Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Writing is Hard: Project Update

I haven't done a project update here in a while, but someone asked me in the comments on the LiveJournal feed for this blog what I've been up to, so I'll share it here too.

A little over a year ago I put aside a pirate novel I was working on called (tentatively) Le Corsaire. I wasn't really happy with how it was going, but I wasn't sure why, so I decided to focus on other stuff for a while.

One of those things was the Robots vs. Monsters comic I'm doing with Jason Copland, which has been an educational experience for me. The editor on that book, Jason Rodriguez, showed me that I was holding myself way back on the action. I'd wanted to make sure that the story was strong, but I'd sacrificed a lot of the coolness factor to do it. Once I realized that I was doing it on the comic, I understood a big piece of what was wrong with Le Corsaire.

I've always been pretty comfortable writing dialogue scenes. I think I'm good at it and they come pretty easily. Action, on the other hand, I have to stop and think about. Folks who've read "Completely Cold" tell me that they like the action in it, but I've got to choreograph that stuff out in my head. I imagine the entire fight or chase scene in slow motion and describe it as it's happening. I think it works out okay when I'm done, but it's a long, slow process and I don't particularly enjoy it. As a result, Le Corsaire tended to jump from dialogue scene to dialogue scene while skipping over most of the action. In fact, the place where I put it aside was right before a big pirate attack that I just did not want to have to choreograph. It's a crucial scene, so I knew I couldn't skip it, but I didn't want to have to write it either, so I stalled out.

What I've learned from Robots vs. Monsters is that I can have fun choreographing and writing action. I don't need to let it overwhelm me. So, I'm picking up Le Corsaire again with the intention of having the first draft done by the end of May. I'm going to have to re-work a lot of what I've already written, but now I know how to make it the book I want it to be. I mean, who ever heard of a pirate story without any action?

I've also figured out the other thing that was bothering me about Le Corsaire when I put it down. I was working too closely to my outline. Or maybe it was that my outline was too detailed. Either way, I wasn't leaving myself enough room for sudden inspiration and it was taking a lot of the fun out of the experience. This time, I have a basic idea of where the story is headed and I'm just going to write in that general direction and see what the journey looks like once I get there.

As far as Robots vs. Monsters goes, it's almost completely inked. I wish I could share some of Jason's stuff with you here, but you're gonna have to wait until it comes out. It's awesome though. It's got giant monsters, giant robots, airplane dogfights, a hidden jungle city, and a flawed, but sympathetic hero with an impossible goal to achieve. And did I mention unbelievable art? Oh, and a new name. This is subject to change again, but for now the working title is Kill All Monsters!.

It's weird how things work, but as I've been thinking over the problems with Le Corsaire and changing titles on the comic like I change clothes, I've also been running across posts on writing blogs that deal with a lot of these same issues. If you're interested, here are the links:

On the need to start stories with some action, instead of boring backstory.
"Splat splat splat. You've got a big fat wad of information in the first part -- a dreaded prologue I fear. First of all, no one talks like that. Shorter sentences will help. Second, you've told us there's a corpse, then you go back to Boston to let us know that Zoe is on her way to Sydney in six months?? I KNEW that. Get to the story. Prune ruthlessly."

Another opinion on where to start your story. (Just to show there's never any, one, right answer.)
"There is/used to be a thought that you should always start the story where the action is -- which lead to a lot of stories being started in the wrong place. Like, in the midst of a heated argument or at a really sensitive scene -- which sounds like it would be ok, but more often than not we are interested in heated/sensitive scenes because we feel a connection with the character. If that's how your story begins, it is often harder for the reader to get that connection right away -- even if it's a scene designed to make the character seem more sympathetic. Usually you should back up the story a little bit -- and start earlier."

On balancing dialogue with action.
"...have you mistaken dialogue for action or scene building or for characterization? Remember, there has to be a balance. It can’t be all dialogue at the sacrifice of the other stuff. Some folks are great dialoguers. Don’t rely on your strength to carry a whole novel."

On titles.
"Decent titles take a while to cook up, so I generally use place-holder or working titles until I read a couple tons of poetry, hit the Library of Congress Online Catalog a few million times to see if any of my title ideas have been done before, and settle on the one I want. It doesn't have to be the title, just a title."

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails