D is for Draft

How many drafts of a novel do I do? I have no idea.

My revision process doesn’t quite work in a linear complete draft kind of way. Most of the time, I revise scenes as I go along. Some novels like Luck for Hire and Fuel Eaters were written fairly straight through in a very rough beginning-to-end manner. Divine Fire, which I’m currently going back to, didn’t have an ending for a long while. But there’s never really any "second" draft. Just a continuous reworking of the original with new layers added and subtracted.

A bigger problem, especially between collaborators, is the matter of revision control. I get pretty uptight when Eric is working on the same manuscript I am, even if he has opened a new document for the part that he’s rewriting. Ideally, I’d like a "don’t touch it until I’m done with it" philosophy, but that’s not realistic if we want to get anything done in a timely manner. Generally, it works pretty well when documents are labeled with the date and initials and put into a common folder in the computer network.

RoW80 – Februray 13th Check In

As I write this, Eric is out picking up dinner. Yes, I have avoided bologna sandwiches by meeting my 10K-a-fortnight goal. Chicken schnitzel cordon-bleu, rösti, coleslaw, marinated green beans, and tomato-basil salad will be eaten soon.

Word counts:

  • Wednesday: 1601
  • Thursday: 202 – Things were looking grim. I knew what scene I needed to write, but got stuck on it. I should have either talked with Eric more about it or moved on. This is a lesson I keep (not) learning.
  • Friday: 1616 new words, cut 133
  • Saturday: 0 – Yeah, who was I fooling by thinking I’d get anything done in the morning after staying up until 3am or in the evening after running a 5K and then indulging in quite a few beers?
  • Sunday: 1177 new words, cut 278

That makes 10,036 for the fortnight, 7819 written this week. The manuscript is just over 38K. I suppose it could be considered a zero draft. Instead of starting another 10K fortnight, I’m planning on some reorganization and clean up during this next week. Eric and I need to hammer out the exact details, but I’ll probably start with Monday and Tuesday being read-through and note-taking days. More details to come.

Irregular

I made no writing progress after Tuesday.

I know that "I just wasn’t feeling it" isn’t a great excuse, but there is it. I don’t approve of the mystification of the writing process; it undermines the reality that it’s hard work. But I’ve always felt that writing is more of a calling than a job. The problem with callings is that they are somewhat based on faith. Faith is shakable. Doubts occur, even in the devout. So, I’ve been feeling doubtful and decided to take a couple days off. I’ll get back to it on Monday. I’ll try to make up some of the words this week and the rest at the end.

Otherwise, my week was pretty good. Wednesday ultimate was canceled due to the cold and the wind. It’s been around the 40 degree mark most of this week with Tuesday and Wednesday being gusty as well. Little rain though. Wednesday evening, Casey held a surprise party for Reif’s birthday, which was an event on my plate that I couldn’t very well mention. Fun party, the first surprise party I’ve ever been involved with. Thursday was the first night of league. Eric’s team trounced mine. My offense was decent, but it was rough trying to cover Angel or Emily on D. The temperatures were still cold, but there was no wind. Last night was dinner at Lolo’s Chicken & Waffles for Jeff’s birthday. Lolo’s is aptly described at ghetto-fabulous. The food was tasty, the company was good. Eric and I followed to Fat Tuesday’s, but headed home early, "old people" style.

Today, I’ve been relaxing. I made banana bread, watched some basketball, napped and read.

NoCuFoNi Update & 4 Film Recs

Novel Cutting Fortnight (NoCuFoNi) progress: -4183 words. That’s out of an original 23,918. Which is actually more like 17% instead of 10%. My argument for not shooting for 20% per scene is that this includes the exorcism of a character. I clung too long to a nine-page scene that was rewritten down to a couple of paragraphs. Sometimes, showing is *not* the best thing to. Showing unimportant things does not help the story.

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Good stuff I’ve watched lately, two documentaries and two comedies:

Facing Ali (2009) – This is billed as tribute to Muhammad Ali by ten of the boxers who fought him over Ali’s long career, but it’s also the stories of these ten boxers. How do these men, all of whom were notable in their own right, cope when their professional lives intersect with someone as famous, as "charged" as Ali? It’s a good ten stories. It’s also a very well-produced film, weaving restored archival footage with interviews.

