Tag Archive: rewriting


Work-in-Progress Update

Years ago, many more than I care to admit, I began developing an idea for a steampunkish novel. I eventually sent three sample chapters to my friend Marco Palmieri, editor extraordinaire, who gave me some great feedback. I started revising the chapters and outline to his notes, but kept letting the project be sidetracked for various reasons, some good and understandable, and others questionable and neurotic. I finished revising the first three chapters, but bogged down in the synopsis of the rest of the book. I began referring to the manuscript as “my long-suffering steampunk novel.”

Recently, as I’ve dedicated myself anew to my writing, I plunged back in, hoping to quickly finish the revised synopsis and then get some beta readers to make sure I was on the right track. Revisions got sidetracked again as my part-time day job and various freelance writing and editing gigs took up most of my time. It was all slipping away again. I stalled just a few chapters short of finishing this round of revisions.

As mentioned in my previous post, however, I’ve reduced my work hours and have gotten back to the novel. Once again I thought I would quickly finish the synopsis and move forward. Instead, I realized that all the cool changes I’d made to the current events of the novel had made a confusing mess of the back story. Characters’ comings and goings no longer made sense in the bigger picture. The causal relationship between the back story and the events that unfold in the novel were a complete hash.

I knew I had to get that stuff sorted out before continuing, but it was frustrating. When you’re moving forward in chapters, you have a sense of accomplishment. When I had to go back to my notes and chronology of events prior to chapter one, I felt like I was spinning in place at best, maybe even sliding backward, even though I knew it was important work in the long run. This would be the difference between a tightly constructed story and a manuscript full of plot holes.

Then something exciting happened. As I made the necessary changes to the pre-novel chronology, new plot points started popping up out of the blue. As I rearranged certain events, new connections appeared between the characters. The back story became more complex. Not only was I making sense of this novel, I was laying the groundwork for the next two! I’d always thought of this manuscript as the start of a world I’d like to revisit, and now I’ve got layers built into the back story that might not even come up in the first novel.

With this work done, I can now get back to the story at hand. After fixing whatever’s necessary to accommodate revised chronology, I can finally wrap up this synopsis!

ImageMany writers admit that it’s a constant struggle to get at the page. There are always things to distract you from the keyboard: family, friends, day jobs, chores around the house, freelance gigs with actual pay checks involved, various neuroses, and blogging about all of the above. As I’m doing right now. See what I did there? Got all meta on you.

One recurring victim of all of the above is my sort-of-a-steampunk novel. I’ve been kicking it around for a couple of years now, and all I have are three chapters, a complete outline, a bunch of notes and research, and some great feedback from friends. When I was laid off earlier this year, one of my first thoughts—after the immediate “holy shite” reaction and the disappointment following the realization that the bar next to my now former job wasn’t open yet as I walked down the sidewalk in the rain with my box of personal effects—was that I could get back to my novel. Here it is eight months later, and I’ve barely touched the thing.

Of course, I have also had a half-dozen freelance projects, worked on a couple of short stories (including “The Squid That Came to Phil’s Basement,” due out in January 2014 in Space and Time Magazine), written The More Things Change (Star Trek: The Original Series eBook due out July 2014), and written five chapters, an outline, and a series concept for a middle-grade media tie-in project that’s being shopped to publishers by an agent . . . but that is kind of the point. There are always reasons, often very good reasons, why something has been left on the stoop quietly waiting for you to swing by and pick it up. In the rain. Before bars open.

But I have finally gotten back at the thing. My first goal is to rewrite the three existing chapters while incorporating the changes suggested by beta readers. Let’s call the word-count goal 15,000. Having just started, I’ve only rewritten the first 637 words, as represented in the graphic below. I’ve already let putting lights on the solstice tree and writing this blog delay my work today, so I’m going to make shoveling the sidewalk wait for a while and get back into my alternate nineteenth century and have some fun.

 

637 / 15000
(4.25%)