago, but I've got shit going on, so it took me a bit to get it together and come blog about this milestone.


Why is it a milestone?

Well, A. Finishing 11 means I am finally, well and truly, on the back end of my WIP. It means that all that is left is the stuff from the short story, the stuff that originally inspired the longer work and that stuff, for the most part, is pretty well known to me, not to mention pretty straight forward and action-y. Also, by my reckoning, even at my most flowery and overly indulgent, there can't be more then 6 or so chapters worth of work left. Which also means that, if things continue on at their current rate (and I have no reason to expect that they won't), my shitty first draft is probably going to end up around 100,000 words, which means plenty of room to expand and contract.

Perfect for a first draft.

And B. Chapter 11 took forever. Seriously... forever. There's a couple of reasons for this. It just so happened to be the part I was muddling through when I started working again and threw off my writing schedule. It was also the last big unknown section of the book, a blank space in the narrative that I could only see vague shapes moving about in, but still something I had to wade through in order to get to the other side. But mostly, it was due to the fact that, even though it's not the halfway point, it sure as hell felt like the halfway point, which means that I am currently mired knee-deep in the mid-draft blahs.


At this point, this particular WIP is still chugging along based solely off of blind faith and the potential of the second draft. I suppose that's true for most first drafts. They establish the space. They dig out the shape, build the foundation and put up the frame. They build your house, basically. The second draft is where you then step back and take a look at the flow of the house you just built. How does it look? Does it work? Will it stay standing? You take a good hard look and then you start tearing down problem sections and you try to re-build them stronger in spots, you add in some new stuff here and there and you take out some old. You work at it and hope it becomes something better.


Well, this particular WIP has long felt like it was going to need a lot more second drafting than most, at least a lot more than my last book, in fact, I know it will. Because right now, this book is a mess. It switches gears suddenly, diving in different directions, lunging forward in parts and idling in others. It creates themes and details out of nowhere. Some characters may not last, others may become more than they are now. It has long stretches where I obviously know where I want to go, but am unsure how to get there. It's all so up in the air. The idea of course is that I can always fix it later, that I should write it all through first and try to leave something behind for when I return later, something that I can either fix, add to, or delete and try something else.

But above all else: Finish the first draft.

And its worked, for the most part, I feel like it has the potential to lead me somewhere great in the second draft, but as I barrel ahead the book has become this howling, chaotic maelstrom of nagging questions and raging doubts and half-finished ideas clamoring for attention. It's difficult to keep going some days, to say the least, but what can you do? I can't dump a first draft this deep into it, that'd just be quitting. The second draft, that's make or break time. Besides, the only real way to "become" a writer is to finish something, right? At least, that's what they say. Still, it's very easy to get hung up and stall out, to doubt yourself. It's very easy to start thinking that you're making shit.

And as a result, it's very easy to get distracted.

It starts around the 100th page. That's when the doubts show up. The bright and shiny and oh so appealing newness of the project has worn off by then and what was once a burst of ideas and driving passions has become an uphill slog. It's become work. You begin to look at your creation "critically" and you start to daydream about greener narrative pastures, new stories, new ideas, new books and new worlds, so bright and lovely. You have to ignore that shit, because that is why most people start tons of "books", but most never actually finish a manuscript.


But I'm struggling, so I took a break and I dusted off my old A4 Moleskine. Turns out, almost the entire back half was still open and blank and ready to go. Then I went through my old notebooks and scoured out all the scribbled ideas and quickly jotted notes. I took all the old and interesting bits and pieces, the half-baked and the incompletes and I put it all in a list.

Nine Novels and sixteen Short Stories.

A bunch of ideas and sprouting seeds and pretty good starts with plenty of room to develop them.

They're lovely to look at, all glowing golden and practically humming with potential. Looking at them, it feels like being well stocked against possible disaster. I feel ready. Now I know: "If this one doesn't work out, at least I've got a little something in the bank to fall back on." Will they all grow and sprout and become something, will they all bloom and flower or will they remain fallow? I don't know, but they're in the book now. They're organized and catalogued and written down. They're safe. I can look at them and know where they are. I don't have to worry about losing them, or spend my days poking at them, turning them over incessantly in my hands, examining them and considering them. They're written down.

Best yet, now I can shut the book on their gibbering cacophony and go back to work.


I plan on finishing the first draft this summer and then I'll let it sit for a little bit, let it cool, let it ripen, let it fester. I've got this idea for a YA book, maybe, one with a female protagonist and all my favorite genre trappings, maybe I'll give the first few chapters a spin this fall, just something to cleanse my palette before diving back into the second draft of this book. Maybe.

The months ahead are full of potential.

Chapter 11 is done.

On to Chapter 12.
Jon

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