The saga of my novel, through LiveJournal posts.
At a Norwescon lycanthropy panel featuring Greg Cox, somebody poses the question: why has there never been a werewolf Dracula? A truly definitive and iconic novel/story/character? I suspect the best way to answer that question is probably to write a werewolf story, and start kicking around ideas.
On the plane home from New Orleans, I’m reading through Gumbo Ya-Ya, a book of Louisiana folk tales, and hit on Cajun stories about the loup-garou, the werewolves (also known as rougarou, because that’s the sort of thing that happens to words down there). I start thinking about using these legends and setting the story in New Orleans.
I start writing a werewolf story, starting at the obvious point: when you wake up in a weird place, naked, with no idea how you got there. The story rambles on for nearly 10,000 words in its first draft, and I want to keep going. So I do.
Over the course of the next year, I work on this novel, even as I start a new job in Seattle and spend my weeknights on the floor of Uly & Carol’s computer room, my weekends taking the Greyhound to Bellingham. My sense of displacement and efforts to get to know Seattle make their way into the novel.
Meanwhile, I discover that plot is hard, and I suck at outlining. I write, and discard, the equivalent of at least two or three novels during this time, frequently losing my way, often tempted to give up and work on something else. But I don’t.
Paul is finally ready to move to Seattle and join me. I commemorate my first weekend in our newly rented and mostly empty apartment by finishing a first draft of 80,000 words. I start reading through it from the beginning to prep it for crits, and hit a snag right away: somehow it ended up boring.
I spend some time reading nonfiction about writing, including Writing the Breakout Novel, and eventually hit on what I think is the correct solution: the alcoholic landlady needs to be the protagonist’s best friend. I start replotting with that in mind and a general outline falls into place very quickly. But it seems like I’ll have to rewrite all the words pretty much from scratch.
During Orycon weekend, I read through the brand new 140,000 words that I wrote In between August and November. I am relieved and delighted that I do not get bored. Time for crits!
Response from initial readers is positive. I start working on meta-stuff like pitches and synopses and how exactly one acquires and agent and so on. The first thing I discover is that a 140,000 word novel is not going to fly for a first time novelist, and do a cut-down version of 110,000 words. It gets a reasonably positive response from a second round of readers, but I fear the heart has gone out of it somehow.
January – December 2011
Wow, that’s nearly a year, isn’t it?
I spend it summarizing and tweaking and poking and finessing and rewiring and researching, and feel increasingly uncertain of myself. Loglines, outlines, queries, pitches — why is it so hard? Why does everything come out sounding so stupid? Why do I get one or two rejections from potential agents and lose faith in the entire process? What am I even trying to do anymore?
My posts for this year reveal: angst, angst, more angst, and a pointless attempt to rewrite the novel over the summer to make the protagonist more active because obviously THAT is the problem.
I decide I need a fresh perspective. I arrange to do some consulting with professional editor Anne Mini, and the HM novel group gives me a formal crit. I decide that I’ve been flailing around too much and the real actual problem is much simpler: the beginning is kind of boring. That’s it! That’s the only thing I really need to fix.
I write a new beginning, a flashback to the protagonist as a teenager. Anne and I both like the new beginning a lot. But then I can’t seem to get from there back to the present day action. The present day stuff always feels like a letdown. Anne suggests that I consider rewriting it as a YA novel.
No, of course not, there’s no way I’m going to do that.
That would be ridiculous. I can’t rewrite this novel yet AGAIN. That’s insane.
Besides, YA is so trendy.
Although if I DID decide to do that, here’s a new synopsis…
Anne loved the new synopsis. So did I. It was the first synopsis I’d written that had any verve. So I started working on a novel to match.
Now it’s done. I wrote 140,000 words in four months and spent thirteen months coming up with 70,000. Does that mean I was doing something right, or something wrong? I have no idea. Did I learn something? Probably. I think next time I’m going to write the synopsis first.
So, if any of you are interested in reading the current novel and giving me an informed opinion, please let me know.