Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Feeling Pregnant

26,500 words

Not a bad day's work, but there's a lot of flailing in there. In fact, if I look at the last book, I wrote 140,000 words and pared down to 85,000. Agent Anne wanted to see more of the soft side of my protagonists, so that brought the count back up to 90,000. In a way, I could still be twenty-odd thousand words away from anything usable!

Except it doesn't work that way. Not exactly. We'll see how much of these early days makes it in, though...

Feeling pregnant. Yes, indeed. Heavy. Full. Like something big's about to come out of an opening too small. And like I'm going to get more and more uncomfortable until this whatever-it-is comes out.

It's that feeling I get when the story's about to take one of its sudden left turns. And I think it might have to do with my villain. Right now, he's just too nice a guy. And there's stuff missing. What stuff? I don't know.... stuff!

John Ramsey Miller hates this seat-of-the-pants way of working. Elmore Leonard likes it. All I can say is, I've tried to work with outlines. Really, I have.

An outline is part of the reason Poison Door took 140,000 words. I had an outline, character sketches, all that stuff. But all the fun of discovery got used up in the outline. Sitting down to write the book, I got thirty thousand words in before everyone turned wooden. Then balky. Characters kept doing things I didn't want them to do. I started feeling heavy. Full. Uncomfortable.

I threw everything out and started over. Same names, close to the same premise. Totally different story. It flew.

Until the next time I started to feel heavy. And full. And really, really uncomfortable.

I pity the Tiny Dynamo at these times. I'm not the best company, whether or not I've got the keyboard in my lap. BUt I've learned to recognize the signals. The story is about to tell me something exciting...


RK Sterling said...

Feeling pregnant, huh? As long as you don't get heartburn and swollen ankles, you'll be all right. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't outline at the beginning of a book because the first 20 or 30 pages are a discovery process. After things crystalize for me I do a fairly broad outline, but I always leave a lot of room for the organic change that comes as you write and which, it seems to me, keeps the piece fresh.