Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning Experience, Take Three

I passed the fifteen thousand word mark a few minutes ago and realized that I haven’t even hit the second act yet. This manuscript is going to be a lot longer than fifty-thousand words, and I think I’ll be okay with that.

I’ve been feeling a bit of anxiety the past few days. I know that this project is going to go far beyond the end of November, and between that and the fact that I’m only plotting one or two chapters in advance I'm finding it a bit unnerving. My first attempt at a novel-length piece of fiction yielded a fifty-thousand word manuscript, but it was only halfway completed. After NaNo was over, I said I’d finish it, but I never did.

With the first attempt down, and with last year’s experience, I feel a bit more like I’m able to handle this. Even though I still feel exceptionally vulnerable as a writer, Ghostbox will be completed, warts and all. This baby’s going to be born even if it takes me months. I’m having a bit of fun trying out new things, and so far it’s been working rather well.

I’ve gotten the hang of the third-person narrative and switching focus back and forth between three characters. I’m slowly but surely letting myself relax and immerse myself in the characters’ viewpoints of the world without worrying that I’m adding too much material or holding back where I should be letting loose. It’s a nice feeling, being able to let a story unravel the way it needs to, without worrying about whether or not it’s making enough headway plot-wise. Still, there’s a tiny voice living in the back of my brain that’s a bit irritated that things didn’t leap out at the gate and take off running.

This isn’t that kind of story, though, and after the horrible anxiety I went through doing line edits of Teahouse, not knowing where to pad the story and what kind of additional material I needed, I think going this route and adding possibly too much in the first draft may be a good thing for me.

Each story I write I find myself falling head over heels for one character above all others, and it’s usually not the character with the most focus in the work. The first year it was Kitty, the blonde, Mexico-born succubus who played the role of the narrator’s best friend. Last year it was another blonde woman, the self-destructive, self-loathing alcoholic Lucy, the narrator’s closest friend from college. This year it’s Darren, the pot-smoking, computer-obsessed IT worker in love with UrbEx, Geocaching and dead malls. At least this year the character that’s stolen my heart is one of the mains, though the focus still revolves mostly around Sam, the poor security guard stuck in the mall as it puts up its last fight in the shadow of the wrecking ball.

Every long project I work on has its own playlist, and this year’s has been harder to come up with than most. I use this to set my mood while writing and to get in touch with aspects of the characters’ personalities as the story unfolds. This year, unfortunately, the playlist has been revolving almost entirely around Darren. Sam and her boss Morrow haven’t given me much to work with yet in terms of music. In fact, I’ve only nailed down five tracks so far.

Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm

Dr. Greenthumb - Cypress HIll

Land of Confusion - Disturbed

Mindfields - The Prodigy

Here Come the Demons - Rehab

Most of these (in fact, all but one, and it’s the only Sam track I have so far) are either remakes of 80s/90s tunes or straight out of those decades themselves. The novel is set in the present day but most, if not all, of the characters have their own nostalgia attached to the setting, which saw its heyday in decades past. At least two of them spent their most formative years during the height of the mall rat years, bringing their own unique and sometimes conflicting perspectives into the story with them. Last year’s playlist was devoted to downbeat songs involving suicide and regret, and this year’s focuses mostly on wistful memories of the past. Interesting.

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