So I stopped what I was doing when I realized I was in Act II Hell. So I backed up and reread what I’d written so far, throwing out close to 20,000 words. Well, I wouldn’t say I threw them out. I simply saved the draft as a new file, deleted everything after Chapter 21, and started making notes. It means less time spent on the novel and more time on other things.
Someone suggested I ship off a short story. Trouble is that I don’t have anything in the can at the moment. I have a couple of ideas, but while focused on long work, it’s hard for me to shift gears back to short work.
“Wait a minute. You’re writing this blog post.”
Yes, I am, but a blog is quite a bit like a newspaper column. It requires a different set of muscles. I’ve had other writers warn of the dangers of blogging, but I’ve also noticed that song doesn’t get sung as much in the era of Facebook and Twitter and whatever. Suffice it to say a blog post is not a short story is not a novel is not a screenplay. Some may argue that it makes no difference. To them, I say, “If that’s true for you, don’t do it.”
I digress. Last week, I made a long list of things I needed to do: Continuity errors to fix, references to put in or take out, mismatched names to fix, and a couple of tasks to do before I begin writing narrative again. One of those tasks was drawing a map. I actually have little clue what the setting looks like. There was a vague sense that the continent where this took place looked suspiciously like Middle Earth. Part of this stems from naming a mountain range the Misty Mountains and a putting a town called Edoras (the capital of Rohan in Lord of the Rings.) The map is crude and lacking details I’ll need later, but that’s fine. It lets me exploit the absence of established story facts until they come into being. Then I can add them back. That’s half the fun of world building. It was part of the motivation of writing Holland Bay, which takes place in the fictional Monticello, Ohio, a city of roughly 400,000 people that does not exist in the real world.
Now I’m outlining. I’ve had a few people, including some experienced writers, say, “Oh! Well, you can do that in an evening.” I could, but it would not be very good, and I’d be right back where I am in a month. Worse, I’d probably have to throw out twice as much as I did this time. So I outline two or three chapters in a sitting, then spend the next day thinking about what comes next and what possibilities I’ve can open up. It also helps me to keep from “opening the kimono” too fast. It’s Act II. I need to spend my time knocking my protags against the ropes. I also need to make the enemy more than a bunch of anonymous armored guys who can’t shoot straight. And I need to plot out the final battle, give our people a victory to end the book, and set up the sequel. (This is at least a trilogy.)
So this is how I’m spending my Thanksgiving week. I will be thankful when I can start work on the actual book again.