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|The joys of deconstruction|
|When we last saw DD talking about this, she was in the act of pulling her previous three-decades-old plotline apart and leaving it scattered around the landscape, a la Rite of Spring, while working on replacing it with something better…
Let’s cast our minds back briefly to that 2011 post, where I said:
It’s not that I don’t know how the book ends. I’ve known that since 1979. The issue isn’t the beginning or the ending: as usual with me, the issues are with the middle. Significant portions of recent weeks have been spent examining various assumptions about the basic situations in book 4 that have lain unexamined for decades. And most of these examinations have been uncomfortable. Almost-40-Years-Of-Professional-Writing DD has been looking closely at some of the situations on which Barely-A-Couple-Years-Of-Professional-Writing DD predicated some fairly significant plot developments, and Almost-40-Years-DD has been saying, repeatedly and with some concern, “And that’s it? That’s what you’ve got for this?” …while Just-Getting-Started DD squirms and tries to explain how simple and straightforward it all looked at the time.It’s been (in a horrible sort of way) entertaining to contemplate the way events have conspired to prevent the writing of the book that would have been written, had I gone straight into it after finishing TDISunset in 1992. There are some things that youth and enthusiastic self-confidence will enable you to pull off, but this wouldn’t have been one of them. Looking at the (then) plotline, I think everybody would have been profoundly disappointed by the results.
Equally, there are some things that old age and cunning (as the saying has it) will get you that mere youth and enthusiasm won’t. I am a way better writer now — I firmly believe — than I was in the early 90s. I’ll leave others to their own opinions about this, of course. But when I pick up the toolbox-of-the-mind these days and set to work on something, it feels a lot heavier and better-equipped than it used to. It also hasn’t hurt that I now have significantly more screen work under my belt than I did then. Fun as it is to write, animation doesn’t present the screenwriter with the kinds of challenges that serial drama and a couple of miniseries will do. And screenwriting, as it turns out, is very, very good for dialogue. It cures you of all kinds of bad habits.
So I’m thinking it’s a good thing we were all spared the version of TDISt that would have ensued at that point. While its basic major events were (and remain) sound, the execution would have been shallow and insufficient to the challenges posed by the three books previous. Honestly, it’s better that it’s taken this long, and you’re just going to have to believe me on that count until I have a completed draft that I can put in an editor’s hands.
(Yes, of course I’m going to have it professionally edited. I absolutely need another expert’s eye on this before it goes out into the world. Who will the lucky person be? I don’t have the slightest idea. That’s a question for whenever the first draft’s finished. …And just a reminder here: I will not be suggesting or implying any kind of completion date for this. It’ll be done when it’s done.)
|The day-by-day challenges|
|So what I’m up to right now:
At the moment, having pulled my outline apart and (mostly) reconstructed it, now I’m looking for the necessary sub-events that have to be added so that the book’s emotional context has enough depth to cope with the weight of the events that are going to be loaded onto it. If you can successfully subscribe to the paradigm in which one considers writing a book as being like building a house, right now I’m putting in the load-bearing part of the structure so that it doesn’t collapse under its own (virtual) weight. This is harder than it sounds, and has been keeping me busy. What’s been helping, strangely enough, has been producing concept art like the (admittedly rather goofy) piece up at the top of this. You start thinking: How will this character’s looks have changed, after what they’ve been through? And what exactly have they been through, and how has it affected them? Blank spots get filled in without warning.
The main challenges to this work (as we head toward the point where actual chapters are broken out into motivational units) have been these:
(a) Incorporating and transforming the events that have been foreshadowed for the last three books. The things that happen now — sometimes, some of them, very seriously changed things — still have to be seen as fulfilling the hints that have been previously established. This can be tough work sometimes. (I’ve occasionally wandered away from this work muttering You had to be so fecking clever, didn’t you. Now look what you’ve gotten us into.) (Yeah, I get multiple sometimes while storytelling. I am both writer and editor at the moment, and always reader as well, and the shift between / among modes can happen in an eyeblink. Which is as it should be.)
(b) Not getting continually freaked out by the thought People have been waiting for this book for nearly forty years, what if they think it’s terrible? I have to keep pulling myself back to the basic realization:
This is just another book.
Honestly. Seriously. I’ve done more than fifty of those now. This is just one more, regardless of what burden of expectation weighs on it.
And when the Insecurities Department in the back of the head laughs holllowly at this concept, I just have to kick it and its noise into the high grass and keep on going. There’s only one way out of this: through. At which point I’ll look at the big fat file in Scrivener and think, I knew I could!