So it turns out I’m writing a book, actually two, but we won’t look at the other one, it’s lurking in the background, and I’m happy to leave it there. Well until it jumps out at me someday soon and demands I work on it, lest it haunt me in the night.
Then it’ll haunt me in the night anyway, that’s just the kind of low life behaviour you have to expect from unfinished works.
My actual comment today is on the novel I’m continuing to publish in chapters over on Wattpad. Today I published Chapter 8, and I invite you to go forth and read the fruits of my mind.
Today I thought I’d just make a quick note on an issue arising from scale of writing.
Thus far I’ve created and published, with some positive feedback, short stories. I’ve even won a competition for one, and yes I did post about that, featuring a triumphant Loreen as the cover picture.
(Those of you yet to discover Eurovision may be baffled. I shall address my love for all things Eurovision another time and maybe that will help; maybe it will scare you.)
However scale does present a challenge. Sure, you can ladle in a lot more content, you can develop themes and characters, you can world-build in watercolour not sketch-lines. Your plots don’t have to snapshots, they can expand; can blossom. You can ask and answer a far wider spectrum of questions. Sounds wonderful huh?!
Yet wait … the thing is, you have to do all that. To different degrees depending on your style, but still, you’ll have to do it. So buckle up I say, cause the ride is long, and it’s one heck of a roller coaster.
Now there are many manuals and guides to the would be novelist, I shan’t repeat the wisdom of the lexicon here. Nonetheless let me mention the tweaks.
The tweaks … oh boy!
In a short story, your tweaks consist of edits to single words, sentences, scaling up to the mighty paragraph. It’s not without challenge, but you know the scale of your opponent.
I started publishing (online) this story-that-wants-to-be-a-book only a week ago. I started writing it far longer ago, when I thought it a long short story; then a multi part short tale; then a novella; and now, well, I’ve given it the reigns.
So far the tweaks have consisted of writing entirely new chapters to splice in between existing ones. They have also encompassed going back through those existing chapters to preserve continuity. If that’s not enough, as the story reveals more of its plot and subplot to me, I have to go back and make subtle, and not so subtle, alterations throughout the text to satisfy them.
It takes so much more stamina to go back through thousands of words in multiple chapters and do the edits required of these damned tweaks!
In part this is really rather wonderful though, after all, there’s none of the inherent word limit of the short story to do battle with. If something demands space on the page, it can have it (within reason – whatever that is). On the other hand, well there’s definitely too much of a good thing when it comes to page numbers and maintaining a reader’s interest!
Now, of course, by choosing to publish in chapters, and online, I make this process visible and more awkward, perhaps, than it needs to be. This was something I anticipated in part, but only now realise the fullness of …. those tweaks do keep coming. Still by making those chapters semi-permanent in e-format, I feel it reduces some of the worst instincts to keep re-working material.
If you’re asking yourself if this actually means I don’t have a written out plan for the novel, then you’d be partially correct. I had a sketched out plan at the start, the whole ‘growing’ thing, however, has led me to places I didn’t prescribe at the outset. That idea, that skeleton is still there, there’s just so much flesh.
When it’s finished I’ll reflect on that aspect of the process and use it to inform the better book I write afterwards.
When it’s finished – get the optimism in this dude!
Maybe a more thorough plan, and more detailed character portraits at the outset, and you tweak less? Well there’s only one way to find out what works for this particular writer, so I guess I’ll keep writing; and keep trying new strategies to see what fits best with me.
I have a suspicion though, that the tweaks will never be banished.
I’d be fascinated to hear any of your views on the subject of tweaking, or on the writing process in general.