Monday, February 8, 2016

Thoughts on a Snowy Afternoon (that I forgot to post)

As I sit here blizzard assaults the house, burying everything in a blanket of soft, powdery snow.  After an unusually warm December it appears that my old adversary, winter has arrived.

Back in early December, having put the final touches on my "first" draft of a novel twenty- two years in development and sending it to a few peer readers I thought there might be a better way to build a novel.  Instead of  merely bumbling along, making shit up as the plot develops, as I have always done, why not pay more attention to the plot and background BEFORE the first word is written.

OK, so everybody outlines and I am just coming late to the party so kick me.  I haven't done this before, choosing in my short stories to focus on the proximate issue and then beating the hell out of it.  This time I decided to handle things scientifically.  The concept was already in my head, else I wouldn't even have made the decision to try, so all I had to do was lay out how my protagonist & associates get from the here of the beginning to the there of of the ending.

No problem.

First I needed to paint with a broad brush the primary arc of the novel and spread it over about twenty chapters or so.  That done I proceeded to draw a temporal map of when and where events take place.  This set the stage for sketching in the minor arcs - those interplays of characters that will pull the reader along-- and identifying where they should break away from the main plot line and what actions they would invove.  That was followed by having a casting call for a brace of characters; names, their positions, relations to each other and the principle characters, and their desired personalities, etc.

 Then the hard work began, positing the things that would turn this into a science fiction story - world building in other words.

By the third week of January I had a seven page outline that sketched out each scene of each chapter with a word or phrase just as the massive storm was arriving.  Time, I said, to begin to see if this was a better way to go rather than struggling along the swamps and deserts of Plotland .

So I began to write and was amazed at how easily the words flow when you know so much of the world and all within it.  Four days after beginning I had four chapters, about 16,000 words in hand and had not had to go back and cancel half a line or clear up an inconsistency.  This was a revelation for me.

We shall see what obtains when I reach the dreaded 50k mark, which should be mid February and have completed the "first" draft by April, unless I have to take a break to produce a short story or throw something at an anthology.

Or find that this process is no easier than anything else.


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