I’m currently trying to wean myself off Game of Thrones with the methadone of The Tudors. Man, was that a dizzying sprint. I started reading the very first book in May. Since, I read all four available books, watched the entirety of the HBO series and then read the fifth book in just a weekend. Devoured it, more like.
There are many good things to say Game of Thrones (and many, many fine mashups to be had in Tumblosphere) but as I’m still digesting, I had one short item of note from Dances with Dragons that I wanted to point out to the Internets.
Somewhere in that fog of a weekend I happened upon a funny and familiar phrase: “fart in your general direction.” Now you and I both know where that comes from:
I don’t presume to know whether that phrase was a rare and gentle wink from Martin to his readers (an audience that most certainly knows where that comes from) or whether it was one of those phrases that just kind of slips through a writer’s fingers to his keyboard and into his manuscript, passed over in all later edits.
I do find its use fascinating though. Fantasy writing, and certainly in the Tolkein-esque ring Martin seems to be boxing in, is ageless. It is not tied to its time. Yet, this little slip of a phrase places this book. This is a book written by someone who watched (and probably several times) Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Whether or not this is intentional it leads me to wonder: Could there be a post-modern fantasy? Could you write that book, brimming with clever references and asides, without subverting all the laws that make a fantasy book a fantasy book?
Anyone else find any little telltale phrases in your respective devouring of Dances with Dragons? (I also noticed “shubbery”, but that’s perhaps excusable.)
The rough draft of Project Lazarette is complete!
It happened suddenly, almost like an explorer finding a long-sought seacoast. I’d planned to write all weekend, knowing I was within three chapters of completion according to my outline. Then yesterday, finishing what was to be the first of those, I realized the second chapter was unnecessary. And then I surged through with adrenaline and hammered out the Very Last Chapter Of This Whole Damn Book.
By the numbers:
The rough draft as it stands is 122,713 words. That’s nearly (but not quite) double the length of The Collective. Project Lazarette is a novel in three parts. Part Two is the longest at 51,300 words spread across 11 chapters. Part One is a healthy 41,792 and 9 chapters and Part Three is 29,621 with 8 chapters. I’ve been writing the rough draft for 7.5 months, having started in July. My Scrivener file is 3.2 MBs (and that’s all text!).
Well I can’t yet rest on my laurels, that’s for sure. My next step is to turn over the rough draft to a small group of readers. I know it’s mess right now though, so I want to try and patch it up first. Hopefully I can do that before the end of the month. And then? I wait. It’s a long-ass book right now, so I expect my readers to take quite a few weeks to get through it. In the meantime: I can finally read fiction again! Let me if there’s anything you’ve read in the last few months that I absolutely must read.
And how about a sneak peek?
This will undoubtedly change, but this is the final sentence of the book as it stands now:
He stretched his arms to the sky, first the left and then the right, and he held his fists up to the steel grey that gathered above and dared God to try.
I just spent a great chunk of the weekend talking books with Robin Sloan, who just polished off the rough draft of his new novel.
Both of us have been writing more in the last few years, breaking out of the some-time-hobby practice we’d both engaged in since we were each kids. And there’s a significant change that’s come with that: These days, writing doesn’t seem like a mystical power, far away and distant. It seems accessible. It seems like if you practice it you will improve (I know…crazy, right?)
I think back to my early twenties, in which I thought I had so much to say but my hands were pinned by not knowing how to say it. Every month I had a new idea for a novel that would usually energize me for about one night (ten pages of a rough draft) and then go into the archive folder of my hard drive to collect computer bits of dust. These days, I still see the challenges and difficulties in a longer work but I know I can work through them. I’m no expert, but I can see that I’m learning. That I’m getting better. And that’s pretty exciting!
Project Lazarette is progressing, I promise. I’ve been necessarily derailed by some freelance work, but the available hours are starting to drift back toward Lazarette’s many-thousands of words. So far Parts One and Two are rough drafted. Upcoming benchmarks:
– This week I will complete a solid second draft of Part One.
– Then I’ll embark on the rough draft of Part Three (the final part).