American Grindhouse (2010) – Good documentary on the history of exploitation films. Some of the earliest films really were exploitation flicks, offering quite a bit of skin and violence. Also, the "noir" genre has been reframed  for me as a film-making style that attempted to keep pace with non-studio films while working within the Production Code. (Available via Netflx’ View Instantly)

The Infidel (2010) – What happens when a British Muslim finds out that he was adopted and his real name is Solly Shimshillewitz? And his son is engaged to the daughter of a devote cleric?  Well, the reality probably isn’t as funny as this movie. Sometimes the humor goes a little awry, but Omid Djalili does a really good of being conflicted about who he thinks he should be. This movie works for me because, while it relies on stereotypes, it pokes fun at the stereotypes of both cultures. (Available via Netflx’ View Instantly)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
(2009) – If I were ten, *this* would displace Night at the Museum as my favorite movie. Adult me still found it pretty darn funny. Comedically, this movie is full of call-backs: humorous things that are set up early in the movie and paid off later. And that makes it pretty smart for a kid’s film. It has the usual lessons, but again, it’s kids’ film. It doesn’t aim at being subtle. (I was amused by this quote from the Commen Sense rating: "Although no grand life lessons are offered, the movie does center on a son’s need for fatherly encouragement and the idea that you shouldn’t compromise who you are just to be popular." Apparently those lessons aren’t grand enough.) (Available via Netflx’ View Instantly)

November…on its head. ( #amwriting )

No NaNoWriMo for me. Instead, more of a NoCutHalfMo. My goal, by the end of next week, is to cut 10K from Model Species. So far, after starting Thursday and doing a pretty substantial rewrite on the first scene, I’m at -823. I have a long row to hoe.

Halloween passed with little fanfare. There wasn’t too much participation at Thursday night’s league games, costume-wise. I have to go out to games tonight to see if the post-but-nearer-to-Halloween crowd does better. Today, I say goodbye to my lovely orange, egg-shaped pumpkin-turned-jack-o-lantern and hello to a few cut-price decorations.

Sadly, we’re in the last three weeks of league. Whether we continue to go undefeated, whether we make it to finals, there is only a 5-7 more games to be played with this team, and I wish it were more. For me, there’s a good combination of players who are either often my teammates (Nabity, Reif, Dave, Kuby, Debbie), I’ve known for years and not been on a team with (Al, Cole, George), I just didn’t know (Amber and Skyler), or are brand new players (Jenn, Nora, Evan, Paul). I know we have the tendency to huck-to-height, but everyone, including our new players are pretty solid. I’d love to have this team again.

Not that I won’t be busy with VOTS stuff after fall league ends. We have men’s league, New Year Fest and then spring league. It’s frisbee season in Arizona.

For whatever reason, I’ve suffered from a massive arthritis flare up over the last couple days. Aleve and alcohol are about all that’s kept me upright. I seem to be better today.

Rewriting, It’s What’s for Dinner ( #amwriting )

Rewrote the first scene of Model Species. Then cut 10% of it, word-count wise. Lean prose. I’m going to go through the rest of Model Species, cut the fat, make a couple of changes. Then do the same to Luck for Hire. Probably should do Divine Fire too eventually.

No NaNoWriMo for me this year. I’m not even going to attempt something half-assed.  Working on projects in progress is enough work. Plus, Eric is presenting his Master’s project in December. My collaborator will be busy enough. I would like to set some sort of reading goal, but nothing appeals.

So, yeah… ( #amwriting )

Received a non-vague rejection from an agent yesterday. The upshot: my writing sample (in this case, the first five pages of Model Species) did not maintain the interest that, presumably, the query letter elicited. Which put Eric in "What can be improved?" mode. The advantage of Eric’s "What can be improved?" attitude is that, well, things are improved. The disadvantage is that it’s hard on the ego. The implicit statement that precedes "What can be improved?" is "Something is screwed up." Inevitably, I interpret that as "I have screwed this up…again. I suck." Maybe an understandable attitude, but not a helpful one. What followed was an evening of discussion/argument that, as usual, resolved into "Yeah, that’s something to be fixed." In this case, two things to be fixed.

First, when we rearranged Model Species, I didn’t really look at the new first scene as a first scene. This is a boneheaded mistake on my part. As a second scene it was a lull in action after an intense scene. As a first scene…well, it was a lull when it needed to be zippy. So, rewrite time for that.

The second issue: Eric and I were talking a boredom the other day. For instance, what makes a movie boring? I glibly tossed out that maybe it too is a matter of edge detection. Eric’s theory is that neurologically we rely on edge detection to gather information similarly to how it occurs in image processing. (He will undoubtedly correct me if I’m getting this wrong.) Further, it’s edges–changes and contrast–that make things exciting. Changes draw the eye, fire the neurons, stimulate the brain. To further the further, it may be the changes in any medium are the interesting part. Changes in tempo or contrasting sounds make music more listenable. An action movie that is continuous break-neck action is fairly boring. Same for a drama that is nothing but talk without tension.

The same for literature? Why not? When Eric and I talked about it the first time, I thought about it in a scene-to-scene manner. Scenes should vary in pace. Eric considered it in a more intra-scene level. If all things in a scene are given the same weight (measured in the amount of detail), does it make the scene boring? Maybe. I have a tendency to maybe homogenize details. Important things in a scene don’t stand out because I give less important things a similar amount of detail. This is a by-product of how I work. I immerse myself in characters and the world. I’m not sure if I can change that or if I want to, but maybe my writing needs an editing pass where I accentuate the important plot points and remove some of the minutia. We’ll see how that goes.

Should have learned this ten years ago? Should have taken a tougher look at Model Species? Hindsight is 20/20. Can’t do anything about the past aside from learning from it.