One of the few advantages of mowing the lawn is that it allows my mind to drop into autopilot; all it’s got to do is keep me walking in straight lines and avoid debris that might shoot out from under the mower. Consequently, my muse moves into the front and starts playing with scenes and story ideas.
I worked through a lot of problems with Sacrifices / Into Dust Descend yesterday afternoon. Enough so that I’m going to be able to start the second draft on November 1. Removing a character or two, and changing motivations of another. I still have a few things to work out in the next few days, so if anyone spots me with a pencil and steno pad at World Fantasy I’m working on the outline.* My focus is improving the relationship between central characters. The romantic resonance that I wanted to highlight as a driving motivation for the villain and the protagonist fell by the wayside when I added a subplot that’s caused more problems than it’s solved.
While I’ve always felt plot was my main problem when it came to writing, it’s never been the focus I’ve sought. I like surprises when I’m reading, and while they’re few and far between because I read like a writer, looking behind the words on the page at the mechanics, the stories that remain with me are those that combine narrative twists with strong emotions. Sacrifices / Into Dust Descend was supposed to be a love story at its heart, hence the original title before the slash, and why it remains part of the working title. It’s a literal and thematic focus. The current outline gets the plot down, creating the structure in the same manner an architect draws lines on paper or a contractor assembles studs for framing. But I need to make revisions to this blueprint so the sides and interior come together in a way that flows, carrying a reader forward to the inevitable conclusion I want to reach.
Without giving away that conclusion at the same time, which is where the process cycles back to plot. Can you feel my chagrin? :-)
This first outline/synopsis runs about thirty chapters. Length depends on how much time I want the main characters to spend in the Mesopotamian underworld. If I get my “interior decorations” right in the earlier chapters, I’ll have the right amount of surrealism and I can temper how much I go over the top at the story climax. Ball park length for the book, even when I cut out the extra subplot and extend the narrative across a longer timeframe, will run more than 100,000 words. Normally, a person might see such a length as a daunting amount. Heck, my first book took 18 months to write, and my second took considerably more time, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts. However, I didn’t have a true outline/synopsis before, and I’m comfortable enough with this tool that it won’t dissuade me from working on those “interior decorations.” If anything, these past three months taught me that much.
* — Or I’m working on a flash fiction piece to submit to New Scientist.