Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Swiss Cheese

That is how my current project is feeling like -- riddled with holes.

Recently I had gone back to a project near and dear to my heart: Children's Crusade, the novel of the Lanakhidzist Revolution. It's a project that traces its history back to when I was in junior high, back in the days when the very idea that the Soviet Union could collapse internally was ridiculed as fantastical. Over the years I'd made various stabs at telling the story of of how Stalin's attempt to perpetuate himself and his inner circle for all time through cloning turned awry when the Stalin clone instead replicated his rebel youth. They were for the most part limited by the lack of perspective and general world-knowledge that is part and parcel of youth, particularly youth in a rural community in which library resources were scant at best, and attempting to obtain better ones through inter-library loan would have meant having to explain to disapproving adults why I should need such specialized materials on a subject regarded as suspect at best.

In 2003 I had actually begun a reasonably mature version of it, but events forced me to set it aside indefinitely after the first three chapters and half of a fourth, and the impetus was lost. But in these past few weeks, a friend had suggested that it might be one project that would actually have a reasonable chance of attracting the attention of an agent, and that I should resume work on it. So I got it back out and dusted it off again, and found that perhaps it wasn't quite as hopeless as I had thought.

However, as I got into Chapter 5, I began to lose momentum as I came upon scenes for which I had only the briefest of outlines. Although sometimes even a few sentences will evoke the entire scene such that I need only set fingers to keyboard and type, this was not the case. Hoping to keep moving forward, I decided to skip over the difficult scenes and move on to Chapter 6, and for a while I did get some fair movement. But I had to set it aside over the weekend in order to finish some articles on a deadline, and when I returned to it on Monday, I found that the point at which I had stopped did not lend itself to further forward motion.

Frustrated, I decided to jump forward to the next major scene, which takes the action to Moscow and the decision by the head of the KGB that Andropov and his fellows are not responding adequately to the disturbances in the Caucasus. However, when I actually started writing it, instead of unfolding properly it came out in awkward jerks, without the flow of supporting information that is really needed.

And then I realized that one of the biggest problems is that, since I have not written all of Chapter 5 yet, I do not really know exactly what information has been presented about KGB General Semyonov yet.

So it appears that it is going to be essential for me to go back to Chapter 5 and slowly force my way through each of those scenes, developing all the necessary information. Only then will I be able to go forward to the scenes that build upon it and not feel like the story is riddled with holes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reading from the Writer's Perspective

One of the more interesting things about being a writer is how it affects the way you read. Even when you're reading someone else's writing, there's always the tendency to look at the more technical aspects of the work.

This is particularly true if you have had the opportunity to read draft versions of a work. The writing community is a rather small one, and we frequently read one another's works in progress. For instance, I originally read Sherwood Smith's latest novel, A Stranger to Command, in draft form in the Athanarel community on LiveJournal. As a result, I kept noticing differences between the finished novel and the versions I had read.

For instance, in at least one version there was some earlier material in the beginning, dealing with Vidanric's parents observing him fencing and discussing the state of the kingdom of Remalna. However, that appears to have vanished altogether in the final version, which begins with the abrupt introduction of the rather lost young Vidanric at the Marloven war academy. Although there is a certain loss of background, the reader now gets to share Vidanric's sense of being out of place, even a fish out of water, which in many ways increases the sense of identification with him.

Beginnings are always the trickiest part of stories, because the writer must introduce the reader quickly enough to engage their interest and not bore them, but not so quickly as to overwhelm them and thus lose them.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Father of the Man

The child is the father of the man, the old saying goes. And it's always interesting to see familiar characters when they were younger than I've been accustomed to seeing them.

While I was messing around coming up with a new idea for next year for an annual anthology, I hit on a story of Robert Cardinal Dautery's youth. Probably one of the most notorious Heirs to Cody thanks to his extensive Outfit connections and the questions about his becoming Heir to Cody, he loomed large over the story of Julian Falconskirk and the Rebinding of the Isolated Worlds. But even in Anne's stories, in which he's still living, he's always a distant figure.

And now I'm outlining the story of his episcopal consecration, and how it became entangled with the murder of his mother in an attempt on his father's life that went terribly wrong (his father was consigliere to the Boss of Codyland, and thus a legitimate target for a rubout, but the code of honor prohibited the deliberate targeting of family members). And now I can see some of the family politics that have tangled and twisted his life, including an elopement that will have interesting consequences for Anne a generation later.

Now for the time to actually write all this stuff. Of course it would be easier to justify taking the time if someone out there would actually take some interest in my writing and buy some of it.