Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finishing a First Draft

On August 20th, 2011 I finished the first draft a book I started writing back in the winter of 2008. Here's a picture of a 12 year Glenfiddich Scotch I drank to celebrate.

The book is titled The Constable of Bridge. The first draft clocked in at 142,765 words (which is around 400 pages). I wrote it on Scrivener. Its divided into two parts. 28 chapters and a prologue and epilogue.

It's fantasy. But it's also a mystery. And there's a bit of science fiction thrown in. (What can I say? I like to mix and match genres!) It takes place in a town called Bridge--a place that I had oh-so-much fun discovering.

On the advice of Stephen King's On Writing (a fantastic book--one of my favorites) I waited a few months after finishing the first draft and am just now starting to print out its pages and begin my first read-through.

I'm vaguely terrified of doing this.

One, because its a lot of work and I'm inherently lazy and a famous procrastinator.

Two, because I know that I'm going to have to re-write and cut a lot, especially in the 1st half of the book. A whole hell of a lot has changed since I first began figuring out what kind of town Bridge is and what kind of people live there. Like, A LOT.

If there is one thing that I've learned while writing TCoB, its that it's an incredibly BAD idea to start a novel with only an idea and hope you just figure out what is going to happen as you write (this is very contrary to King's On Writing--which makes sense because King's one weakness in his novels is that he's very uneven at bringing them to conclusion).

Sometimes the next step in the journey does not just appear. Sometimes you're walking in fog without any clue that there's a ledge right next to you and your book could just plunge off the fucking side without any hope of recovery if you're not careful. Then you will have wasted months writing 30,000 words that you just have to trash with almost nothing to show for it. I had to restart Bridge three goddam times because I just thought I could make it up as I went. I only finished because I forced myself to produce a basic outline.

You see, I was afraid an outline would restrict me too much. I was terrified of that, in fact. But I found that as long as I had a vague notion of where I was going, I actually had the freedom to deviate significantly from it wherever I felt cause. Basically it helped me finish, and whatever helps you finish can't be all bad. You have to plan. You just have to. Well, sometimes. Perhaps its just that for THIS book, I had to create an outline and the next one I won't. I'll let you know when I finish the next book.

Anyway, I've just started reading the prologue and first chapter. I like them. They make me smile. There's some good stuff there. There's also some stuff I need to change, but nothing serious. I'll refrain from making editor marks until I read through the rest. Only after I've done a complete read-through will I go back and start taking notes and making changes.

Once I've fixed all the serious continuity errors, rewritten or axed or added scenes as necessary, then I'll edit for language. Cut the crap. Trim it down to make it lean and mean.

During that time, I'll also start sending the thing out to agents and publishers. I will probably start going to Cons (science fiction and fantasy conventions for you non-geeks) and see if I can make any contacts there as well.

And during all this, I'll still be working on other short stories.

I just had a great idea for one today. Its about how certain creatures can only get you if you invite them in. Its about chat rooms on the internet. It is going to be really fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Well, I'm back

I think anyone who has ever had a blog that they haven't written in for awhile should be allowed to crib Sam's last line from Lord of the Rings (just once, mind you) as a blog post title when writing their obligatory-sorry-I-haven't-updated-this-in-awhile-but-I'm-starting-up-again-and-will try-to-post-more-faithfully post.

So, yes. I finally figured out how to switch my blog Patrick's Stories from my old hotmail address to my current gmail. I know my Google-employed flatmate Matt is pleased that I've done away with the last of my old obsolete emails. Anyway, now that I can post in the blog under my current gmail address, I think I'll be posting a bit more.

So, now that I've quoted Samwise and promised faithfully to try and update regularly, etc., etc., lets talk about what's happening in my life.

What are the latest stories? Well it turns out quite a lot has gone on since I posted last.

I ran another marathon.

I went to France and Scotland for two weeks.

I finished the first draft of my fantasy/mystery/science-fiction The Constable of Bridge. I'm just now starting the dreadful task of editing it. Its going to be a lot of work.

I also wrote two new short stories "Quotable Magic" and "Frozen" and am in the midst of trying to decide which of all these works to begin editing/polishing. I plan on polishing at least one story and submitting it for my dream school Clarion Writer's Workshop which George RR Martin will be teaching at this year.

Work at Great Books Foundation is actually going pretty well.

I've been really enjoying guitar lessons at The Old Town School of Folk Music, an organization I cannot recommend highly enough to anyone interested in learning any kind of music. I can now play all the 12 major chords pretty well, play and sing with confidence about 4-5 songs, finger-pick one song really well. Right now I'm in the middle of barre chords--which are really fucking hard, by the way. I can play them, if I'm given about a minute to position my fingers. When I get really frustrated by it, I tell myself that I used to feel the same way about forming a C or G chord and now those things are easy, so hopefully barre chords will go the same way.

I'm surprised to find myself really enjoying my 30's so far. I felt like I was in a bit of a funk these past few years. Maybe that happens at the end of every decade and once the new decade starts, each of us is infused with a fresh dose of energy and perspective to enjoy all the advantages that this new decade brings. Or it could be that a combination of music classes, lots of running, and working on stories with some regularity has made me into a happier person.

Anyway, I plan on doing a more detailed post devoted to each of the things I've mentioned above, plus of course, any new and exciting stories that come my way.