After spending a week or so clearing my plate so I can focus on one big task for a while, I’ve returned to the revision of Trollbooth. The goal here is to take the typed manuscript and fill it out from rough narrative to full telling. You can see how my writing process works here.
Since I’ve intentionally stayed away from this project for a stretch of time, I felt the best way to begin was with a read-through of my 2nd draft. It’s like a survey; what exactly do I have out there? What in general is missing? I’m keeping notes as a go using an app called Evernote, which I love because it’s cloud-based and works on any device. I make notes on my phone, and within seconds they’re updated on my Mac and my tablet.
So far, I’ve read about 50 of 175 pages. My major concern is for the opening chapters. It’s clear I was still finding my way when I originally wrote them. There are contradictions and narrative breaks where the story doesn’t flow, and even a few passages I want to take out entirely. That’s just how it works for me. The beginning is important for the usual reasons, but I’m also feeling pressure to make it as engaging as possible. Trollbooth is, after all, the start of a series. If it sucks at the onset, nobody’s going to read as second, let alone finish the first.
The good news is that it’s not as bad as I’d imagined. Most of the elements I want are present and fairly well-developed, but out of sequence. Reading the manuscript has helped me see how to fix it, and I’ve got a notion of how the one from-scratch addition I’ll need to make is supposed to go.
I expect the reread to be done by this weekend. I don’t know yet if I’ll tackle the new beginning first, or if I’ll get down to line-editing the manuscript and leave the major work for last. It’s likely I’ll do both at the same time, drive myself a little crazy, and love every minute of it. The one thing I know for sure at this stage is the book isn’t as shabby as I feared. I’m entertained to read it; now all I have to do is make it so the reader’s experience mirrors mine. It’s a tall order, but it’s do-able
Let’s call this one the vacation edition. As I talked about last week, I decided to take a week off coincidental to my vacation and work on other projects.
I tell you, I tried. Up until Thursday, I either wrote little or worked on a story that blossomed into a full-fledged clusterfuck. I took a concept I still like (even if I can’t make it work as a story) and transmogrified it into something strange and different. Given that the story was about a mutating poodle, at least there’s irony in that.
Thursday afternoon I was journaling about how it sucked that I had all this time and couldn’t get a fucking thing out. As usual, talking to myself was cathartic (I really do recommend it), and it hit me that the answer wasn’t getting away from the storyline I’ve grown to love. No, taking off on a tangent was the worst thing I could’ve done to feel good and refreshed. I didn’t want out of my EFSF universe. I wanted to create in it again! And so, rather than turn left or veer right, I slipped sideways and kept going the same way on a different track.
I spent the rest of my creative vacation time working on an Enchanted Forest State Forest story I began last year, but ultimately put aside to focus on the Trollbooth revisions. I’d written the opening pages months ago; last week I was able to complete the next story movement. It’s still not finished, but that’s okay since I really had no expectations beyond good writing. I’ll get back to it in a month or so.
Now that I’m back, I’m working on Trollbooth again. I feel good about Monday’s production; hopefully I can carry that momentum into the rest of the week. It’s going to be creatively boring, as I’ll be transposing again as I outlined in my writing process, but that’s okay. I had a week off. Now I can push.
Last week was a bummer in just about every way. I lost two pets on Monday and an aunt later in the week. Needless to say, most of my time was spent working through grief and taking care of the family. It left only a little time for writing; the follow is how I feel about what’s been happening this week.
Regularity may be the most important part of my writing process, but the reality of life is that it’s not always possible. I’m trying to accept that as I move from one week to the next. Now I’m feeling guilty about the coming week, where I’ll be on vacation. I’ve been planning for a couple months now to take a concurrent vacation from my usual work – which is currently Trollbooth – and simply write a story or two longhand. I’ve done vacations before where I’d go camping or halfway across the country, and leading up to them I’d have this believe that I could write my usual work and suffer no difficulties even though I’m out of my usual environment. It never worked. At best, I felt like I was writing to put words on the page, or revising under duress, I’d get something solid accomplished, but it was slower and more tedious. I don’t know about all of you out there, but that’s not the way I want to experience my vacation. To that end, I spent some time this winter contemplating what I had done well on vacation, and that was simply write a story, from scratch or a plan, but with a pen in hand and a bunch of blank paper ahead of me. Old–fashioned? Sure. It also works. I’ve learned not to argue with what works when it comes to procedure.
And so I have eight days ahead of me where I don’t have to sweat the small details. This week is about the creation part of writing, the birthing of an idea from thought to something others can understand and enjoy. Work on Trollbooth will recommended next week when I’m back at my desk, with my hardcopy and my usual keyboard and double-monitor setup. I believe I can finish the second draft in under 2 weeks, and that’s judging by the typing speed I was averaging on the few occasions I actually was able to write this past week. Now at I’m in the groove, both in the muscle mechanics of typing and the growing confidence I’ve developed in the story. I can actually see my first draft evolving and taking shape on the page. It coincides with the memories of writing I have from that period, where I was holding large chunks of story movement in my conscious mind, even when I wasn’t at my desk. That let me work on smoothing out the rough edges, since I was almost always aware of the sequence of plot events. I know what I’m doing when I sit down each day to write. It’s a good feeling; old as my writing career and fresh as a lecherous first date. Add in a week of swimming in pure story-ether, and I call this a period of refreshment and renewal.