Writing Report November 16, 2017

earl-norem-conan-wont-ask-for-directions-capart by Earl Norem

As you’ve seen, I’ve done quite a bit of writing in the last week, but none of it for the barbarian story I’m doing for NaNoWriMo.

It’s been a week, as they say, and there will be more political and cultural commentary from me in the months to come, but I do need to get back on track.

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Item: The first female barbarian story (the one to which this current effort is the first of three sequels) was rejected by the prestige well paying market. They said nice things about it (more so than the standard thanx-and-try-again) so they’ll remain on the top of the list for more stories in the future as I write them. That first story is now in the hands of the aforementioned perfect match market; presumably I’ll hear from them no later than early February.

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Item: I became bogged down with the sequel. I had a two page rough outline written and was following that, but as I did more and more unnecessary supporting characters began popping up and working their way into the story. I say unnecessary because none of them were moving the dramatic thread of the story forward (nor were they likely to, with only one exception). I was at the 8,900+ word mark and I realized that not only had my main antagonist not made it onstage yet, but I was going off in a side direction that would take me even further from the core theme of the story.

Now the NaNoWriMo people suggest blitzing out a first draft in one month and going back to fix it later, but my years of experience writing for TV works against that. When you’re writing for the clock you need to realize ASAP when something isn’t working and you need to jettison everything past the point where it goes south and if that means start afresh on page one, so be it.

It’s a lot easier to restart a story and do it correctly than to slog through and try to fix it later.

So despite hitting the 8,900+ word mark in my collegiate notebook, I’m moving the writing over to the computer now. Much of what I’ve written is salvageable in whole or in part, but I am cutting loose tons o’ loose threads and superfluous characters.

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Item: While the basic two page rough outline covered the broad strokes of the story, I’ve written a somewhat more detailed format outline ala I. ...A. ......1. .........a. as we learned in grammar school. (You did learn that, didn’t you? If not, WTF are they teaching kids nowadays?) I’m breaking everything into big / BIGGER / BIGGEST arcs and scenes, working my way up to what I’m sure is going to be a thrilling action-packed climax once I actually reach it.

But this big / BIGGER / BIGGEST approach makes it easier to see when I’m starting to drift. This is not a story that can afford to meander; it needs to get in / get out / quit muckin’ about. As such I’ve been jettisoning a lot of the stuff I wrote by hand.

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Item: Despite ejecting trunk loads of superfluous characters, I am keeping one. I try not to plot or project too tightly when writing, preferring to let the characters and story surprise me as we go along.

The first story in this cycle started as what I thought would be a 2,500 – 3,000 word story and mushroomed to 16,868 by the time I was done. And when I was done, I saw room for not one, not two, but three sequels that would wrap up my character’s story.

So I wrote short paragraphs about what would need to happen in each sequel, seeing a specific ending that would require a certain group of character types.

As I began writing this, the first sequel, I really hadn’t given any thought to what was going to happen, much less who was going to be in sequel #3 (there were four characters whom I knew would have to be in it, but since they were already introduced in the very first story they were hardly new characters).

So when I began writing this first sequel, I was filling it chock-a-block with good wholesome bloody barbarian-on-barbarian fantasy action.

And in a scene not at all uncommon in barbarian fantasy stories, my protagonists and a few others enter a city in the aftermath of a massacre and find bodies piled everywhere.

And for reasons the story will make clear, they began pulling bodies off one particular pile.

And until the last body was pulled off, I had absolutely no idea there was a four year old child still alive under it.

And I realized she was going to be crucial for my heroine to make a change of plans from her goals in sequel #1 to sequel #2, justifying those changes instead of making her look indecisive.

And I realized she was going to be one of the crucial lynchpin characters in the third sequel.

So you don’t want to be too anal-retentive when you’re plotting these things out.

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text © Buzz Dixon

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