I’ve been thinking, since I posted Seeking Perfection, of going back and doing a sort of retrospective with each chapter. I’m reasonably certain that at no point anyone would actually care if I did so but I think on a personal level it would help me figure out how I approached everything. If nothing else it could at least be mildly interesting I suppose. Continue reading
And here we are. Again. Sitting at zero words written with thirty days to go. Fifty thousands words looking like an unreachable mountain peak way off in the distance. And here I am just sitting at the bottom with only the faintest ideas of where the story begins and where it will end. Fun times are ahead. Continue reading
The perpetually incomplete novel, which had been stuck near the end of chapter four since November, has finally moved on. To chapter five. A mere stepping stone on its rise to completion but a necessary one. And I must say it feels good to actually see some progress with it. Continue reading
It’s been a bit of a struggle getting back into the writing mind-set, especially coming off five or so months of editing. It’s even harder to stop myself from going back through the previously written chapters and editing them to the nines. I keep catching myself scrolling back to the previous chapters and frowning and furrowing my brow and making corrections. To be brutally honest it is an aggravating annoyance. Continue reading
Like I had done after finishing the first draft of the novel I ended up taking a two-week break once I’d finished the second. I took some time to unwind and clear my head. To try, and fail, to forget what I’d written to allow me to come back with a fresh perspective. Then, on Monday, I loaded up the document again and started the third draft.
However, unlike the original editing review I’d just completed this would be more of a… structural review. Wording and punctuation and grammar are the focus of this attempt; not expanding or contracting the actual story. I’m treating this as a complete review of every single paragraph; each gets reread minimum three times, if it doesn’t say what I want or a sentence is confusing it needs to be reworked. I have also come to the humiliating realization that it took me ten minutes to figure out how to spell serene. That sentence took on a whole new meaning, apparently, the guy looked like an amino acid.
I did forego the printed paper copy this time and I’m especially happy about that. I’ve found that I can edits twice as fast now that I’m not reading off paper then reading off the screen and contemplating if I can actually read my hand written notes.
I’ve sent off a few eBook copies of the second draft for opinions on the story. And really pretty much only the story. I knew, as I sent of the copies, that there were mechanical issues that needed to be corrected. But those are easy to address. If the very core of the narrative isn’t engaging no amount of grammatical tweaking is going to salvage it.
I suppose the people I sent the book to are a tad bit annoyed with me by this point. I don’t think they were expecting as many questions from me as I’ve been asking since, in general, I don’t like talking. But the general consensus is the first few chapters are good and that’s about it. Only one person has finished the novel so far, the other have either not started or are still only three or so chapters in.
From my sister, who has completed the book, she said she enjoyed it overall. She liked the characters and the plot, but did have a few issues with some parts: the girl and the sex scene being to big ones. And both of which I knew were going to be issues. The girl… I never settled on an age for her until I’d already written a chapter and a half with her and I’ll need to correct that this time through. The sex scene… I never wanted to write it to begin with. And I have to agree with her, it breaks the narrative flow and would be better served as a lead up to act. It… I guess it’s a jarring transition. Apparently I just write unsettling things and suspense better than romance.
Her big take away though was that one of the minor characters should be in it more often, since he was her favorite character. That’s not going to happen since the story obviously isn’t about him. She found the antagonist to be, in the end, pathetic enough that she felt sorry for him. The protagonist came off as a grumpy drunk who grew enough to start the process of changing his life. The side characters were fun, and she liked how the book ended. So at least it was enjoyable.
She did bring up an interesting suggestion about maybe writing a novel about his first meeting with the protagonist. There is a lot of action going on, I laid out the general plot in the novel itself already, and drunken cynical Mike was fun to write. The only thing is that there is no suspense. You already know that both of them survive and how.
There is also the issue with the title to address… I’ve tentatively changed it from “Perfection’s Trap” to “Seeking Perfection”. Still not happy with it. Although I do know I won’t be taking my sister’s suggestion and renaming it to “Stitches’ Super Happy Fun Time Adventure”. Just typing that out made me feel a little ashamed.
The end of this second draft is nearly in sight. With two and a half chapters to go I will likely finish first thing Saturday morning, or Friday night if I push myself. I’m feeling a bit better about the pace I’m going through it, though I think I won’t be making changes on a paper copy next time. It was nice and all to go through and be able to make notes and corrections in pen, but I’ve essentially edited the novel twice at this point. I found that, even though I made the initial review, I’ve made many more changes this time as well.
And the edit… I’m not sure. Things have been fleshed out to the point where I’m happy with it. Parts are better explained, some thugs are augmented, the killer’s motives are clearer, and the protagonist has a bit of a shift in character. But… I don’t know. Parts are stilted and stiff. I think the next revision is going to have to focus on making the entirity of the novel flow a bit better.
