Now and then a scene just comes and hardly has to be altered — it starts fresh and stays fresh. That’s nice of course, but it’s not that common — or not for me, anyway.
I keep multiple drafts backed up and often revisit early ones to try and salvage material as the needs of the story force changes on the writing. I’m all too capable of wandering miles away from a first draft then coming back closer to it after realising I didn’t need to wander so far — but I probably needed to see what was over there in order to decide to come back. (And I might find something useful over there, too.)
I always fear that redrafting will produce a laboured product — maybe an odd fear for someone who likes fancy language, but there’s fresh fancy and stale fancy. The reader’s going to find it how they find it, but it has to seem fresh to me. I like to keep dialogue pretty close to its original state, if plot permits. Sometimes the characters come up with lines that are obviously better, but I seldom feel compelled to extensively revise dialogue. But I almost always rewrite descriptions, sometimes many many times. Sometimes the right words don’t come until I’m tired or doing something else. And I find that action scenes can ask for a lot of revision, though that’s a bit different as it’s as much about choreography as aesthetics. When I was writing TEC I did a fair bit of climbing around on furniture trying to work things out.
I’ve been redrafting this story a lot. Additions to plot give me no choice. However much the story may be improved, I always feel a certain regret for the lost first draft. But onwards and upwards. I’m enjoying it.
Back to dialogue for a moment — I was having trouble writing some lines. Then I imagined Yul Brynner saying them, and some better words came. Whether it was the added persona or the cadences of a distinctive voice, something helped. So next time I’m stuck with lines I’ll borrow an actor.
Went outside this morning and found this delightful little serpent in a tree. Neighbours say it isn’t dangerous. I think it’s an Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina). Mildly venomous but not considered a threat to humans.
British Channel 4’s 1982 animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, with David Bowie doing the introduction. (That barn owl…)
The dark brown version (#2/15) of The Sleep of Monsters is available on Etsy now. He’s about 14.5 cm tall including the base, which is black granite. The stony tan one will be online soon, as will Beau and the two crows (The Silent One and The Noisy One), though at present the crows will be for order only.
I’m offering a $50 discount (coupon code UX4490ZU, expires 15 January 2017) to readers of this website, with a minimum purchase of USD $450. That’s The Sleep of Monsters’ price, though if you happened to buy $450 worth of other things it would also work 😉
Some readers might remember a story I was working on a while back, about Gwynn and Sharp Jasper and a bet.
Well, I went back to it this year. It’s now called Knights Out: or, A Significant Ornamental Feature. It’s going well enough that I don’t feel like I’d jinx myself if I mention it. I think it’ll be about 30K words. There might be enough plot for a novel, but I don’t think it should be one.
It’s set in Ashamoil before The Etched City, and the tone is lighter. I started writing it as an exercise in plotting, and since my favourite kind of plot is a complicated farce like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, that was the kind of thing I attempted here.
I’ve learned a few things while writing it:
- I can write without hearing characters in my head. I used to feel like I had to follow them and not make them follow too much of a predetermined story, and sure I like writing that way; but I have trouble doing it at more than short story length. But actually, yes, I can have them follow a plot, too. As long as their planned actions aren’t OOC, they shouldn’t be either, and they still have room to improvise in dialogue and smaller actions. It’s really in dialogue that I tend to ‘hear’ them (obviously, because they’re talking).
- Writing a rough but complete first draft is a good tactic for me. It might change a lot, but it lays a foundation.
- Plot can be filled in. If something absolutely has to happen, there can be any number of reasons why it happens.
- Some characters write themselves, and which ones do can be surprising. I already knew that. But if a character isn’t self-writing, they can still be written. It might take more time, but it’s doable.
- To persevere with a long piece of writing I have to enjoy it. The characters have to be having some kind of fun, and/or I have to enjoy hanging out with them. Which makes sense because I’m the same as a reader. I read non-fic for information, fiction for entertainment. That doesn’t mean I only want to read trivial fiction. But there are approaches to writing that I find more entertaining than others, e.g. writing the serious as black comedy. Grotesque and gothic approaches, e.g. Carson McCullers, Patrick White, Yukio Mishima, also work for me.
- I rather enjoy writing plotty stuff. Who’da thunk it?