I'm about 4,000 words behind schedule right now. Wanted to hit 30,000 today, but I'm only at 26,000. And those 26,000 aren't quite consecutive. The last few thousand are choppy and need a lot of work before they feel like a whole. Fortunately, that's what I'm planning to do with the missing 4,000 words.
Anyway, I wound up doing a lot of rewriting, so I've actually written a lot more than my 30,000 word target, but I cut a bunch of it and started significant chunks anew. Rewriting is, I think, where the true art of writing takes place. You read what you wrote, are unsatisfied, and begin to craft it into what you want. It's also the most painful part, because, at least for me, I oscillate between feeling like a genius and a hack. And a lot of what I've written so far is hack. Avoiding hack writing is tough, especially with fantasy. There's a cliched hack tone that pollutes most fantasy novels, and its hard not to absorb it unconsciously and then use it in your own work. So I keep rewriting whole sections in order to get the tone -- the voice of the piece that I'm looking for. Because, in my opinion, there are two things that separate a good fantasy story from a lame one: the voice, and the characters. The stories are all generally the same -- save the princess and defeat the evil wizard -- and that's fine with me. The world's are generally the same too. Dragons, magic, elves, dwarves, etc. etc. etc. And again, I don't mind. In fact, it's comforting. Having similar stories played out in similar places makes it easier to get into the things I look for most, which is good characters and thoughtful writing -- or rather, characters who come to life via the way they think about the world.
So far my characters are coming along the way I want them to. I'm enjoying getting into their heads and making them think. Unfortunately, in setting everything up, getting the characters in place, getting the reader the info he/she needs to understand what's going on -- that's the part that's kicking my ass. As a story teller, you want everything to come across as clearly and quickly as possible, and you don't want the reader to feel like you're pushing exposition on him. But you've got an unusual and complicated world that, much as it's like every other fantasy world out there, needs explaining. And all the models for how to do this are where you find your hack writing.
So what to do?
And the answer is rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until everything flows the way you want it to. It's not easy, but once you've finally chipped away all of the stone that doesn't look like a statue, it's an amazing feeling. You say, "I wrote that," and you can't wait to wow people with it.
Monday, November 14, 2005
So, what I'm referring to as "my kids' book" (which is actually a young-adult fantasy type book) reached the 22,000 word mark yesterday. In less than a month I've written more for it than I wrote for my memoir over many years. Crazy. Anyway, this feels like the book I'm "supposed" to be writing right now. It's moving along quickly and I'm having a great time working on it. In fact, I haven't had this much fun with my writing in probably seven or eight years. Anyway, if all goes as scheduled I'll reach 30,000 words by the end of the week, at which point I'll send out sample chapters to any friends and relatives who want to see how it's going and who hopefully will provide useful criticism that will guide the book to its completion. Get psyched!
Turns out my parents' wiener dogs will eat bees. We have a bunch of bees in the house (don't ask) and when they make the mistake of falling/flying down to wiener dog level, the dogs eat them. Somehow they do this without getting stung (or, if they are getting stung, they don't seem to care). I'm tempted to try it myself. Maybe bees taste good.