September 14th, 2007


Novel Process

Now that I've finished Only The Dead, I'm reminded of the Gene Wolfe comment about writing, attributed to him by Neil Gaiman: "You never learn how to write novels. You learn how to write this novel."

I believe I heard this way back in 1999 or 2000. The last ten years blurs whenever I consider that I've actually worked at this for ten years, sitting down back in October 1997 to tackle a novel. I was only 34 at the time, but that was my mid-life crisis. I had to write, I had to finish something, anything, because I'd never finished any story prior to then. That I picked a novel only shows how clueless I was back then. Yet, I still like what I created. What I learned from the experience was that I could finish.

matociquala posted on the Wolfe comment and this process last year, discussing the process that's involved in writing novels, and my two cents on the topic is to note that my process seems to follow three stages at the moment:

First, there's the original draft, where I throw in all the pieces that come to mind. It's the fractal draft stage. Second, the first rewrite, which might or might not come after I make it all the way through the original draft; I pare down and simplify, trying to make the words flow smoothly, looking for any threads that need tucking or expansion. Third, the second rewrite, where I go back through and add back in some of the stuff I chucked in the first rewrite, trying to make the prose ring.

Whether that will work on the next novel or not is a question for the future. Wolfe shows genius pinning down this concept. At least I know I can make it through a second time, notwithstanding the 16 other pieces I've written (novels and shorter works) in the intervening years since I started.

I certainly believe the next novels will see more planning and architectural work done at the beginning. I'm looking forward to Context at month's end, because I think the seminar with Tim Powers will help me with that. I also believe treating a novel (or any work) as a three-stage process will make me faster. One of the rules I developed to guide myself is "get the story written, then get it right."

So, onward and upward. Muse has a lengthy list of work:

a) rewrite "Sacrifices" and submit
b) rewrite "Tigerfly" ending and submit
c) plot out Aftermath sequel
d) plot out Shale fantasy
e) submit Only The Dead and/or find beta readers for it or vice versa