The concept is stolen from Warren Ellis and I can’t use it to full effect yet, but it’s a nice gatepost title. When he posts it, it’s usually to remind folks which Warren Ellis he is, what projects are in the pipeline, and where people should go if they were interesting in contacting him for something. I don’t have the readership, or the agent/ managers, but I do now have a website: www.walkingtobars.com. I also have another completed manuscript for hush.
So, this is what I have now:
Getting here took some time. Last summer, if you remember, I was off from my job at the theatre. I used the time (two months) to crank out a first draft of around 107,000 words to meet my thesis registration deadline. Once I had that draft in hand, I realized that I needed to insert a whole subplot at the beginning that would hopefully clarify the story overall and make getting from there to here make a little more sense. I had my meeting, told my advisor that, and she sent me on my way to rewrite and revise.
They say you should put it in a drawer for a while–a few days, a month–long enough to approach it as a reader as well as a writer. This is a lovely idea. It didn’t work for me this time. I discovered, upon returning to my job, that the changes that had begun in June were continuing and would continue for a while. My partner at the theatre had decided that five years was enough, so she resigned. That left me to manage my entire area, alone. This isn’t something that I was completely unprepared for, but it happened to coincide with the need to rehire mush of my staff, as many of them were leaving school and going off to do other things. The book took the back burner during this time, and even though I was thinking about it constantly and scribbling notes and ideas, I wasn’t working on it actively. This may have been for the best. The saying goes (heard from Neil Gaiman, attributed to Greg Wolfe) “You don’t learn how to write a novel. You learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.” Or somesuch. Point being, the way that I expected to write this book isn’t how it ended up being written, and maybe it was for the best. I needed the time to think, to reconsider, to keep dreaming … in order to get it closer to being “right”.
When I finally opened my computer again, it was crunch time. The theory I had was that I would read through my complete draft with my vicious red pen of justice and then mark those changes in the manuscript, creating draft two. Then I’d start typing draft three from draft two, changing things and adding them as I saw fit. Revision and then Rewriting. It didn’t work out this way. I got seven chapters into my red pen horrorshow and stalled. The problem, in addition to time, was that my brain wasn’t wanting to properly edit sections that it new would be changed anyway once I started adding in that new subplot that I was concocting concurrently. It wanted to work on that and some of my notes on the draft reflected that. I finally reached a point where I just didn’t have the time available to read the first draft, make changes AND rewrite. So I did the only thing that seemed to make sense, edit on the fly. I opened a new file and began typing a brand new prologue. And then a new chapter one, and a new chapter two … I took a few lines here and there from my first draft, but it wasn’t until chapter five or so that I started interacting with the text that I’d already written. The novel felt alive again and also surprising. I was still discovering stuff within the stuff that I’d already written. I was suddenly able to make the cuts that needed to be made, reform the stuff that I’d written previously, and craft a better story.
I plowed through the book in a month, keeping to my system of last summer of public accountability–posting photos on Facebook with updates on my writing progress. The laptop photo was the first for this draft and the tree silhouette at sunset being another (right around the halfway point). Last summer’s updates were varied because I was writing in the afternoons and evenings. This draft was mainly crafted in the evening, as that was the time I had available (and sparingly at that) so most of the photos reflected that. This idea of public accountability came from two different sources. In my studies at Hamline, I’ve worked with some amazing teachers. One, Shelia O’Connor, had us check in with other students each week to verify our page counts. We didn’t workshop them, all we did was sign off on a sheet that said that we made the page count each week (we had to accomplish between 7 and 15 pages a week for those classes). Then, at roughly the same time I was going to begin my first draft, Warren Ellis was going to begin a new book of his own and he said that he planned on using a “death bar” to keep track of his weekly goals (he gave himself 20 weeks to finish and figured at the time that he would need to hit 5000 words a week to make a 100,000 word goal).
The death bar:
I found a link that explained how to create the death bar at Writertopia, but decided to not use it because of the constant coding required to update it. I also wasn’t sure how it would work on Facebook and since that holds me far more accountable than this blog does, it was the more logical place to do the updates.
As it turned out, I finished two drafts before he finished his one. But, his draft won’t require a much editing/ revision and he already has an agent/ editor AND it’s already scheduled for publication … so I think when the other factors are taken into consideration, he wins this round.
