Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Whoo boy! Finished the rough draft to Blood Red Butterfly.

I really do write QUITE an ugly first draft. I'm a fan of outlines, but really my outlines are generally pretty loose -- of the three to five page variety, not the thirty page variety. I've come to see that my rough draft is, in fact, my lengthy outline.

But once I have that outline down -- which comes by dint of blood, sweat, and tea
rs -- THEN things begin to shake loose. Once the foundation has been laid, the framework raised, then I can finally, really get to work on the structure.

Previously I would have handed this off to one of my editors in a weird ritual whereby they would look it over, make whatever comments and observations were possible, pat me on the head and shoot it right back to me with an order to finish it so they might actually be able to work on it.

Example of this insanity:

“So what’s the point of all this?” He gestured at the geisha mural, the bowls of smooth black stones and spartan orchid arrangements.  “You have some kind of Asian fetish?”

Tashiro flung himself down on one of the low couches. “What’s wrong with being aware of your heritage?”

“What heritage are you supposed to be?” Ryo tugged on a long red strand of hair.


exchange names

Finish talking go to bed and have sex

Ryo explored  rolled onto his knees, reaching for the bottle of oil.

Makes sense to me!

Of course you can only take it so far before the missing pieces begin to crucially impact all that would follow.

Since I don't have an editor to hand it off to, I'm letting the manuscript sit for a week, which seems crazily indulgent. To allow myself that kind of time away from a project. In the meantime I'm working on other things -- The Boy With the Painful Tattoo mainly.

I don't know if this will work, but if it does it will be terrific because one of the things I really hated about my previous work schedule was not having time to let things sit. That time of letting the story lie fallow is crucial, I think.

Unless I'm kidding myself and I'm just being lazy.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Making it Up as I Go

One of the best parts of sabbatical is (was) having time to think, and part of that thinking process is learning about yourself. Considering where you are, where you want to be, how you get there. That sounds like an ad for investing in a retirement fund, but I'm thinking more philosophically. Although in a way, that too is an investment in a kind of retirement fund.

Part of the learning takes place after sabbatical ends and you go back to the real world. Because sabbatical is a kind of lovely bubble. Even the sort of sabbatical I had where I was basically working but not writing. The writing is the hard part. The rest of it is tiring and time-consuming, but it's not like writing. Writing is brutal. Like any art. Like any craft. Like any serious grown up job.

So I ended sabbatical on a very positive note -- I mean, what could be better than winding up with Christmas! :-)  And I put together a very ambitious game plan for 2013. Eight projects, not counting all the print compliations and audio books I have planned.

The first thing I realized was attaching deadlines to ANYTHING creative immediately triggered that familiar response of racing heartbeat and churning thoughts. Can I speed this up, how will I make these dates, should I fit something else in, Why am I writing so slowly...?

Not good.

This is how I got into trouble in the first place.

Add to that the fact that all the sabbatical time in the world doesn't change that I still find a rough draft hard work. Understatement. I find it a brutal, bitter slog. I HATE writing first drafts. Hate them with a passion. They are drudgery and they are sloooowwwww going. If I do a thousand words a day on a rough draft, I'm feeling pretty good about myself.

But do the math. At a thousand words a day...well, never mind. Don't do the math because the slow pace is only on that first exhausting, wrenching lap. After that's over and I have a day or two to catch my breath, the edits and revisions start and that's when it all speeds up and the mess of halting words and clumsy phrases turns into a story that makes sense and flows along, carrying me (and eventually a reader) with it.

But the first lesson of sabbatical is to accept that the first draft is still as ugly and painful as ever. As it should be, frankly.  And the second lesson is to not attach deadlines to anything. I'm finding myself skipping around from project to project. Jotting down notes here, outlining a bit there, writing more on this monster in front of me (that would be Blood Red Butterfly at the moment). I haven't worked in this erratic fashion in years, but I'm going with it, allowing it to happen and seeing what it produces. Which I suppose is yet another result of taking a year off.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, the full list of what I have planned for 2013 is here.