kit (mizkit) wrote,

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more on writing

Pulled from comments below, logrusboy says the following:

I had been thinking that if I wanted to write a story, I'd like to do one of those interwoven story arc thingies. Given how well all my other ideas have been working, I assumed it was a bad idea. I am now reevaluating and need to choose from:

1) If I have the same idea as you, that means I'm smart too.
2) If I have the same idea as you, that means something's seriously wrong with you.
3) It's a good idea, but only for people who know what they're doing (which you obviously know more of now than you did then).
4) I'll never actually do it until I finish driving Mary Sue (or whatever you writery folks call her...) out of my head. She doesn't share the stage well, which is bad for an ensemble piece.

Ok, it probably wasn't necessary to actually quote all of that, but I thought it was very funny. :) To respond:

1. Yes, yes you are (no, I'm not being snide).
2. Very probably. :)

ANGLES is the second book I tried to write with an interwoven story arc. The first one, MANIFEST DESTINY, was the third manuscript I started--I'm pretty sure I started it after writing IMMORTAL BELOVED, anyway, which would put its first attempt in about 1999. It could have been as early as 98. Anyway.

I got to about 30K before I stalled out, and then in a second attempt in 2002 (before writing Angles), to about 50K. Neither time was I a mature enough writer to handle a cast of thousands, which is what I was trying to do. (It's a space opera sort of thing and there were, I don't know, five or seven POV characters.) I mean, I didn't have the ability to recognize at the time that I wasn't a mature enough writer; the understanding of that came later. What I grasped at the time was god damn, this is hard!

ANGLES ended up being the fifth manuscript I wrote (including the one I wrote with shadowhwk. I remember very clearly the constant feeling of panic I had while writing it, convinced that there was absolutely no way I was going to manage to bring all these storylines together the way they needed to be done in order for the story to work. I mean, I'm a writer, I'm always certain that this book isn't going to turn out, but the margin for error in this one was SO HUGE and the skill necessary to bring it together was SO GREAT and I could *just barely* imagine that I *might* be able to pull it off. I was utterly certain I'd blow it.

I was so. Damned. Triumphant. When I pulled it off. I mean, like, breathless and staggering around. I could hardly believe I'd done it.

And, as should be clear by now, I didn't do it *well enough*. The structure, actually, is brilliant (I said modestly), but my ability as a writer wasn't profound enough to actually pull off the book that I wanted to write. The fact that I came close is still a huge triumph, and the fact that nobody bought it is now--not a relief, because I wouldn't be embarrassed to have that book on the shelves as-is, but I'm a stronger writer now and the book, when I'm done revising it, will be much better than its current form.

I cannot imagine pulling off a book with this kind of structure as my first completed novel. Not to say it can't be done, but I certainly didn't have the experience for it. I remember telling Jim when I started working on MANIFEST DESTINY that I was trying to write a book with multiple POVs, and he said something to the effect of, "Holy gods, I'm not that brave yet." (This was before the Dresden Files were published, but I'm pretty sure at least the first three books were written, and he'd written however many before those.)

It's *hard*. It's just plain hard. It's a lot to keep in your head and if the pacing isn't flawless you end up with the middle of ANGLES, which is merely okay, not great. I mean, God forbid I should tell somebody how to write their first novel (and I mean that, god forbid), but wow, I would not personally be inclined to try multiple POVs and an interwoven storyline/structure. I couldn't handle it for my second-or-third attempt at a novel, and am still regarding pulling it off in my 5th manuscript as something of a miracle.

In fact, I've now written, what, I think TQB was the ... *pauses to count* TQB is my 14th manuscript. (Wow.) Right. Fourteen manuscripts, two of which have multiple points of view*. THE QUEEN'S BASTARD will be my first published book with such, and that was also a struggle for me, because I .knew. I needed more than one viewpoint, but couldn't shake myself out of the main character's. So with more than a dozen manuscripts under my belt, I *still* don't think an interwoven story with multiple viewpoints is easy to do.

I'm *sure* there must be people for whom that's the natural form. And if a first novel *insists* on being written that way, well, hell, don't listen to me, just write it. But man, for me, that kind of project requires one hell of a lot of ramp-up time and practice. It's not where I'd begin. :)

*HEART OF STONE and HOUSE OF CARDS do have two POV characters. While it is true that this is technically multiple viewpoints, I sort of feel one has to get above two to *really* be multiple. :)

4. That's those million bad words, man. :)

miles to Dunharrow: 33
Tags: industry essays, writing

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