Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Into my process - A Sawmill's Hope

My work consumes my thoughts. And by 'work' I don't mean what I'm currently doing for a living. I mean life work. So I figured I'd share it with you. After all, my blog is nothing if not a personal challenge to write until I'm out of secrets.
If that involves including reference materials (ie. map, synopsis) that are spoilers to my current work in progress, let's just call them appetizers, shall we?

After all, we're told our whole life not to spoil our appetites by eating before dinner, only to find out that grown ups do it so frequently there's an entire section of menus dedicated to it!

 Darke and the Parandrus
I finished the 6th draft of this one year after starting it. Then I queried it to eighteen agents. This isn't a lot by any means. But I was too excited about my next book to keep up the grueling querying. Just because a man would make a great lumberjack doesn't necessarily mean he likes to dress in a tie and sit in an interview. He just wants to cut down trees!

So I left Darke on the shelf, assuming I'd come back someday. Then several things happened. The going got tough in book #2 (poor excuse to put it down but we're being honest), I read the First Law trilogy (which, in case I haven't mentioned, changed the way I look at literature), and an up-and-coming publishing house opened their doors for unsolicited book submissions (through October of this year unless I'm mistaken).

These three details turned out to be exactly what I needed to crack the dusty cover of Darke's story. And after six months on the shelf, it was dusty indeed. I read an excerpt, slack jawed, flabbergasted I'd ever asked anyone to test read it, ashamed I'd ever been proud to call it my own. The weakness was the story's voice, or lack thereof. It was all telling. I had no grasp of emotion save what was spelled out for me. If this had been someone else's book, I'd have thrown it.

Please understand I'm not being negative or pessimistic. It's absolutely healthy that I felt this way. I'd grown in those six months, as a reader and a writer. My standards were higher. And if I'm lucky, they'll only continue to ascend. Our personal best is only limited by the amount time and work we're willing to put into something.

So I decided to rewrite it. And this is how:

I took the five point of view characters and singled out their parts. Then I began to rewrite them one at a time. Completed are Aedron (whose viewpoint makes up 8% of total book) and Tahkaan (11%). In the works are Brandal (27%) and Darke (44%).
Lastly, of course, will be Recher.

(let's just say pink = spoilers)

The advantage of this is that I'm able to get deep into one character's head and follow his personal journey the entire trip through the Unwithering Woods. For each character to have a unique voice, I had no choice but to do this. And it's working so well, it's a technique I'll resort to again, for sure.

My friend Volker asked if I'd look back at the story a year after the rewrite and consider it garbage once more. In a way, I hope so. It'll only make it better.

Are you your own best critique? What are you doing right now to grow better at your craft? And I don't mean maintaining your craft, I mean taking it higher. Because if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.