Monday, September 24, 2012
But I Just. Can't. Stop!
I've also been kind of busy in meatspace. My house now has functioning hot water pipes, repaired drywall, a pane of glass which is not cracked, two new sets of blinds, a new cubby shelf, and a brand spanking new desk which my wife kindly purchased for our five year anniversary and which I will be putting together as soon as it gets here.
Five is the Wood anniversary, I'm told. Stop sniggering. I got her a jewelry box. It looks lovely.
My current desk is one of those small-but-serviceable metal computer desks that lets you sit at a terminal and not much else. It is falling apart because it was put together shoddily (by moi), or because it was manufactured shoddily in the first place. I can believe either or both. The keyboard tray is currently sitting at a 40 degree angle where my feet ought to go. I am ready for a replacement.
Does the Goodwill take a partially-assembled desk? It still works fine as a desk. Just not, you know, as a desk with a sliding keyboard platform thing.
Oh yeah, I also rebuilt my entire home network after my venerable wireless router (God bless the Linksys WRT54GS!) began dropping connections about every other day. There is only so many times in a week I am willing to pull the plug and count to thirty. I replaced the wizened blue box with an Airport Extreme, which means Apple hardware has finally penetrated my home infrastructure. (iPods don't count.) Setup was a breeze once I remembered to power cycle my modem, and my whole network now runs on a sexy MAC-filtered WPA2-encrypted stream of secured data. (Thank God for firmware updates, or my TiVo would still have me stuck on sad sad WEP.)
All of this, of course, is a distraction from what I'm supposed to be doing, which is Writing The Book. Or more properly, Prewriting The Book.
Everyone says you should outline, except for the people who say you should never outline, and I'm done listening to them because I always come out with something that bent at non-Euclidean angles halfway through. I don't believe a first draft should be perfect, but I do expect it to be coherent enough that I don't have to re-plot the entire book when I'm done drafting it.
Here's an example: I tried pantsing a Victorian-era monster mash that included all the classics: vampire, werewolf, Frankenstein's monster, the works. Then I found out halfway through that the original Wolfman, Larry Talbot, isn't public domain, he's a Universal property. But I was already halfway through the damn book! So rather than go back and fix it from the ground up, I just made another character the werewolf. And then that didn't work, so I made him not the werewolf. Without going back and editing anything.
What I ended up with was a manuscript where one character ceased to exist halfway through, and another character ended up acting like three different people. And the same thing happened to a few other characters - they grew and evolved into completely different people as I wrote, but because I was out to get the first draft done done done, I didn't take the time to go back and fix the cardboard cutouts they were earlier in the story. So when I finally got the draft done, I was stymied trying to figure out where to start revising. "From the beginning..." Yes, well, no. I needed to note down the needed changes, which meant nailing down what the characters were actually going to be like, which of the multiple-choice plots I was going to keep and which I was going to cut...
In short, I would need to outline the damn book as if I was starting from scratch. Better, I think, to just outline the book first, then write the first draft without letting it fly out of control halfway through.
I'm happy to report this has worked for some short fiction pitches, but I'm running aground on the latest book (which is not the monster mash - I'm leaving that on the back burner until I can do the necessary Victorian research). I don't think this is a fault of technique, but just me being too unmotivated to get notes down on paper. And maybe a minor fault of technique - I'm taking plenty of notes and jotting down ideas, but I haven't quite got everything organized in a way that makes sense to me yet.
But! Not giving up. That's what they want you to do. But unless I have a few epiphanies between now and November, I'm probably sitting out NaNoWriMo this year. I still think the challenge is great if you want to prove that you can be productive, or if you feel like testing yourself. But I keep generating 50,000 words of complete gibberish that falls apart on revision. I'd rather take my time, plan ahead, and get an ambulatory first draft I can eventually coax to full health.
Even if it takes a long damn time.