– Hopefully in a short month or two, Parts Two and Three will be combined with the first and go out to a small group of readers. This will be the first time the book, as a whole, is conjoined.
What’s the big personal lesson I’ve learned? Just keep writing.
I love Kiyash Monsef’s new story “How to Build a Troll-Proof Bridge.” But I especially love it’s animated cover.
How to Build a Troll-Proof Bridge from Kiyash Monsef on Vimeo.
It’s short, it’s punchy, it grabs your attention. It’s appropriately analogous to a television show intro…but it’s for a text-based story.
I think this is an exciting new space to play in for people who like to make things. The web has never offered a great reception to fiction (though Star Trek fanfic, amateur erotica, and Robin Sloan’s The Truth About the East Wind are notable exceptions) and especially not to long-format novel-length works. But now that we’ve got tablets like the Ipad, the device of the book itself is changing.
I’ll leave the implications to Tim Carmody, master of bookfuturism. But the fun part is this: What things can we imagine our future novels will have now that the delivery technology is more flexible?
– Animated covers like Kiyash’s
– Ambient scene-setting soundtracks (again, East Wind)
– Videos for illustrations used sparingly like photos, drawings and woodblock prints
– A hyper-linked Infinite Jest
– A whole new crop of Choose Your Own Adventures
– Narratives that read spatially? (The Penguin We Tell Stories project is a great experiment in this.)
– And yes, advertisements
What would a project like House of Leaves that so expressly plays with form look like? Half-Myst, half-dissertation?
Amid the many benefits of un- self-employment is that if it’s necessary for me to spend August away on the road, I can do that. That’s right, all of August (roughly). It’s been a great and relaxing trip so far and I’ve just finished a five-day jaunt to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Turns out Canada is real pretty.
I find that I get inspired when I travel. Writing-inspired. On day two I was careening through the plotline of a possible novel set in Port Hood (that would of course require me to spend another few months up there for research). But I’m deep into Part Two of Project Lazarette, so The Port Hood Novel went to the Notes file.
It’s the textural details that really get me. The incongruity of a beautiful chapel inside the camouflage of simple red bricks. The perfect little island sitting just offshore with the oft-attempted but now ruined causeway almost crossing the channel to it. The silver oaks that get their name from the color on the underside of their leaves, the color the trees turn when a storm’s coming. I think the impulse to write for me starts with the details, with wanting to collect them and string them all together.
Traveling for me is actually a great fount of short story writing. “Meet, Prey, Kill” in 48 Hr magazine was the product of one of these inspirations. The key is to capture as many details as possible while you’re still there.
Researching is a Massive Public Work
A lot going on – and big news/updates to come – but I wanted to talk a little bit about research. I’m busy getting ready to write my second novel (but I guess my third book?). And this time I’m trying to do everything about this process “right.” The Collective, you remember, was a National Novel Writing Month book. I jumped in with eyes squeezed shut, outlining as I went, discovering the plot as it flowed from my fingers. That process was a lot of fun, but it meant the editing process, once I started to try to make sense of what I’d written, was a 12-month chore.
With this next book I want to cut that time down – and I aim to do it by smartly outlining and researching ahead of time. (Like a real book!) That’s the part I’m in right now – and it’s been a lot of fun, actually. I’ve got books and movies in a big long list. I’ve got a Scrivener document with ideas for scenes and characters. And I read for hours at a time and feel like I’ve accomplished much. Of course the danger is to get sucked in and research for forever. But I’ve set myself a due date – I’ll start writing in earnest on July 2. (Happy Birthday America, I got you 10,000 words!)
What’s the research been? Massive earth-changing projects. I read Dam! about the Hetch-Hetchy and right now I’m reading Path Between the Seas about the Panama Canal. (PBTS, BTW is an incredible book. The founding of the Republic of Panama reads like a Joseph Conrad page-turning spy thriller.) Next up in my queue: a book on Baron Haussmann remaking Paris and Ferdinand de Lesseps digging the Suez Canal.
Anything else you think I should read?
Also – I guess I should come up with a Sloanian codename for this next project, huh? That’s to come (though let me know if you have any suggestions).