Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nothing Old is New Again

Some readers (and Reiders) are aware, I put away my first novel about two years ago. Not easy, at the time - and I am still grateful for those of you who were SO very supportive and sensitive and generous - but it has been the right thing to do. The possibility of a final revision and self publishing still exists, but my focus is decidedly fixed on the WIP, and that feels healthy and very good indeed.

Not long ago, someone online who is aware of The Ax and the Vase expressed interest in reading it. I sent it their way with thanks for the attention, and turned back to the WIP. It's not the first time this has happened, and the very first reader I ever had was very kind indeed.

This time, my reader began to offer questions and some feedback. It presented for me a terrible temptation, and I turned to my old first pages and found myself a rather cruel reader. The thing is dross, there are some pretty words, but I began to feel "OF COURSE THIS DRECK NEVER GOT PUBLISHED" and felt the urge, a rather strong urge, to tear into it again.

Happy endings: the moment was lust, passing and intemperate. I was drunk with self-critique and old dreams. But only drunk. I did hate what I read, enough to wish I hadn't sent it out to the second reader ... but his feedback has hushed, and my interest has quashed. Fortunately, without a hangover. I didn't drink deeply enough. (I didn't read deeply enough; it was that bad, really.)

The WIP is my One True Love, and I will not stray. Indeed, I didn't actually edit anything while I was under the influence, strong as the influence seemed in the moment.

It's a funny thing, a book's corpse - or its ghost. Very much like a bitter ex: there may be some allure, but in the end, most often, you look at the face of once-beloved, and think ... "What did I see in them?" Or a lost love: you remember, but the feeling is distant, like novocaine. Not quite real.

The Ax and the Vase is no longer entirely real for me, and that is both bizarre and necessary. As a writer, there's only so much energy, only so much focus - and monogamy is important for the way many of us need to work. Even pantsers (still not my favorite term, but it does  have its utility) probably tend more often than not to concentrate on one project, even if not in one area.

It occurs to me how often I referred to the WIP, after I discovered the subject and knew it would be my second novel - but before I had finished with Ax - as the thing I had on the backburner.

Ax isn't even on the backburner now. I know, too, what I want my third novel to be; but I am not contemplating it, and the research will be entirely new and separate; no cross-pollination anymore. There is nothing going on in my writing world right now but the WIP. Two long-comatose shorts exist, and now and then I peer at them momentarily. But neither one pulls focus, and neither has really grown in the period I've been working on the WIP.

It is, in its quiet way, gratifying to know how cleanly I've let go of Ax. Not killed it, nor forgotten it. Only the expedient: put it away. Self-publish? Or even some new route? Maybe someday.

But the interest, the intent, and the intensity: are all on the WIP. Invigorating!


Stephen G Parks said...

I"m a pantser through-and-thru but notoriously distractable. I've got two WiPs each sitting over 130k, a novella that's had a surprisingly strong first draft at 40k and the beginnings of a number of other full-length stories, some as much as 30k deep.

And short fiction - probably a dozen completed stories all under 5k and the outlines or plots for another dozen easily.

Frankly, whenever I get blocked on one story, I either switch to the other or start a new one (or re-watch the West Wing). I've started a lot of new ones...

DLM said...

Hello, Stephen!

I am not so prolific (as my Twitter bio states of my own distractability, "to the novel go the spoils"), but there are two shorts I have had in the background for years now. Someday, I will find out why I started them, and finally be able to finish them. That may almost be a disappointing moment!

The Ax and the Vase was pushing 140k at one point, but because I took too much to heart the hype that even historical fiction spanning like 40 years needed to hew to shorter lengths, I stripped it down to 128. It was Our Queen who told me to get some furniture in the rooms, as it were, put some meat on the table. The last draft, sent out to A Curious Reider not long ago as noted in the post, is about 135k (not counting about 8k in Author's Note glossary-ness).

I feel good right now, that the word count on the WIP is actually incalculable, because at the moment it is filled with bits and bobs of research throughout. Because not only am I a pantser, I am also NOT a counter, and can't write to count, either day-by-day or holistically. My commitment to this novel is that it will determine itself, and I'll serve it - neither I nor the work will serve any external measures or criteria, at least not now.

Such a pleasure to see you - thank you for coming by and commenting!