…or Why You Should Be Reading Long Fall Right Now
Tonight, I’d like to share a bit with you about the way I work, why I’m doing it this way, and what my ultimate goals are. If you’re interested in how your sausage is made, you’re in the right place.
If you haven’t read tonight’s chapter, there will be some minor spoilers that are clearly marked for your protection.
¡Minor Spoilers Follow!
The plot twist at the end of The Open Channel came to me very suddenly when I was nearly done with the chapter, and I really kind of agonized over the decision. My original plan had been for Legacy to scan Jack, there’d be some revelations and a friendly meeting of minds, and the sun would shine on. But when I got to the actual event, that all rang hollow. I realized that there was too much askew with the entire situation for it to work out neatly. It had to go wrong. Wrong is where plot momentum comes from, especially in Space Opera.
Things went wrong in the first revision; in this one, they’ve kind of gone off the rails. That came about because later progress on the story cast this one event in a new light, and I needed to shift its tone to fit.
End Minor Spoilers — go read the book, you…
This is exactly one of the things my process is meant to promote. The chapters come out quickly following a rough plan, but with plenty of space left open for improvisation.
The process goes a little something like this: I write most days with a goal of 1,000 words, guided by an overall plot outline (I call them Foundations for some reason). Whenever I finish a chapter, I take the next day to intensively go over another chapter, which is the third-to-last one I’ve finished (e.g., I complete 16 and start hammering on 14). I reread the older chapter several times, making changes as I go, and then prepare it for the blog. Once I have it formatted and ready, I preview it on the website and read through it again.
*grumble* While I’m doing that last editing pass, I have to make changes on the blog and in my source file concurrently in order to keep them in parity. It drives me bonkers. Ugh. But I digress… *grumble*
Then (and only then) does it go up for you to read. That’s the system, from hoof to plate.
That means that each chapter you’ve seen has been through at least 3-4 overall revision passes (some up to a dozen), including one final intensive edit that lasts several hours. I’ve found that seeing the chapter rendered on the website makes it look fresh again, and that in turn makes errors a lot easier to see.
So, if you’re worrying that I’m rushing forward and pumping out ill-considered drivel, I want to assure you that’s not the case. This workflow has been evolving toward the ultimate goal of producing quality content ready for display at a high rate. I think of it as Agile Writing, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I hope you are, too.
Now, it would be very fair to ask precisely why the heck I’d want to publish this way. That’s… well, that’s actually a helluva question. It’s one I’ve asked myself a few times (sometimes while mashing my head into my keyboard), but the answers always make me feel upbeat about it again.
With fiction, I feel like people are very comfortable with the publishing system as it’s worked for the past century. A writer cranks away on their manuscript in privacy. When they finish it (or a sizable enough portion to publish in a magazine), it’s digested by the editorial process, and finally delivered to the reading public. It’s somewhat similar to the way movies are produced in that there’s a long burning fuse, and then a final bang.
If the traditional book is a major motion picture, then what about TV? In TV production, the episode you’re watching may have been produced hours, weeks, or months ago. You’re very often watching completed episodes long before the season finalé has even been written, let alone filmed. The showrunner knows where the story’s going but they’re not there yet… and every now and again, they may drastically change course and discover a new destination.
The show is riding by the seat of its pants, and you’re along for the ride.
I’m working alone throughout the process, and I might not be capable of producing Hollywood blockbusters by myself. I think I could give you some really good TV, though. Maybe not up to the lofty heights of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, but certainly above daytime soaps. Let’s say I’m aiming for prime-time network quality.
In so many words, that’s why you should be reading Long Fall right now, live while it’s airing. When the whole season is complete sometime in November (I think, don’t quote me on that), I’ll build the final book, and you can think of that as a special collector’s edition, likely with new content and goodies.
As always, I’m very eager to experiment with format. I hope you’ll experiment with me.
In other news, I’ll be posting some announcements concerning Oktopod in the near future. I’ve always wanted it to be something more than a funny logo that sits over my blog, and I think I finally figured out how to get from here to my envisioned there. The whole process is evolving, and this new mutation has me very excited.
Until next time,