This was a more productive week than I’d expected. I’d been called for jury duty Wednesday, but didn’t have to go, so that was a day added back into my schedule. Huzzah!
The extra time, along with a lot of the scheduled time, went toward working on Southern Discomfort. I had gotten most of the conceptual and character changes worked out, so I figured I’d start replotting. Working everything out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. Tracking the characters, the events, the significant emotional moments. And as I got to around chapter five or six, I had to admit my beta-readers were right, this is very slow and talky (although I only had one of them who couldn’t get into it at all and begged off).
I very much see Pharisee County as a character in its own right. I wanted to explore the community’s character, how it’s been shaped by having two immortal elves running things behind the scene for 300 years. So there are several scenes where the various outsiders (forensic expert Stone, FBI agent Rachel Cohen, Maria, Julie Stanbrook—who’s going to be Laura Rubiero in the current draft, I think) talk to one person or another about local history, politics and power dynamics. I think it’s interesting stuff … in small doses. As much as I’ve put in, it slows things down to a crawl. It’s precisely the kind of emphasis on politics and worldbuilding over story that I complained about in Black Wolves, as I feared when I read it.
To make things worse, there’s no tension in the scenes. The outsiders want information to help them make sense of things, but there’s no sense that it’s vital or urgent. No real conflict with the people they’re talking to. Again, not good. But that’s why we rewrite, isn’t it? Though it’ll take more replotting than I thought to fix things. Some of the scenes I can drop, some I’ll shift until later, but I think I’ll need to come up with some new danger or threat to make up for the lost material.
On the plus side, my mind is starting to see the plot path or a plot path. I’m managing to find newer, tenser scenes, though of course as I diverge from the previous draft, my outline is getting vaguer and less certain. Assuming it holds all the way to the finish, I’ll probably have to go over it a second time before starting to write, to get the same level of detail as the earlier scenes.
Well, if it was easy to write good stuff, everyone would be doing it.
I also started work on my next And column. And wrote a first draft of Angels Hate This Man, a new fantasy story. Plus I redrafted Trouble and Glass. I completely changed one key character and much of the set-up so the fact this draft is even remotely coherent is pretty impressive. I definitely need to keep working on stuff that involves actual writing than plotting. It seems to help my focus.
I made my 35 hours for the week, though I’m giving myself a small mulligan: I spent about 90 minutes today staring at the computer, realizing President Shit-Gibbon has been inaugurated and not being able to think of much else. I have now unfriended one person on Facebook (racist rape apologist) and “taken a break” from two others (I don’t want to spend lots of time arguing on FB and their posts are … bullshit).
For some visual flair, here’s a striking cover by Russ Heath. Marvel’s horror mags from the Silver Age tended to have crappy stories, but the covers were striking, as you can see.