2.13.2006

Something spooky. No really.

Finally settling into the rhythm of writing the vampire novel. The d20 work continues, but baring the mutiny of my pirate crew, all that’s left is editing. Editing seems to engage different muscles than actual writing, so it shouldn’t infringe on the novel work.

Again, it’s still a long shot to sell the book, but that won’t keep me from writing a story that I’d love to read. If it sells, great. If not --- well you and I both know that I needed the practice.

One of the chief differences from my last novel writing adventure, is working from an outline. Each scene (I hope) is driving towards the book’s final goal. This is an elementary process, something I assume most professional writers do by force of habit, but it is new to me. The greatest payoff thus far, is that it makes it noticeably easier to write. My word count is up, I don’t spend a ton of time going over previous scenes, and my writing meanders less.

Again, elementary stuff, but if we’re going to talk about this process, I might as well be honest to my naivety. Then maybe you can avoid my missteps.

Prior to this experience, I mistakenly believed that constructing and adhering to an outline would limit the creative high I get from writing. This is how I write adventure modules, drawing the maps and writing the encounters without really having an idea of where I’m going. But modules are only 23k long or so, and they aren’t held to the same scrutiny as a novel, or even a short story.

But my experience freelancing with Wizards changed all that. The story I sold was set in the Forgotten Realms, a fantasy world, that some argue, has been recorded in more detail than some small, real world nations. Given the strictures of the assignment, and the previous work done by literally hundreds of other writers, I found myself in a very tight box.

To my delight and surprise this actually made it easier to be creative. Like a vine creeping and crawling its way through, beneath and over a wall, the story adhered to the world and, I hope, made it just a little more colorful in the process.

An outline can serve the same purpose. White Wolf’s new shared world, the “World of Darkness” setting, has less than a dozen sourcebooks so far. That’s like rewinding the Forgotten Realms setting back to 1992. As shared worlds go, the box is wide open, which can actually make it more difficult to write. With everywhere to go, you end up wandering in circles, which is fine for your personal writing (like this blog), but lousy if you’re trying to create a novel that will hold a reader’s attention.

That’s where an outline shines. Rather than being handed strictures from on high, you are creating your own. Your writing is no less creative for the walls and obstacles you impose upon yourself, and --- in my case --- better for the intellectual terrain it has to overcome.

When I worked up at the Pingree mountain camp (see my last post), we had to clear forest that had been burnt in a fire. Wandering through the skeletal woods, I discovered that the trees that grew tallest and straightest, were the ones that had grown in dense groves. Without competition a pine is content to stay short. But the ones surrounded by other trees --- strictures and boundaries --- had to go big.

(I almost wrote “reach for the sky,” but that much schmatlz is toxic.)

Anyway. Thanks for reading. Hope you all are doing well and keeping creative.

In other news:
Spray painted my snowboard this weekend. If you see an old dude on the slopes of Aspen Highlands or Snowmass, riding on a matte gray board with skulls, skulls, skull, push him over or hit him with a snowball.

8 Comments:

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Paul S. Kemp said...

I don't think it's a longshot at all, Harley. In fact (and I'm just guessing, but it makes a lot of sense) that all of the finalists' submissions may eventually see print. How many were there? Five?

 
At 6:51 PM, Blogger Paul S. Kemp said...

Lest that come across the wrong way, what I mean is that WW already thinks highly enough of you and your fellow finalists' writing that they have paid you something for it. WW will select one of the novels as the winner, true, but assuming that novel does reasonably well (and I can think of no reason why it wouldn't), it makes sense that they would look to the other finalists to fill in later slots in the line, rather than looking outside and asking another writer to put together a new book from scratch. That is cheaper and involves less uncertainty -- WW will already havec evaluated the quality and there is no essentially no risk of a writer misssing the deadline.

Anyway, here's hoping. I'd be pleased to see a novel on the shelves with your name on it. It's nice to see quality people succeed.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Grimbones said...

No misunderstanding at all. Your first comment was quite insightful, actually. On a number of occasions WW has stated that they’ll be taking a good look at all 5 for publication, regardless of who is the “big wiener.” ;)

Thanks for the vote of confidence. And maybe after 90k words I might even learn how to use a comma. (Just re-read my blog post. Painful.)

BTW, are you making an appearance at GenCon?

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Paul S. Kemp said...

Not sure yet on GenCon. If Wizards has me in an event or other, I'll probably try to make it. I don't have any releases coming out near the time of the Con, so I'm not sure if I'll even be scheduled for a signing.

If I am, I'll definitely let people know so we can tip a beer.

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Grimbones said...

Done and done!

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Jw said...

You have realized something essential that many people don't seem to understand- parameters drive all design. Given a completely blank template and no limits you'll definitely get less done, and it will be diluted. Even a small parameter, say, a deadline, does wonders for drive.

In architecture, the purest and most thought-provoking forms come from a designer "overcoming" what seem like impossible parameters: context, building code, insane clients, banks, community groups. All of these things put pressure on a designer to excel.

So, take all the rules you can get, I say!

 
At 4:17 PM, Blogger SnakeOil Sage said...

I'm gonna have to disagree with you on some of that, JW. I decidedly accomplish much more (and much faster) when I'm not concerned with when I get it done. I tend to procrastinate when I'm given a deadline, which isn't good for me and it's something I'm still working on adjusting.

 
At 5:31 PM, Blogger Jw said...

S-O S, very interesting! To each their own, indeed. I have about 6 projects floating around my studio right now, and if not for deadlines and process, I'd drown. They'd find me at the bottom of a pile of cables, paper, foam core, and internets.

Sometimes I wish I could be more free-form about my work. and on extremely rare occasions, I do hit this spur of the moment bouts of crazy creative, but not as often as some, I spoze.

 

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