Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Behind the Scenes Look... writing a serial.

Well, I can't speak as to what other serial authors do. I've read the blogs of one or two other authors who write for JukePop Serials and they both had different approaches, so please bear in mind that this is just how I go about things.

I mention this now, because there may be a slight delay between Chapter 7 (the latest chapter up on JukePop for Blade's Edge) and Chapter 8 (which I would normally have up by Friday, but might take a bit longer because... read the rest of this post to find out why).

It certainly seems like other JukePop authors are writing their stories as they go. Or at least writing them with only a few chapters of lead time. That is not true for Blade's Edge. Blade's Edge was a completed first draft (or 90% complete anyway) when I first submitted to JukePop Serials. Of course, JukePop only asks for your first chapter, so that's all they got from me, but the whole thing has been written in first draft form. Those of you who write will not be surprised when I tell you that only about 30-60% (and sometimes well less that 30%) of my first draft for each chapter actually makes it into the published chapter. Those of you who don't write might be scratching your head and saying WTF?

The first draft of any novel, by any author, is likely to contain a whole lot of crap, and no, I'm not just talking about missed commas, typos, and an inability to properly place a semi-colon (though yes, certainly those too). I'm talking about whole, giant sections of text that don't actually belong in the book. Pages of narrative that are unnecessary or shouldn't be written as narrative. Characters that shouldn't exist. Explanations that are the opposite of subtle... And that's just a small part of the list of things that are there but need to be cut. After that, there are all the things that aren't there and need to be added. Better dialogue, better description, any description at all, consistency in age, physical appearance, demeanor in any given character, item, or place...

It goes on and on. Non-writers might be saying "well why don't you put those things in your first draft?" Because when I wrote my first draft, I was just getting the bones of the story on paper. I was doing my best to include all of those things (and not include the bad parts) but mostly I was just trying to get all my ideas for the story down on paper. Now, I will grant you, that if I were a bigger fan of outlining and character mapping, some of this wouldn't happen in the first draft, but most of it would. Because it's never the things one plans for that take off running and leave you with a pile of wordarrhea to clean up afterwards. It's always the new character that threw themselves in the mix, or the diamond encrusted sword that showed up in a cave for no reason, or the talking mule that you never planned on writing into your story that throws you and leaves you with a mess to clean up. But those messes often lead to nuggets of genius, and it's often (though certainly not always) worth it to pursue those threads when they appear.

Which makes your first draft into a crazy web of awesome, covered in a pile dung, wrapped in a blanket of ridiculous, smothered in two layers of what the f***? And it is your job, as the author, to sort through all of that (cutting, scraping and untangling as you go) pull out the awesome, and straighten it up so that others can actually follow it and hopefully enjoy it. That is the process of revision and rewriting. It will happen with every manuscript to varying degrees.

Blade's Edge was written for National Novel Writing Month (heretofore to be referred to as NaNoWriMo) in 2009. I had just moved to Japan, was working "full time" (read getting paid full time salary to teach 15hrs a week) and had enough time that instead of writing the requisite 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo I decided I would shoot for 100,000 words. I succeeded. However, in my attempt to write over 3000 words a day for the entire month of November, more wordarrhea came out than might have normally. This may not be surprising to you, but it was surprising to me largely because I had proven that I could write 50,000 words in a month with little trouble, and not much in the way of wordarreha. In addition, I had done wayyyy more planning for this novel than I ever had before. I had outlines for chapters, character descriptions, and copious notes on various sections of the book. I thought this would help me stay on track, but instead I felt trapped by the work I had already done and felt like parts of the book were already set in stone, which led to a lot of writing that lacked the spark I usually enjoy during first draft. So, at the end of 100,000 words and almost a full book (just missing the capstone final chapter and epilogue even though I knew what I wanted to have happen) I put the manuscript aside and decided that once I was better at rewrites I would tackle it then.

Fast forward to October 2013. I have written only two other full first drafts of a novel, have taken one of those first drafts through multiple other drafts, and have a publisher interested in it. I have just discovered (thanks to the NaNoWriMo website) JukePopSerials and am considering the possibilities. Blade's Edge has sat untouched for four years. So, I decide to dust it off and see if I can make anything happen with the first few chapters. I read it for the first time in years. The prologue and Chapter 1 look promising. I keep reading. All of Part 1 (the book is in three parts) looks salvageable with a bit (or a lot) of work. I decide to submit the prologue and Chapter 1 all rolled together into one opening gambit. In late November, as I'm working away on my most recent novel, I receive an acceptance letter from JukePop Serials. I'm ecstatic. I get down to the serious work of rewriting and revising for Chapter 2.

Rinse and repeat. Each chapter that you've read on JukePop Serials, despite what typos and comma splices may have survived the rewrite, has been markedly transformed from its original state. The chapters that were in good condition kept perhaps 60% of their original text, the chapters that were in bad condition kept less than 30%. Chapter 7 quite possibly lost 90% of its original content and gained 2000 words of new material. Chapter 7 marked the end of Part One of the novel. Chapter 8 (aka Part Two, Chapter 1) marks the beginning of Part Two. Part Two has jumped forward in time (I won't spoil it with telling you how far forward here), and Taka and Mishi are about to embark on important challenges.

So, here's the reason that Chapter 8 might be a bit delayed (I'm hoping no later than next Monday): Part Two is currently a mess, and the whole section needs to be rewritten as whole if it's going to be consistent and awesome. The small surgeries that I was doing on Chapters 1 - 7 will no longer do the trick, and to get things up to par it's going to take some serious work, time and love... and I'm still working a full time job. Luckily I have a long weekend ahead of me.

Please bear with me through this slight delay as I try to dig out all of the awesome for you, and make this book what it's supposed to be, rather than what it morphed into during its first draft. I hope you'll enjoy the results.

As ever, thanks for reading! I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful and peaceful December.

Don't forget to catch up on Blade's Edge Chapters 1 - 7 so that you're ready for Chapter 8 when it comes out.

No comments :

Post a Comment