So, once I began implementing the first draft text into my new draft (dubbed hush 2.0) I went back and reinstated my vicious red pen of justice and worked on the fly (very similar to how I maintained my outline last summer). I’d edit a few chapters out, usually 3 or 4, and then I’d copy/ paste the draft one version into my new draft and make all the changes in my new draft. This required me to do close reading twice, once on the paper and once on the screen, for each chapter since the formatting didn’t paste with the text (I could have done, but my “first” drafts are single spaces and I don’t double space until I’m ready to print–I find I’m not as focused on page counts when I do it this way–and as a result, all of my italics go away and need to be restored individually). With this system, I managed to finish the draft with five days to spare.
It turns out that I needed those five days.
I got an email, just after I finished spell checking the document for the last time and was pulling into the FedEx/ Kinkos to make my copies and send the manuscript on its merry way, that there was a decision made about thesis that effected my piece. I chose the “full” thesis, which is intended to be a book length draft, as opposed to the “partial” thesis, which is 80-100 pages of short stories or a partial draft of a novel. A decision was made, apparently, but not put into writing anywhere, that “full” thesis drafts could no longer exceed 300 pages. My draft clocked in at 443 pages. My advisor suggested that I just remove chapters “in the middle” and summarize them. My story didn’t really work that way, so I had to go through each chapter and select the chapters to remove, summarize them, and insert the summary sheet where the chapter previously lived. It was a pain in the ass, but I managed to cut my draft down to 308 pages … which I didn’t mention because, with the page numbering still consistent with my 443 page draft it would require the application of math to resolve that my draft was just a teensy bit too long and I don’t think that will occur.
Now, since my thesis advisor is no longer reading and commenting on my entire draft, but only selections of it, I was left with a quandary: how do I know if the stuff I wrote in the summarized stuff is working with everything else? Luckily, I have an amazing outside reader, who, even though he isn’t supposed to read a draft until thesis 2, was happy to read though the full thesis 1 draft.
And that’s where this novel is sitting currently. It might be a sign of madness, or perhaps that this is a good fit for me, but I’m already thinking about the second book.
In other news …
I was up north at the beginning of the week. I went up to my parents’ house on Monday, dropped my truck off at the mechanic my dad goes to in order to get my 4 wheel drive hubs replaced, and then we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday (it’s tomorrow). Tuesday, I picked my truck up and then went to Duluth to see my friend Caity Shea’s show.
I made my regular pilgrimage to Lake Superior. It’s one of the things that I really miss about living in Duluth/ Superior. The lake is so magnificent and it has such a constant impact on everything happens in the area. It’s beautiful. The last few times I’ve visited have been during the summer, so it’s been a while since I’ve been there when it’s empty. There was a cold wind, but everything was clear and fairly still on the water. I went out on the rocks and snapped a few photos and tried to take in everything that I left. Maybe it is the size of Lake Superior, but it just helps me with some perspective. I couldn’t stay long though. I made a run up the hill to get some dinner and then went to UMD to see Caity’s show.
I met Caity at the theatre when she was a student actor. She’s very talented as a actress, but she also has a wonderful gift with storytelling and language. I saw her first produced show, Paisley Poppies a few years ago, and now at 20 she had another fully realized production. The really cool thing about this is that it is the first time that UMD is presenting a play by a student who is still in the program (they’ve done a few by graduated students). It was a very well written play and she’s all ready to make revisions for the next production (of which I hear there are nibbles …). I really love having talented friends.
It’s also coming up on Christmas very soon, so I’ve been busy concocting Christmasy things. I’ve made lobby mix number two for our holiday show, adding in a few more holiday songs and taking out a few tracks that were dragging a bit. I’ve got just about every gift for the year in hand now. I decorated a little this year too, which is fun. My rearranged living room accommodates that nicely.
No pictures of the gifts … don’t want to spoil anything. It’s been fun though, in that exhausting sort of way.
Other than that, there’s not much to report. I’m loving my Kindle Fire. Finished reading my second book on there. It was also very helpful when I was selecting which chapters were going to get pulled for thesis–I uploaded a PDF draft and was able to skip around through my book, rereading sections as necessary. Lovely. I also just finished watching Cowboy Bebop, which was a great 26 episode anime series from the late 90’s. Very well done and reminded me of Firefly in all sorts of good ways. Several very memorable episodes and the arch was done beautifully so that the last episode was very emotional.
That’s it for now. More later …
YOU’RE GONNA CARRY THAT WEIGHT.
SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY …