Saturday, April 02, 2016

Project(s) Update(s) - April

So, I'll try to be brief here.  A few weeks back, when I listed some upcoming projects and said I wanted you to "hold me to it," I didn't expect people to actually do it.  I'm not a miracle worker, Cap'n!

That being said, I finished (last night) my third story in 2016, this one clocking in at around 12,000 words.  According to Professor Wikipedia, that would be a Novelette.  Above 17,500 words, and it's considered a Novella.  Above 40,000 words is a Novel.*

I wrote that story for a contest, but the word limit on the contest was 4,000 words, so I failed that particular test.  I have considered paring the story down to a "greatest hits" version for inclusion in the contest, but I fear I'd be doing the tale no favors, and could probably write another story entire in the time it takes me to hack 'n slash.

In other nudes . . . I'm working on getting my novel ready to publish.  I've got a co-worker I've talked about in my solo podcast who has shown a great deal of interest in my writing, and is actually edging in my mind toward being considered a friend.  Austin, his name be, and he revealed recently that he is an aspiring artist.  Then I actually saw one of his drawings:

Okay, that's sort of a joke.  I just wanted to put up a placeholder drawing in the post, and I purposely chose the crappiest I could find.  My coworker's work was actually quite impressive.  He does what he describes as "ultra-realistic art," and had the rather brilliant idea of re-working the Drew Struzan Star Wars one-sheet posters with Harry Potter characters**

Sorry, must interrupt with a different font here.  I'm typing this in the library (because it's the only place I ever actually get work done, without distractions, he wrote unironically), and a minute ago, a guy at a cubicle a few desks away from mine all but shouted, "Can you keep it down?  Jeez!"  No one around me was talking (and if they were, they immediately stopped).  We all looked at the man, and you could tell he was a crazy guy because he had facial hair (and around here, only scumbags or the Son of God have facial hair), and gave off a really twitchy vibe.  

You know the type.

A minute later, he spun around, glaring, and I considered--unwisely, believe you me--loudly asking if he needed one of us to call an exorcist.  A couple minutes after that, though, he suddenly shouted, "Hey, you, shut the fuck up!"  And I thought--wisely, believe me you--to say nothing.  I was filled with the kind of righteous indignation that only really political and/or really religious people can muster when another library patron rose from his seat and went to get security.  I kind of love that this library has security guards.  There's something quaintly urban about that.

But then, when the employee came over a minute later, and asked the man if he was alright, and he responded, "That guy over there wouldn't stop coughing," a bit of my ire diminished.  When the library employee told him, "Well, you can't control coughing, sir," the crazy man (and yeah, maybe he wasn't crazy, but he definitely was bearded, and 'round here, that's halfway there), sort of wilted and said, "I'm sorry."

It was the way he said it.  Like a child that has been caught doing something naughty and doesn't even know why he did it, but does know punishment is imminent.  But suddenly, my righteous loathing for the man disappeared and was replaced by pity.  I actually felt sorry for him, and then spent five minutes typing about it instead of finishing up my blog post.

I too, am sorry.

Okay, I'm back.  So, Austin at work is actually a really fine artist, and had done a drawing of him and his wife making a baby that made me sit up and take notice.  Alright, they were only dancing, but I sort of wanted to be shocking, now that the long-haired library shouter is gone.  But I thought it was good stuff, and remembered years ago, when I fancied myself something of an artist, but was too captivated by the idea that in a short fifteen years you'd be able to go on a computer and see phony nude photos of any famous person you want to keep practicing.  I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

But because Austin and I have become quite friendly, I dared to ask him if he wouldn't mind doing a cover for one of my stories.  He said he would, and just like everything in my life, I let it go, never to bring it up again.  

But weirdly, Austin didn't let it go.  He brought it up the next time we worked together, and the time after that, asking what kind of cover I would want.  I racked my brain trying to think up stories that I may one day publish but have yet to get cover art for.  It was hard, since I have projects like "Romantic Interlude," "Leap of Faith," and "Stormy Weather" that all have cover art finished, regardless of whether I'll ever publish them or not.

Finally, I told him about "Into the Furnace," which is my first novel, and should've been published weeks ago, and how I had taken a photo of a butte while driving to San Diego, and photo-altered it so it looked like three buttes, and wanted that as the cover image, just with skulls at the bottom right corner.  I even went quickly to my desk and drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like . . . but Austin had gone home for the day.  

So, I took my sketch and tossed it, as I am wont to do.

But the next time we worked together, Austin (who I probably should have given a false name, since he isn't just my co-worker, but is actually technically my superior) was after me again about the cover art, like a . . . well, like a person who isn't me, I suppose.  No wonder he's my boss already, and only thirteen years old.

He told me he had a few days off and wanted to work on the cover art during that time, which again, is totally alien to me.  And I didn't have the sketch I had done for him, so I described it to him, and bid him farewell, not expecting to hear from the man again.

But I did.  I got a text before my shift was even done, with this attachment*** in it:

At this rate, he's gonna have a lovely cover for me long before I have it ready to publish.

Which brings me to my own work on the piece.  I have been, slowly but semi-surely, working on recording the audiobook for "Into the Furnace," and that involves rephrasing, discovering contradictions, and adding details where I feel they're lacking.  Yes, I'm doing, whilst producing the Audible version, what should have been done (either by me or another capable person) long before reaching this stage.  I recognize that.  But if I did things that way, I'd just now be publishing stories which I put up for sale in 2014 (though they, granted, might be better versions than those).

Regardless, that's how it's been going, and the other night I got to Chapter 9, which I had always planned to include the free five minute audio sample that Audible makes you include.  I looked at the word count as I was finishing up, and discovered that it was 44,445 words.

I thought it would grand if I could stop right there, and nearly looked for a "did not" that I could make into "didn't," so I'd have exactly 44,444.****  

But I didn't.  Because as I go, the work gets longer, and I hope better, and it would be true bearded-guy-screaming-in-a-library madness to try to remove a word for every one that I add, just to keep some kind of OCD perfect number like that.

And then, the next night, I reached Chapter 11.

And here's another slight detour.  Since I first started doing audiobooks in 2013, from the very first novel, I've found myself narrating a chapter, only to get to the end and saying (into the microphone), "Man, that was not a good chapter."  Sometimes it's "Wow, that was pretty bad," or "Shit, that chapter sucked," but it happens with quite a few books, probably indicative of what happens when I offer my services for free.  Doesn't mean that the book itself is crap, just that there are successful chapters, and some not so much.
But on the night of Wednesday, the 30th of March, it was the first time I'd ever recorded myself saying that about one of my own chapters.

First off, the file for Chapter 11 was 58 minutes long.  And that's insanely long.  Even at my snail's pace when producing my own work, a chapter usually takes thirty to forty minutes to record (which, sadly, translates to about fifteen to twenty minutes of edited audio), but this one was way too long.  Several things happen in Chapter 11, including the second meeting between our antagonist and protagonist, the temptation for our hero toward both drink and violence (which, I'm sad to say, probably goes nowhere), and the introduction of a half-assed romantic subplot (which I shrug in admitting absolutely goes nowhere).

So, that's part of the problem.  Chapter 11 was too long.  Also, most of the things that happen in it are only cursorily gone over (or even mentioned), giving the vast majority over to dialogue between the good guy and the bad guy.  And that's another two weaknesses.  The first is that I only play lip service to the stuff I don't really care about, and do way too much lip service with the stuff I really like.

I love dialogue.  I love characters talking to each other.  I'm Kevin Smith without the wit and without the nearly-crippling marijuana addiction.  And even though my initial idea for this story was a kind of Fantasy showdown, the moment I started writing it I was all about the kinds of conversations the hero and villain could have.

And that's really the only problem I'm unwilling to address, more than likely making it the most damning.

I love dialogue.  I'll try to say it a third time before the end.  And if you look through anything I've written in the last twenty years, it's gonna be so jammed with characters talking to each other that, if you removed that, you'd find nothing more than token description, "Brittany smiled"s and "Alexis swallowed"s, and the occasional attempt at humor.

Now, I dunno if that's a dealbreaker.  If I'm good at writing dialogue, and it's entertaining to hear Hughes and Tiffany talk about humanity's problems, or Donnie talking to his uncle about Frank's crazy scheme, or Marin explaining to her bewildered husband Morgan about the wonders of the Skubbian world (that's in the story I just finished, sorry), then I'm not a failure.  Then I'm not entirely doomed.

Look at "Greetings from the Ninth Sector" sometime.  That story is one of my best, and it's ninety-nine percent dialogue.  Perhaps even more so, if you eliminate the title and "the end."

But it's definitely my priority.

So instead of getting depressed about fouling up my novel and giving up on anything that didn't include Amee Mann songs (as I used to be partial to), I went to work fixing it.  I split Chapter 11 into Chapters 11 and 12, and tried to flesh out all the parts that weren't dialogue.  I created a new four paragraph scene that starts it all out, and was even tempted to make three chapters out of it.  But I didn't.

Then I went through and re-recorded all the new material, hoping it would seamlessly edit in with the work I'd done Wednesday night (which seems to have been successful).

That doesn't mean that the problems are gone.  And it doesn't mean that I won't find another chapter with the same--or new--weaknesses.  But I am much happier with Chapter 11/12 than I was with Chapter 11, and I hope you will be too.

And I'm nearing the halfway point on the audiobook, which is a good thing too.  Right now, my goal is to have "Into the Furnace" published before CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 comes out.  No reason why, just an arbitrary day.

Man, this has been a long blog post.  Especially considering I wanted it to be quick and easy, an hour or more ago.  Sorry and/or you're welcome.

Rish "I Love Dialogue" Outfield

*Of course, within a day I will have forgotten these numbers, which seems to vex Big Anklevich when I ask him every six months for the figure.

**Hopefully Dobby will replace Boba Fett.

***That's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's so much better than my own sketch that I feel guilty asking him to change it at all.  

****Horribly, we had a power outage a couple of days ago, and when I opened the file up to do some more recording, I discovered that the novel was now at 43,560 words or so.  Which makes me wonder what was lost in between saving the file and the power going out, or if I just misremembered the word count.  My money's on losing half a chapter or something.

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