Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Novel Update, Mid-2015

It seems like a while since I've talked about my multifarious ongoing novels here, (or indeed about anything much besides nineties anime), and so I thought that June drawing to a close was a sensible enough reason to stop and think loudly about just where everything's at.  It's a good time for a little retrospection and forward-thinking, too, as it turns out, since some long term projects are finally drawing towards a close, whilst others are in the process of blossoming from half-formed ideas into actual, real work that I have to figure out how to begin in the near future.

On the endings front, I literally just finished with the second draft of my first attempt at a crime novel, The Bad Neighbour.  Of everything I've done, I can't think of a project where the first and second drafts were such completely different experiences.  I wrote the first draft at - what was for me, anyway - high speed.  I'm coming to learn that the first drafts of novels aren't my favourite part of the writing process on the best of days, but this felt like four and a half months of yanking my own teeth out, and by the end I wasn't hopeful for what I'd accomplished, only grateful it was done with.  So that when the feedback from my beta-readers came back as almost entirely positive, I felt nothing but confused; had I somehow sent people the wrong manuscript?  Maybe e-mailed out a copy of someone else's book?  But as it turned out, no.  Going back to Bad Neighbour, I was shocked by how well it held together.  I still am, really.  The second draft work felt like what I'd normally expect of a third draft, lots of tidying and polishing and not much in the way of surgery, and I liked what I ended up with.  It's a vicious, pulpy little beast, not even slightly like anything I've attempted, but I'm not sure if it isn't the best novel I've written.

Mind, maybe I shouldn't say that, because I'm about to embark on the final draft of Degenerates - the novel once called War For Funland, though it's changed immeasurably since those days - and I'd hate to hurt its feelings.  Overhauling relatively old work into something I can be happy with has been a hell of a thing, and not only has it involved adding a new viewpoint character, greatly enlarging the role of others whilst removing a few more, excising huge chunks and adding others and an overall staggering amount of editing, but in the last draft I completely rejigged the basic structure and changed the entire damn book from past to present tense.  Which is not a thing you want to do to a one hundred and thirty thousand word novel, I tell you.  But, you know, worth it - I think.  I mean, I've just read over the last draft and felt pretty good about it.  If I feel the same in three months' time then that's novel number five in the bag.

As for number seven - that being my medieval noir fantasy White Thorne - it's at almost exactly its midway point.  And so far, if it's taught me one thing, it's that writing historical fiction is really damn hard.  I mean, writing about the First World War was no easy thing, but at least I felt like I had some fundamental things in common with the folks I was trying to make real; technologically, psychologically, sociologically, we had enough shared ground that it seemed like I could find a way into their heads.  But the Middle Ages?  Those people were basically aliens.  Months of research have taught me that they didn't live like us, they didn't think like us, and I'm at a point now where if someone tried to convince me that they all had four arms apiece I might believe it.  So - White Thorne is not going smoothly.  However I just got through explaining how an agonising first draft can yield solid results, and damn but I'm clinging to that belief, while I shovel on with what is absolutely, definitely the most difficult thing I've yet tried.  All I'm saying is, this book better turn out great, because if not then I'm going to punch it in the mouth.

Last up, and next on the horizon, there's the project currently going under the tentative title of The Uplifted.  It's been bouncing around my brain for a long while now, ever since I wrote a short story called Wunderkind, which appeared to minimal attention in a fanzine called Bards and Sages Quarterly.  The core idea - of superheroes in a world ravaged by an apocalypse that they, with their unfamiliar and unchecked powers, inadvertently brought about - somewhere along the line combined with the classic story-line of Red Harvest - which if you haven't read it, you've certainly come across in one of its guises, as A Fist Full of Dollars or Yojimbo or the original Django or Last Man Standing - and then suddenly I had this thing that I kept referring to as my Post-Apocalyptic Red Harvest Superhero Novel, to the confusion and consternation of everyone.  But hey, if you're a writer and you're not causing confusion and consternation then you're probably not doing your job properly.  Or so I'm telling myself, as I try to put together an outline of its increasingly tangled plot, with the (perhaps slightly optimistic) view of starting work before the end of this month.

Is that everything?  Well, no, not quite; but it's enough to going on with, and I'm sure I'll be getting to the other stuff soon enough.  Now back to the all-but-impossible task of trying to invent superpowers no one's thought of before...

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