With A Bucket And Spade And A Hand-Grenade; Heigh-Ho!

11 Mar

I found a note I wrote to myself after finishing the first draft of the fifth Miya Black book (Every Glorious Tomorrow). In the interest of recycling, here it is!

Dated February 5th, 2011:

I finally finished writing the first draft of Miya Black V, without question the most troublesome book I’ve ever done. Huge, sweeping changes were made again and again–part of the problem was how easy IV was to write, there were tangles and problems and messy things to work out but it was always fun and there was lots of lovely conflict and drama and unresolved inner conflict to play with–basically the story was always clear to me, which made everything else a simple matter of working things out. This one, though … THIS one. First attempt was rubbish. Slow, indulgent, no drive, no external conflict; poor, poor writing. Subsequent attempts weren’t much better–except with each slow push forward in a new direction I seemed to find something, maybe the scrap of an idea, maybe the hint of something better, it’s taken almost twenty attempts to wring the story out of this one but I think I’ve finally done it. Like I said, part of the problem was that IV was so easy–another part of the problem is that I love IV to pieces, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, it starts strong and just keeps building and building and building until the end when everything suddenly focuses to a single point and then it ramps up AGAIN–anyway, my problem with V for the first versions was that, basically, it wasn’t as good as IV. And eventually I came to realise that I would not be happy until it was not only as good as IV, but actually better than IV. I had to ramp things up again, you see, I had to work at it until it was a better story and a better book and a better use of words than the one that had come before. And now … now I really think it is. I keep going back to work on scenes, just refinement, tiny little things here and there, except it’s not really to work on it, it’s to read those scenes again because I like them so much. The final climax and fight scene in particular I’m so pleased with. It’s intense. Really intense. I had to take half a dozen little walks while writing it, just to stop myself from exploding. Except now I have a new challenge, NOW I have to make VI better AGAIN than V, and then VII’s going to have to be better than VI …

But it’s fun, it really is, and I’m proud of what I’m creating, and I’m so happy to be over the halfway point with this series–it’s been in my head for more than two years now, I think about it constantly, finally getting to the last book–even the first draft–will be, I predict, immensely satisfying.

For now, though, I need a break from Miya Black, so I’m working mostly on the Charlotte Powers sequel. I definitely work best when dealing with a series, stand-alones are fine but I like continuity and the sense of an overarching plot, a greater story that unfolds slowly book by book. As I work on more and more new series I’m seeing a pattern, too–I think I work best when I write a single, self-contained story, maybe with hints of something bigger but which stands nicely on its own, then after that’s finished to the final proof stage I like to sit down and really figure out what the sequels are going to deal with. With the Charlotte Powers books it turns out it’s going to be six books in total–although Miya Black was originally going to be five, now it’s nine, so who knows–and the underlying story is something I’m excited about developing. Really excited, actually. I love superheroes, I was hesitant about writing them at first but now I’m really getting into the whole powers thing–something I really enjoy doing is figuring out the ‘rules’ of a power, the limitations, what it can do, what it can’t do, even with a relatively simple power like ‘force field creation’ it’s amazing the different applications you can think of. Right now I’m around a third of the way through the preliminary outline, originally I was going to jump into what I see as the ‘main’ part of the story right off, but I think it works a lot better with a couple of introductory acts before that. It gives more time with the characters, time to get to know them, time to let them show who they are and what they’re all about, before they’re thrust into conflict and strife–well, MORE conflict and strife. I’m taking my time with this one, stopping to write often extensive notes on background events and histories, fleshing out minor characters by exploring their pasts and their motivations–this kind of thing takes time, but I think it pays off in the end. Even if you don’t actually use 90% of your histories and notes and backgrounds in the story, it’s there for you to call on if you need it.

We’re back in the present now, just to be explicit. Now I kind of want to be working on the Charlotte Powers sequel again, I reminded myself of how much fun it was–but no, I must finish writing the first draft of Imogen Shroud before I do anything else. I’m taking a little breather from it right now, actually, I’m in the middle of a particularly intense action scene and needed to break off for a bit before I started hyperventilating or something. It’s horrible the things people will do when their life is at risk. I’m going to have to deal with the repercussions once I get back to writing. Not quite looking forward to that; I’ll be glad when the scene’s written, let’s put it that way.

To lighten things up before I get back to work, here’s another BJK White Factoid: I brush my teeth at least twice a day, and so should you.

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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Of Writing


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