Authorial Rambling, March Style

This week isn’t a linkspam post, because when I’ve hammered out 40k words on the conclusion of the first draft of the Kit March book, I don’t have time for anything else. At all. On the positive side, I’ve found a way I can strap my wrist and still type, although my occupational therapist may not be best pleased by this. I’m pretty sure that disability aids aren’t meant to assist my flagrant disregard of how one should manage severe chronic pain by enabling me to ignore it for longer. Because the strapping doesn’t decrease my pain; it just gives me a little more time before it goes from moderate to lying on my bed sobbing because I really want to type and my body won’t let me.

One day I’ll write about how I hide from being moderately depressed by throwing myself into a project, meaning that I’m often incredibly productive when showing a score of other signs mental health professionals consider concerning. But that isn’t nearly as important as the upshot. This monstrous book that I’ve been trying to write for three years, now? This book that was making me feel like my aspirations to novels were more illusion and less substance? This book that was defying my will to figure out a halfway-decent first act (first book) conclusion? This book I’ve spent the last six months despairing over while pretending that I hadn’t developed a desperate fear of being unable to finish it? A complete 190 000k word first draft.

I’m trying to find politer or more eloquent ways to phrase it, but I can’t move past the simplicity of fuck, it’s sweet.

Don’t get me wrong: this draft is awful. Chapters not properly leading into each other, discarded plot points, far too much backstory to not be confusing, and that chapter where I completely forgot to explore why my character’s going to cling to a potentially-lethal sacrificial act. (No, not Darius.) This isn’t something I post. It gives me a destination so I can go back and rework everything else in light of said destination, but that’s all a non-planner like myself needs. I write by throwing nonsense at the screen and going back to rewrite it several times until it stops being absurd. (Or, at least, less unintentionally absurd.) It’s an ending. Everything else will be figured out. Probably.

I’ve discovered that I really don’t like posting as I go. I don’t like planning and don’t intend to start; don’t get me wrong on this point. I could never have planned the conclusion I now have for Arrival, and I really enjoy the way writing as I go allows me to find some unexpected answers. However, since my sense of an ending is often a vague space that gains more colour and definition the more I build the road towards it, it is easier to draft the whole thing and develop it where it naturally leads than to steer to a course that I kind of thought would be the ending ten chapters ago. Additionally, this was meant to be a lighter, sort-of-parody fantasy world not too concerned with historical accuracy, a thinner backdrop to character and identity. Three years after playing in this world, however, not only do I now have characters with a heap of plot-relevant backstory, I have a setting that involves a serious depiction of marginalisation and some accompanying politics that takes both a whole lot of downright ridiculous facts and a fair bit of contradictory-seeming worldbuilding with complete earnestness and a sprinkling of grimdark.

I’ve been long feeling the want to go back to the earlier chapters to cut and add various things: trying to make those now-unnecessary plot threads still fit is like squeezing into a pair of jeans a size too small. Most of us can do it, with some wrestling and swearing, but it isn’t comfortable and we rarely look as good as we will in clothing sized and tailored to fit us. Not to mention that there’s places where I need to add things that weren’t as vivid in my initial imagining or turned out to have unexpected relevancy and need better foreshadowing, the need to shift the tone slightly earlier on, a fair bit of brutal pruning and some structural changes to make the massive cast of Characters Who Are Only Referenced Because Darius And Kit Did Things Before The Start Of The Book easier to identify, distinguish and parse.

(Aside from ageism, I think this is the main reason for starting fantasy novels with a teenage farmboy/girl/person. When you have characters in their thirties and late sixties who have engaged in politics and quests and the taking down of tyrants before the book even starts, you end up with a massive cast of characters who are only namedropped or referenced. The problem with the intentionally in media res approach of Darius and Kit’s storylines is that folks do need to know who most of these referenced people are.)

I’m thinking, therefore, that I would like to get a full second draft together, after time spent working through my running list of things to fix for cohesiveness, before I then repost older chapters and post new ones. The benefit to the reader is that I’d be able to post regularly (I know, right?) because I’m not doing the current scramble of reworking chapters on the fly to make them fit. With the new structure, I’d be alternating short epistolary sections (which largely involve the protagonists interacting with name-dropped characters, like Kit’s writing to Surandil and Darius’s writing to Aysun) with long chapters. There’s now nineteen chapters, three interlude pieces and twenty-three letters, so it still won’t be posted overnight, but consistency should be achievable.

(I do mean “short” even by my defying-brevity standard. One of these letters, aside from the titling, contains one sentence because the best threats are pithy ones. The longest one is six paragraphs, intended to show Darius’s increased willingness to have a I-may-actually-almost-talk-about-my-feelings conversation after starting on the fantasy-world equivalent of anti-depressants.)

So, while pain and mental health have ways of making a liar of me, my current goal is to get a cohesive second draft together as a whole work and then repost/post. To start early next year would be nice, but I also think it likely to take a fair bit longer.

So I’m going to end with a incomplete list of things to which you can look forward, including:

  • Amelia’s narrating a flashback/prologue scene about Erondil’s murder of Mitzie
  • Kit’s writing letters to Aysun in which he tries, with utmost politeness, to beg for money
  • Kit’s writing letters to Surandil in which he tries, with utmost politeness, to include as many spiteful digs as possible
  • The worst way I could think of to have a necromancer bind a spirit, in order to keep said spirit from blabbing to other necromancers
  • The belt’s blackmailing Kit and Amelia, ever so politely, while Tes eavesdrops (again)
  • Darius’s finally smashing Kit’s periwinkle-painted crockery set, which delights Amelia on account of her distaste for decorated plates and milk jugs
  • Spoon and bacon references whenever they can be worked in (and often when they can’t)
  • An elf who says mysterious plot-related things before dying on the doorstep
  • A third midnight adventure (you haven’t seen the second one yet) because everything worth happening takes place after dark
  • Darius’s making a series of comments on the realisation that he must have given his teachers hell as a student, based entirely on Tes’s habit of giving him grey hairs
  • The word “avatar”
  • Two eldritch objects who don’t have any kind of accord on the subject of how best to save the world
  • Darius’s falling just a bit in like with a nerdy (non-student) magic worker who makes up ridiculous lies about the how of his disability to answer prying questions
  • Iris’s getting Tes into a whole lot of trouble through rampant curiosity, proving that Holly is the only sensible member of the trio
  • Amelia’s expanding her repertoire of vegetables used as curses into pastry goods, resulting in a conversation on the word “crumpet”
  • A small black kitten, taken everywhere by Darius, who is not named “Midnight”
  • Snarky letters Tes writes to hir sister, Anise, just to brag about the food at the College

(I mean, as if Tes wasn’t going to write letters home talking about everything ze’s learning, everything mystical ze is discovering and oh, yes, now that ze’s stopped running away, ze’s having the time of hir life being a magician in a place where there’s cream cakes on Fridays. There’s the downside of imminent attack from the Greensward with everyone at the College likely to be slaughtered in bloody violence, mind, but let’s not focus on that…)

I’m sure that, to everyone else, it doesn’t look like there’s been a lot of progress, but this is the best I’ve felt about this book in a long time. It’s been funny how working on a chapter for this kicked off Birds of a Feather and then Birds kicked off the last first-book Kit March chapters, but I’ve had a novella/short novel and the end of a long novel come together in the same couple of months after a time where I felt like giving up on longer works.

Now, if I can just get my anxiety together so I can publish the couple of short stories/novelettes I’ve got waiting to go, all will be good…