“…oil refineries appear, catalytic cracking plants, a thicket of pipes and stacks with flare-off fires brighter than the sunlight. Nostril-prickling smells float on the air, sly and sinister. Factory buildings of rusty red sheet metal, their windows broken, stand next to foundries and blast furnaces with brick chimneys sixty eighty feet a hundred feet high. Near each clanging workshop is a settling pond, a tailings dump, a slime pit filled with oily sludge, toxic solvents, pathogenic chemicals, black tars and industrial vomit roiled together in a marbled arabesque of brilliant, unforeseeable colors …
You guessed it: Edward Abbey.
Could be something right out of New Crobuzon though, eh?
Today marks three years that I’ve been writing fiction with regularity and vigor. Sounds like a Metamucil ad.
Part of me (and probably most of those who used to ask about the book) thinks, “holy hell, I’ve been at it this long and still haven’t finished?”
Another part of me thinks, “holy hell, it’s been three years already? Feels more like six months. I need another three years.”
I’ll admit, I was hoping to be further along, but when I look back I see:
Rough draft – no one reads this but me. Deciding it’s awful, I shelve it before actually finishing it.
2nd draft (total rewrite) – Outline the first five or six chapters and get rolling. Get rid of some characters, introduce new ones.
Revisions & editing of 2nd draft –My wife is kind enough to read it all the way through, as do I. There are moments, but it still lacks the depth I’m shooting for. Consider changing the entire POV, but in the end stick with my protag.
Summary outline for 3rd draft – I outline the entire story. For the first time I have a beginning, middle and end, mile markers if you will. I find the outline helpful for thinking through some things and allowing me to firm up the story in my mind.
3rd draft (75% rewrite) – I use the outline for a guide, but still deviate from it. Feel like I’ve finally got the shape of a story I like and enjoy telling.
Revisions & editing of 3rd draft – prepare the manuscript for public-ish consumption. Cut roughly one sixth of the manuscript.
Send out beta copies (first time anyone other than my dear wife glances at my work) & receive feedback.
Second round of revisions on 3rd draft – I’m between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way done on those. I’ve reduced the number of character POVs, tightening things up, reworking still some elements of the story, writing some new chapters, revising others to be from different POVs. It feels better. I look forward to reading it when it’s done.
When I put it that way? I’m copacetic with where I am. The learning curve has been steep as hell and, truth be told, I don’t think I’m quite into the more gentle grade as of yet, but that’s cool.
I’ve been debating whether to send this next version out to readers or just going ahead with the query process. I imagine it’ll depend on how it feels when I’ve had a little time to let the manuscript sit for a bit an can go back and read it.
Probably like most writers, I feel like things aren’t happening fast enough, that I’m somehow missing the boat (especially with all the stuff going on with e-books, self-publishing and the publishing industry itself). However, what’s the point of sending it out just to send it out.
I’ve seen a number of places the advice to enjoy the first novel, the time you get to lavish upon it. That sounds reasonable, but I’m also leery of the “Wonder Boys” syndrome of continually tinkering with a work to the detriment of setting it free. I’d prefer to set mine free to the world, but not like this:
Had a less than stellar day at the keyboard yesterday. I also got a short story rejection. And I found out that a narration I did needs to be redone.
When I dragged myself out of bed at 6 AM this morning, I was not chomping at the bit. Rather, it was with trepidation and dread that I approached the writing shack.
I sat my ass in my chair, finished revising one chapter and began another. Fast forward two hours and everything is fine. Doubts are well in hand and I look forward to getting back to the writing.
If anything, it’s the act of not writing that causes me the most angst.
A couple of quick thoughts:
1. I’ve enjoyed following Peter Cooper and Teresa Frohock‘s post publication experiences. If you aren’t aware of either of these folks, well, now you are. Check them out.
2. I read a thorough article in Poets & Writers by David Malki of Wondermark and Machine of Death fame (In one day, MoD shot to #1 on Amazon back in 2010, beating out whatever dreck Glenn Beck was pimping at the time). He discusses 9 ways of looking at bookstores. Great read. Unfortunately, you can’t view the article on line, but if you can get your hands on a copy of the Joan Didion issue of P$W, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, hope you all have a great day. In fact, I hope you kick the day’s ass.
P.S. I did march that short story right back out into the world for another go round, so we’ll see.
Staying fresh may be one of the more difficult things to achieve as a writer. Work on a thing too long and it becomes the proverbial monkey on the back. Flit from project to project too often and nothing ever gets done.
I’m staring down the barrel of year three for my novel, but somehow, it continues to be satisfying. Could be because it’s gotten better along the way. Could be because people have taken the time to help me and encourage me. Could be because I’ve taken measured breaks to work on other things. A little bit of balance goes a long way toward avoiding burn out.
Nothing to do but press ahead and enjoy it, even when writing is kicking my ass.
I am feelin’ alright, even if Steve Winwood’s having a tough go of it.