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.
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).
The Collective is for sale!
Today I finally mailed the last of the copies of the books for my Kickstarter backers. Which means…
At long last my novel is for sale online! You can buy it in the Lulu marketplace.
If you’ve already got a copy, leave me a review! Let everybody know what you thought of the book. Or at least the good bits.
A new look for Current and 48 hour magazine
It’s been a while since I blogged, and boy have I been busy. I had all those books to mail for Andrew vs. The Collective (address-sending stragglers, yours’ go out this weekend!) and things have been busy-busy at the old office.
A personal highlight: I had a story picked up for 48 Hour Magazine! It’s called “Meet, Prey, Kill” (thanks Alexis for that title) and you can read it in print if you buy the magazine!
And then then on professional side: I’ve been running the homepage editorial for Current.com for the last few months and just last week that took an exciting new turn: this beautiful creation:
Look at that marquee! It’s gorgeous! The new design is courtesy Current’s longtime online designer Rod Naber who after five great years is leaving at a high point to go join the startup Rdio. Congrats Rod!
That’s not all the big news for Current. Last night we premiered a half hour special where Laura Ling talked about her imprisonment in North Korea. Powerful, heart-wrenching stuff. (You can watch that online here.) And next Wednesday the Vanguard documentary series starts up again with Missionaries of Hate about the Uganda anti-gay legislation and the influence of American evangelical leaders. That’s reported by Mariana van Zeller who just won a Peabody for her work last season. (Go Mariana!)
All right, all right, enough work-stuff. What about me? My book-designing, printing, shipping hiatus from writing is at last coming to an end. I’m beginning research this weekend on what will be my next novel.
I’ve decided with this one to pursue a relatively traditional path both of writing (no Collective, no NaNoWriMo) and distribution (agent –> publisher –> your local bookstore). So, if anybody has any agent/publisher friends/acquaintances they’d like to introduce me to – I’m looking!
In my endless cascade of open browser tabs I found this post by author Pamela Redmond Satran on Novelr. It’s called “Reinventing the Novel” and I think I didn’t bother reading it before “Clean Out Browser Tab Day” because every week there’s another slate of ‘reinventing the ____’ stories that I open, skim, and close. But there was actually an idea in this one that really struck me:
…my husband, after watching the DVD of American Gangster, [told] me he found the movie good enough but ultimately unsatisfying. “It was a movie,” he explained, “so you knew from the beginning that everything really interesting was going to happen to Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, and that it was going to build to this big climax at the end.”
That was the problem with conventional novels too, I thought. They were predictable, limited and finite in form and scope. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to write – and read – a novel that unfolded in a way that was both more leisurely and more compelling, the way TV shows like Mad Men and The Wire did?
Yes! Totally right. Even as I was writing The Collective, my goal was to tie up the ending in the way that felt right. In other words, that would resonate with readers as the appropriate ending. (I won’t tell you what that is.) But that was because I wanted to fit into the format of the novel. Now, one could write a format buster – a novel in episodes (like If one a winter’s night a traveler… or Cloud Atlas) or one that subverts the reader’s expectations (and probably leaves most feeling unsatisfied). But then you’re looking at a slimmer audience.
But what about new formats? In the way that The Wire (and The Sopranos and others) took the “television drama” format and the “movie” format and melded them together into something exponentially longer and exponentially more interesting?
Satran’s attempt is called Ho Springs. It’s an online novel. And I was too excited about this initial idea to read through it before posting, but I’m going to be checking it out.
Any other examples out there you guys know of?
UPDATE (one minute later): Now I’m thinking about the worlds of video games. Robin convinced me over the holidays to buy Dragon Age: Origins, the first video game I’ve bought in about ten years. He sold me on it because the story was so dense. Maybe the format buster of the novel is something more along these lines?
I’m in the middle of reading (and loving) Team of Rivals about the Lincoln Cabinet. This only heightens my appreciation for this awesome book trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Anybody want to make one of these for Andrew vs. The Collective?