Friday, August 3, 2012

Done by summer's end...?

I started my second attempt at a novel back in January.

Well, that's not totally true. I wrote the first chapter of what would become my second attempt at novel a year or so ago.

Wait... no.

Farther back, I guess I first tried to make it a short story, maybe two years ago, but it was too big and clunky and just wouldn't fit. It burst at the short story's seams. It wouldn't fit and yet still say all the things I wanted it to say.

Which was, to say the least, a bit frustrating and problematic... at least, at first.

So I took the short story and I churned out a first chapter, just to try it out and see if it could walk around a bit. I tested it out, first among the venerable bastards of the Scribblerati and then in David Oppegaard's nascent Loft class.

It seemed to do all right. It could walk. In fact, it did better than all right. It didn't just walk, it ran. I'm pretty sure I've talked about this project on here before. At the very least I talked about what the book was generally concerned with, right?


So anyway, in January--new year, starting out fresh and all that--I sat down and started working on it in earnest. Tentatively working-titled as Monsters, I wanted to finish it by summer's end. It wasn't easy. Well, ok, sometimes it was easy. Sometimes the prose flowed like a mighty river. Sometimes the hum of the screen was so loud while I was staring at a blank page, it just about drove me insane. But now, 13 chapters in and on the other side of a short but wicked bout of writer's block, now 68,000 odd words along, I figure there's only four chapters and just under a month left.

For those of you keeping score, that's a chapter a week.

I think I can do it. I do. I think I can do it and here's why. Stepping into the project, I only had one goal: Done by summer's end. But I should clarify, I mean first draft done. It doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to be good. It doesn't even have to be all that coherent. It just has to be done.

First draft done.

By summer's end.

One chapter a week.

Yeesch. I'm pretty sure I can do it.


But here's the other trick... You ready for this? It doesn't matter if I get done by summer's end. See that? It doesn't matter. It's just an arbitrary goal. It's one I think I'll pull off, or at least, near enough to make no difference, but in the end, whether I make it or not...

No big whoop. The only thing that matters is finishing.

First draft done.


Then, my plan is to set the humped and wretched beast aside for a few weeks, probably the whole of September, and then take it and the responses I have already received from the Scribblerati, sit down, and get started on the second draft.

Which is the reason I'm doing this blog here today. The second draft. This is where I will fix it. This is where I will smooth things out, make them a little more clear, make them fit better, make them better serve the story. This is where I will determine the story, to be honest. I'm sure I will lose characters, I'm sure I will combine some as well. I'll move some to the forefront and some to the background. I will cut scenes and I will add others. The first draft just provides the frame work, the shape, the big block of stone. The second draft is all about the shaping, the chiseling off of the unnecessary bits, of turning that big block of stone into a beautiful statue... or at least, a statue.

And here's the little guiding light. Here is something to see by in that word-crammed darkness, a map to guide my way, to guide your way in your own work. It is filled with things to think about and things to remember. Print it out. Tack it to you wall. Learn it, love it, live it.

It's Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling.

That's a bunch of basic true-isms there, kids. Think what you will of Pixar (although as a hint... The correct way to think of them is that they're awesome. Don't think so? You're wrong.), regardless of how you may feel about them and their films, as a writer, it's important to know that this list is right. It's a good tool. Sure, y'know, maybe don't worry about it so much at first, but later... like I said, in the second draft? Keep it close, because the path through the second draft can be darker and meaner and more discouraging than the last time, so it's good to have a map.

Keep writing,
Good luck,

1 comment:

Mark Teats said...

Jon, Keep up the excellent progress.
Like you, I think it is good to set goals to shoot for (and more often than not, I find if I actually write that goal down someplace, it is apt to happen).
On my own second novel I'm also dangerously close to a complete second draft. I have 4 scenes left to write--also aiming at summer's end. (But it's taken me closer to 2 years of on and off writing on this project from where I started.)
I've seen these rules a short while back, and mostly I like them. Pixar has more successes than failures. The INCREDIBLES is still one of my all time favorite movies. Although I have to say I was not a big fan of BRAVE. An incredibly pretty picture, charming in places, but a yawn, for me, story-wise. Disney's influence?