FULL BLEED: COUGHED UP BY THE SEA (2)
Okay, let's take come care with the personal brand this time.
I love horror. I love all things horror. Let me reinforce your love of horror.
There. All good? Put the hatchet down. Careful with that axe, Eugene.
One of the things I've found with all the books that I've written under my own name (as opposed to the ones that my name doesn't show up on and never will so don't even ask) is that I end up reinventing the process of writing them each time. This does great things for my incipient anxiety and confidence, let me tell you that. I don't know if it's restlessness or propensity towards boredom. Tough to tell.
Of course, this makes me wonder if I can keep cranking out work in the same world or if I'll get bored with that, too. My guess is I'll keep changing the rules to keep myself diverted and I suspect that will alienate audiences who want me to just keep doing the funny stuff. Oh well, let's burn that bridge when we get to it at least.
MY DROWNING CHORUS started out as the third book in the HAZELAND series, truth be told. I was all set to write out GLASS WOLVES and run with that. See, there's the character-driven story and then there's the world-driven storyline. They're two different things, but they have to be made to agree and reinforce each other, else why are you even doing that? Okay, you can have them at odds with one another and that drives tension, sure. But I had a character arc in mind and it simply wasn't mapping to the world arc.
The trick with that is recognizing when a thing isn't working and jettison it or make a different set of choices. It's not always easy to do. Particularly if you get attached to something or a set of somethings. Character trumps other considerations (for the most part) so I let that one call the shots. Luckily it was just a matter of putting the character and arc into a different setting/adversary. I don't want to say "antagonist" because that's projecting a bunch of human assumptions onto a thing that may or may not have any pretense at humanity. Spoiler, I guess.
This was something that I figured out, luckily, pretty early into things. I want to say that I got the green light for the next couple HAZELAND books after QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS in early-mid October. I had skeletal plots for each of them, seven in total. Then I spent the time between then and World Fantasy in November working out the plots some and digging into the second book. Kept running into walls, like I said, with the character-driven story and the situation. So, flying back from LA I just decided to swap some elements around and it more or less worked.
From then it was another three or so weeks of hammering stupidly on the plot and handwriting a lot of stuff (handwriting is for when I need to be slow, keyboards are for when I need to put out pages, and honestly, I do better when I can just get rolling on those). So I actually have a notebook where I was doing a lot of pre-writing work and laying out wiring for the circuits to all plug in together.
Let me say that writing in a familiar setting and time (even if I'm breaking some rules with both) takes a lot of work off my shoulders. You folks doing full worldbuilding and going thousands of years in the future, you're insane and I salute you. I'm pretty familiar with the HAZELAND setting, since a lot of it resides within my own memory, though I do have a pretty decent library covering the place now.
So at this point, just after New Years, I have a bunch of scribbled pages (and several attempts to use outlining software, all of which were miserable failures) on a variety of setting/character/other notes. Using those, I transcribe what I need to into a Scrivener file. Now, Scriviner is fine. Lots of people swear it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I use it as a way to keep little note cards, primarily, and as a bible/database on things. In the plotting phase, I'll make a scene/plot point note and just put it in there.
Eventually I have enough to have a very rough idea of how the plot will unfold (though often with helpful notes like FIX THIS LATER, thanks past me). I'll use that mostly linear events sequence to write out a first rough plot. In my case it was about ten or so pages, single spaced maybe?
Then I used that to fill out what needed filling out, sometimes with chunks of dialogue or just a scene/setting piece that I wanted to balance things against. But a lot of it takes place on a blank stage and that gives me the flexibility to make settings more interesting even if the scene itself doesn't zing just yet. But then I also try not to write the scenes that people want to skip over (thanks John MacDonald).
Okay, deep breath here. Because this is not enough to start a book. At least not for me.
See, QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS was contracted at 30k words (and was originally going to be a serial, so I had it planned out in discrete parts to begin with.) At that point, it's just four little short stories. I can pretty much hold that in my head at once. No biggie.
Of course, I turned it in at about 40k words. Luckily, it wasn't cut.
MY DROWNING CHORUS was supposed to be 60k words. Double the length right off the bat. Yeah, that I can't all juggle at once. Maybe after this one I can, I dunno. Neuroplasticity and all that jazz.
Ten pages wasn't enough of a structure for that. Original outline for QONT was around that length when it was approved, if memory serves.
So I wrote out a pretty full synopsis.
It went fifty double spaced pages. That was a couple days of work because at that point it's not so much writing as it is transcribing, filling out a little bit. Still, fifty pages. Terrifying prospect when you're looking at a book that isn't all that much longer than that when all is said and done. I began to panic as to having too much material. (I was also right.)
Anyways, next step was to write a two page synopsis for the publisher/editor to make sure this was all jake. Easier to fix it then than to fix it in a written work, lemme tell ya.
Synopsis gets approved.
Then I really panic because I have to do this now. And I feel like I'm not prepared enough. Maybe I'm not. So I spend a week doing anything but write or just pretending to poke at the outline to "fix" things that aren't really there. Which means its time to start writing this. The writing of which takes around ten-twelve weeks. Mostly in about three hour chunks at a time. Four hundred and seventy pages in that time, just under three months.
I'm not editing during this time. I suck at editing. Really, I'm the worst. At least on my own material. And if I edited someone else's work, all I'd do is make it more like mine. That's not a good idea. Seriously though, I'm just writing this stuff. The whole point is to get pages that can be fixed.
Before I sent this book out to first readers, I made a quick pass through, mostly to get things close to the maximum length for the publisher (I'm still over -- oh well). Which meant stripping out a thing I wanted to do entirely and slicing out at least one subplot and cutting short another one. (I have indeed posted some of what was cut on this very site. It's not hard to find.) There were some minor tweaks in wording and some suturing where I did the surgery, but that's basically it. Still waiting to hear back from first readers to make sure it makes sense to someone not me.
The first couple have indicated that it indeed does. I'll take it.
So, yeah, easy. But then I've been doing this for awhile.