I’m in the latter stages of writing the first draft for Kumbaya, Space Hippies, the third book in the Mythniks Cycle. If you’re not hip, this series is a mythological, comedy, action adventure, urban fantasy. Also, like a lot of my stuff, it’s a bit crass. My sense of humor tends toward the scatalogical and my first-person narrator, Pandora, reflects that.
But I’m not here today to talk about potty humor. (Maybe in a future post). I’m here to talk about process.
I suspect that I’m like a lot of writers in that I resist outlining my work before I start. Note that I said “resist” rather than “avoid”. I always start with an outline of what I expect to write, and then I end up deviating from that outline considerably. I’m convinced at this point that I simply can’t take the organic element out of my process.
I’ve written six books now, and they’ve all gone more or less the same way. I get about halfway through and I start to wonder if what I’m doing is working–even though I’m following my outline. I think that’s an experience most people go through. Anyone who says they can bang out a first draft without second-guessing is either lying or not a very good writer.
At that halfway point, I stop what I’m doing and read the entire book to date. My books are usually around sixty-thousand words, so we’re talking about a thirty-thousand word stock-taking. I was never good at math, but I think that puts us somewhere around the one hundred and twenty page mark.
During this read-through I ask myself two questions: 1) Is what I’m doing working? (It doesn’t have to be polished or complete, but the spirit should be there.) 2) Is the outline working? The answer to both of these questions can, of course, be “no”, but I find most often it’s the outline rather than any cockamamy mistakes I might’ve made in execution.
That’s just a sign that the story has taken on a life of its own.
After I’ve decided the latter half of the book is going to need a rethink, I stop and move away from the computer. At this point, I’m no longer composing but brainstorming, and the best way for me to do that is with paper and pen. There’s something to be said for the old ways of doing things. Whether it’s superstition on my part or not, I feel more connected to what I’m working on when I’m working analog rather than digital.
The good news is Kumbaya, Space Hippies has already passed through this phase. I’m working on the climax now. Which isn’t to say there isn’t still a fair ways to go. I have a feeling this one may top out at sixty-five to seventy thousand words. Which I’ve got no problem with.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good notebook, I can’t recommend Leuchtturm1917 enough. They’re kind of like Moleskine but with better ergonomics. Give them a try. You’ll see what I mean.