Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on "Tooth and Claw"

Tooth and Claw is a story that I really want to tell, but I've run into a problem:  I've been telling it wrong.  I can best describe this with reference to The Quantum Mechanic.

While I was writing TQM, I had an excellent dynamic going:  I was thrilled to be writing it, and I was writing by the seat of my pants.  No joke.  I had an idea of what I wanted to write, and where-ish it was going to go, but I was excited about what comes next.  I was always at "A," and I had to get to "B," and that was exciting to me.  So all I did, each and every day in that fabled November, was write out how to get from "A" to "B."  Easy-peasy.

I can't stress enough how thoroughly this dynamic permeated my writing process - I didn't even know that there would be a villain before I wrote him in.  I literally texted Z the day after I wrote chapter six, because I had no idea where to go next, and he told me that my story needed a villain.  I saw with perfect clarity that there was a villain ready to hand, and a role for him to fulfill, and a new direction for that relationship to take the story - and so it went.  If it weren't for Z's day-of advice, there would be no Entropic Engineer.

With Tooth and Claw, I have many "As," and many "Bs," and I know how a great deal of them are causally and motivationally connected.  My problem was that I set out to connect all the dots in a linear fashion (as I mainly did with TQM), but that wasn't what I was excited about.

What I should have been doing all along with T&C was writing the parts I was excited about.  This is plain to me now:  I was excited about the prologue, and I am proud of how that came out; I was excited about Della learning martial arts, and I'm happy with how that came out; I was excited about Della's first confrontation with Ferraille, and I'm OK with how that came out.  And every step of the way in between, I've been forcing it, forcing it, forcing it.  And I am increasingly less satisfied with how these forced portions have come out.

What I should have done was write the parts I was excited about, and then gone back to write un-deleted scenes to fill in the gaps, like I did with TQM.  Once again, when I'd hit the end of the story and needed some filler to plug up some gaps, Z suggested an action set piece:  thus was born Un-Deleted Scene Six, known in print as Chapter Sixteen.  I'm very happy with how that came out, even though it was written on the spur of the moment and out of order.

The upshot of all this is that I've been writing T&C dead-fucking-wrong since chapter three or four at the latest - I've been forcing continuity when I should have been following my heart, and the story has suffered for it.  For the free online version, this means reading a somewhat disjointed series of vignettes, where you'd have to follow dates and clues dropped in the text to piece it all together.  So what?  If the finished product comes out stilted and ugly due to my bizarre insistence on first-draft continuity, then the finished product is shit.  Instead, I could have been writing what amounts to a series of short stories, and then connecting them all by filling in the gaps as opportunity and inclination allow - which might come out hairy on the blog, but fuck it, it's all in the name of watching the process and a better finished product anyway.

I need to set T&C down for a while.  Not put it away, like I did with Tabula Rasa, but just let it cook for a bit on the back-burner and wait until the forced-ness has burned off and I'm ready to look at the project with fresh eyes.


To that end, I'm setting T&C down for a while.  In the meantime, there's yet another story I've been wanting to tell.  I've been itching for it; I even took elements of it and put them into T&C to help flesh out the cosmology and such.  It's in a similar-but-different vein:  there are elements of fantasy and magic, but... well... you'll see.  Let's just say I've been brushing up on my Photoshop, and I'll have something up by Wednesday evening.  If it flops, well, I'll see it coming a mile away; but this is where my heart's pulling me right now, so I'm going to take it as far as it goes, until or unless I've gained enough distance from T&C to look at it anew.

Pardon our dust, thank you for your patience, and all that jazz.  :)


Zach L said...

aw, man! I was really enjoying the chapters of T & C, and looking forward to reading them as they came out. Whatever ends up with a better product, though, is what you should do! I know for my 2010 Nanowrimo I did the "disjoint" approach -- I wrote a scene I was interested in until I got bored, then switched up to another character and a different scene. I wrote ROUGHLY chronologically, but jumped around over and over and over. When I started to go through it for a second draft after re-reading it, one of the first things I did -- literally -- was drag-n-drop each individual section and rearrange the whole fucking novel until the parts were more coherent.

(as a related aside, I love Scrivener.)

D said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence! I'm glad someone was enjoying it, even if I was growing to resent it.

I think you'll like this too, though. ;)