I was experimenting the other day with attempting to create an eBook copy. I have learned one thing: the best way, at least for this novel, is to export my Google Doc as a html and import that into Calibre. At least going that route made my chapters actually appear in the table of contents. Once I get this edition done I’ll probably give out a few copies to some people I know in order to get their feedback as I go through and make my third pass. Like I said I already know that the prose needs to be tightened (its grown by nearly 4000 words since I started the actual edits), but I need the opinions of other people to make sure the story actually makes sense and is consistent. I hold to the belief that I’m just too close to the story to be able to be as objective as I should be with regards to the content. I fully expect to be told that it is a meandering plague of words and that I should feel bad for having typed them in the first place. But we shall see.
As you can see from the above image I have managed to hit the fifty thousand word goal to be declared a winner. Huzzah and what not. It was a bit of a grueling experience at times due, in no small part, to my luck playing out like it usually does. For example a week where I messed up my back then flowing straight into being sick for a week. But, thankfully, I didn’t panic and freak out like I figured I would. I used the weekends as I expected I’d need to: catch up periods. This last weekend though was the big push which got me well ahead of schedule and let me cross the goal a few days ago.
I think that if I hadn’t had a solid concept going into the month I probably would have gotten stuck around the eighteen thousand range. For the most part the beginning and end of the novel were all that I had figured out. The middle, as has always been my weak point in writing next to dialog, had a few solid ideas to start with but was almost entirely just a logical progression through ongoing events. But, for the most part, it took on a life of its own. There were situations where I thought I might have written myself into a corner. How do I get from point A to point B while not making it a plodding narrative. How can this run be more exciting. I’m not ashamed to admit that I went with “make a huge explosion” once to spice up an escape.
I do have a few notes for future revisions of the novel. Specifically themes and certain portions of the prose. As the working title, “Perfection’s Trap”, suggests one of the biggest themes in the novel is the idea that searching for perfection is a pointless endeavour. The killer’s obsession with recreating a single perfect moment drives him to kill. The protagonist’s belief that he’s no longer whole and his refusal to accept the loss of a limb drove him to drink, lose his job, and lose his wife and child. The world’s obsession with trying to fix the problems humanity caused are blind to the fact that half the population can’t take advantage of the advances and are wallowing in poverty and corporate servitude.
Of the three themes I know I need to expand the world one. The killer goes through an arc of questioning his obsession but always rages against it despite his inability to point out what his work is missing. He just knows that the colors aren’t right. And it plays out to the logical conclusion for him. The protagonist goes through a similar arc; starting out resenting his artificial arm and drinking himself to death and works his way to the point where he wants to change and in the end accepts what has happened to him. But the world? Not as played up. You get bits and pieces here or there but it is never as in depth as the two characters.
The other is my descriptions. Part way through, around the thirteenth or fourteenth chapter, I started noticing that the descriptive prose that I like had shifted to something a bit more… generic. I know I’ll need to go back through and expand on certain sections quite a bit, tighten ramblings here or there, but the main idea is that I need to go back and make sure it feels right.
Of everything I’ve experienced this month writing a sex scene was, by and large, an awkward affair. I had a discussion with Kristine regarding this and she told me, in no small terms, that if I was to write one it needed to be good. Now my initial reaction to this was to get to the sex scene and to write “Insert Sex Scene Here” and highlight it in yellow. Give it to here after the first draft is finished and just see her reaction. I didn’t do that, mostly because I wanted to up my word count for the day. A few days later I was talking with my sister and brother-in-law and he brought up how long can a sex scene in a book realistically be? Turns out, at least for mine, around sixteen hundred words. So about four and a half pages in a paper back. And there is no way in hell that is going to get longer than that.
One of the early ideas I had was to have a specific rhythm to the chapters. Specifically one chapter for the antagonist followed by two for the protagonist. This worked well until about chapter twelve. The story hit a spot where, for all intents and purposes, I needed to tell more of the protagonist’s story to set up the next installment of the killer’s. I went back and forth for a few days, until working out a different way to structure the story, cut chapter ten and moved it to a later point, wrote a different chapter ten and voila. Problem solved. For the most part. I’ll need to wait and see how it works when I actually finish it and go through with a first reading of the draft.
Currently I have three and a half chapters left to go. With luck I’ll get the majority of that completed tomorrow and Sunday. The story has reached a point where the action is rapidly rising, the climax is on the horizon, and the denouement will provide some… catharsis, I think, for the protagonist. I’m expecting it to finish around sixty to sixty-five thousand words. With the goal of future revisions to up that to around seventy-five depending on what can be expanded and what can be cut.