Wednesday, 12 March 2014

War For Funland No More (But in a Good Way)

Back in the harsh winter-stroke-spring of 2010, I did a strange and possibly a stupid thing: I packed in a well paid IT contract to take a break for four months, live off my savings and write a new novel.  That novel was War For Funland, which you may remember from...

No, wait.  You haven't read it, or, unless you religiously follow this blog and have an astounding memory, even heard of it.  Because I never finished a second draft, let alone got it published.

So what went wrong?

Well, it didn't, exactly; except that it sort of did.  It's not untrue to say that the reason that second draft never happened was that not long after I finished I got a deal for my first novel Giant Thief, plus sequels, and suddenly there was no time in the world for poor, languishing War For Funland.  But it's just as true - and maybe a little truer - that the reason I never went back to it was that writing it in the first place had been such a demoralizing experience.  It was an experiment, and not one that had particularly worked; not so much the book itself, that is, but the whole endeavor.  I realised quickly that I might have inadvertently ended my IT career, and thus would quickly run out of money and find myself stacking shelves or gun-running or something, and also that I couldn't properly write a book in four months or whatever stupid amount of time I'd allotted myself.   It didn't help that I hadn't done enough planning, and was trying to knock out two thousand words a day with no time for digging myself out of plot holes, of which I soon discovered there were a multitude.

I battled on, but by the time I got to the end, for all that I'd finished a novel and in about a sixth of the time my first had taken, there was a sense of failure hanging over the project.  Enough that the thought of going back to wrangle War For Funland into some kind of meaningful, potentially publishable shape didn't exactly fill me with glee.

But it turned out that the one thing worse that trying to re-edit your not-quite-successful second novel is giving up on it and all those agonizing months of work.  And I'd always figured that if I didn't return to it before, I'd do it now, after I'd gone full time as a writer, when I had no possible excuse not to.  Even then, though, I wasn't enthusiastic.  War For Funland was my big failure, after all, the book full of plot holes and copious flaws, written at a hopelessly breakneck pace ... even reading through it to work out what I could salvage wasn't a fun prospect.

Well, it turned that it wasn't that bad.  I mean, it really wasn't.  It was, in fact, in places, pretty good.  There were chunks, some of them surprisingly large, that I was very happy with.  There were times when I found myself getting so caught up that I forgot I'd written it in the first place.  And what cheered me the most was that I could see my writing getting better, chapter by chapter; I'd spent so long thinking of the whole endeavor as a mistake that I'd never realised just how much I'd improved for doing it.

At any rate, I've come to the conclusion that War For Funland is absolutely salvageable, and I've no doubt now that there are the makings of a good book in there.  Except that a second draft isn't going to get me to that point.  What I'm looking at now is more a from scratch rewrite - which I'll be starting come next month.  My thinking at the minute is that I'll be scrapping two thirds to three quarters of the existing stuff.  Drastic, sure, but necessary if it's ever going to be the book I hope it can be.

Oh, and it's not called War For Funland anymore.  But I'm perhaps a bit too free and easy in announcing my titles, so let's just say it is for the moment.

(It isn't.)

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