Friday, November 13, 2009

Back in the saddle again

As many of you will most likely recall from my last post, I am currently in the middle of the Query process for my manuscript Gunslingers of the Apocalypse, and while it is going pretty well for me at the moment (fingers crossed), it is a process that, once started, pretty much runs on its own. So that means that my day to day involvement is: Not-a-whole-lotta. This is an upside, for the most part, as it allows me ample free time... The downside, of course, is that allows me AMPLE free time.

With nothing to do, it’s important to try to keep busy.

In effort to do so, I’ve been working on Book numero dous, dig? Bastard out of Minnesota, it’s called, and it is the second in what will hopefully some day be a wildly successful four book series. Unfortunately, currently, by “working” I actually mean only getting two things done: Jack and Shit.

And apparently Jack has left town.

“So, what’s the problem, my man?” you’re probably asking, you jive-turkey.

Well, the main difficulty I’ve encountered is that after what has to have been at least a year, if not more, of pretty much only doing edits and rewrites, re-igniting the spark of everyday, nose to the grindstone type writing is somewhat difficult. I mean, I can still do it when I sit down, and the pages I’ve ended up hammering out recently (around 70-ish so far with a total count of about 20,000 some odd words) are ones that I’m generally pretty happy with, but that old consistent dedication?


Yes, work and life can get in the way occasionally, but whatever, that’s normal, a truism for everyone. I can deal with that. In fact, I still live a lifestyle where I can make time for writing, if I have to, but honestly, it’s not really too big of a problem. Even with the daily demands on my time that the cubicle-prison imposes upon me, regular writing time is still available pretty much on a regular basis, and without much effort on my part either.

But getting started again? After a day or two of inactivity? Getting back into the chair, and even more so, getting back into that frame of mind? Then slogging it out through the roughest, swampiest first drafts of linking scenes set midway through an introductory chapter? That is hard, hard work, peeps. Pounding it out at the keyboard, rain or shine, day in and day out… it is not such an easy thing to fall back into.

I used to have that discipline, you know.

In fact, I had it in spades, I remember it and the late night writing sessions very well. I was a monster then, a page pounding machine hell-bent on decimating my manuscript’s incomplete status… but after wandering a bit far afield for awhile, I have now returned home to begin the process anew and… where has it gone?

Maybe it’s just a case similar to when you return to a work-out schedule after a long time off. Certain muscles won’t be as tight they used to be, or as used to being utilized at all, for that matter, and it takes a little bit of time and dedication to get them pumping at a good pace again, right?

Or maybe, this is just a reflection of the first book and the inherent differences in their creation process…

Gunslingers of the Apocalypse was created in a vacuum, you see. In a time when I was ultra-poor and therefore home-bound, it was just me, a kitchen table, a possibly stolen laptop, and a writing exercise for David Housewright’s Loft class that was tackled the night before it was due, after a particularly depressing late-winter bus ride. The book grew out of that four page blurt of writing. The ending formed once I started to think about the beginning, and the middle just kind of appeared like a natural bridge between the two. But the project itself wasn’t even a real project, not until 3 or 4 chapters in, at the earliest, and it certainly wasn’t seen by any eyes other than mine until the completion of the First Act, some 200 pages into it and several months later, give or take.

But Bastard out of Minnesota? That has been BOOK TWO in one form or another since somewhere around halfway through Book One’s initial draft. Its story pieces had begun to coalesce in the back of my head well before the first draft of Gunslingers was even close to being completed. In fact, Book Three and Book Four have done a similar thing, currently they’re just a couple of paragraphs moldering on dusty Word Documents in the back of my hard-drive, after finally and officially being pulled from my head, tossed together, and then left to fester in the dark sometime around the middle of Gunslinger’s third draft. The point is… They’re all INTENDED, get it?

This story has long been A BOOK, you know? Which is a really weird feeling while I tackle it. The pressure of completion, the awareness of WHERE IS THIS GOING has been there from the very first word. There was no secret maturation process this time. There was no: “Hey, surprise! You made a Novel!” moment. It was all just there, half formed and always, readily on display, the bits and pieces crying out for attention instead of just quietly simmering away on the back burner until fully cooked, or at least, until I was within a few chapters of their plot twists and was forced to start paying attention. My fellow Scribblerati Agents have already seen Bastard’s Prologue and Chapter One on multiple occasions (Slightly different versions, of course, and their responses were extremely helpful, as always) and they will be reading (hopefully) Chapter Two for the first time this weekend. So not only is it a different book, but it’s been a completely different process right from the start.

It’s like starting all over again, with a slightly similar puzzle, but in a different language, and that is an intimidating realization.

But the good news? The good news is that last night, I had to sit down and wrap some stuff up. I had to, because I needed to submit it to the group in time for them to read it for Monday, and work and life and the long white of those waiting spaces… they were stubborn, conspiring to keep me from finishing on time.

But I didn’t have an option, so in the end, I just did it. No whining, no distractions, just tip-tap, tip-tap, tip-tap, and then… done. And it turned out not half bad too. So that’s good news. I can still do it, now I just need to make myself do it regularly again. My hope is: Now that Gunslingers is completely “done,” meaning: I am no longer making any edits or changes until someone new, i.e. an Agent or Editor (ever hopeful), suggests them, that I will now be freed up to focus on Bastard. I intend to do so regularly, even if it means forcing myself to return to a strict adherence to that old writer's saw:

“A writer writes everyday.”

Sometimes discipline and consistency can only come through intensive, oppressive scheduling.

At least… here’s hoping.

(Fun fact: The scene originally written for Housewright’s Loft class? The one that eventually grew into Gunslingers of the Apocalypse? It doesn’t actually appear in Gunslingers, at all, ultimately, the evolution of the book cut it loose. However, an altered version does appear in Bastard out of Minnesota.)

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