Friday, June 4, 2010

The Planning Game

Oh, how I've missed thee.

You little enigmatic bastard, casually named 'outline' in a folder reserved on my netbook for your future habitation.

I'm of the opinion that great books are written before they're written, if you follow. To you writers who can sit down at a blank screen and create a well-paced, intricate, multi-layered piece of work with multiple subplots, characterizations all within one well-organized manuscript suitable for publication after a few edits, I salute thee.

Unfortunately, I cannot grace your ranks.

Writing for me comes at a cost - time, effort, and proper planning. I try to keep in mind the P-6 adage when sitting down to pen a new work. Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Let's hope it rings true.

I'm currently hunkering down to begin work on my next manuscript, the sequel to GREY DOGS & THE WILLOW (to be released through Severed Press in late 2010, if you're new here - welcome!) and it's certainly becoming a trying ordeal fairly quickly.

You see, here my problem lies. With GREY DOGS, I swung once at the fences and came up with a home-run, as far as nailing down publication went - easily considered the most pivotal battle in any writer's career. Next will come the struggle to sell it to the reading public, but that's another post all together.

With the currently-untitled sequel, I'm tasked with a difficult endeavour. I have to now continue the story of Carey Cardinal, the main character of the first work, into and through another saga interesting enough to measure up to my original novel. When they say writing the first book is hard, the second near-impossible, they ain't lying.

With GREY DOGS, I tried hard. I really put my back into it. I spent hours meticulously crafting a piece of fiction without any idea what the hell I was doing or how to reach the end of the road. In my ignorance, I threw away ninety percent of the rules I have learned about writing since then, which I attribute to its free-flowing nature. It worked. It really worked. Now, as I sit down to begin my toil on the currently-nameless sequel, it's damn near overwhelming.

In any case, back to the original aim of this post - planning. Drawing a roadmap from start to finish. With my last finished work, CRIMSON LETTERS FROM KANDAHAR PROVINCE, I can say without a doubt I jumped headlong into a quick outline and ran with it from there. The result was a work coming up way below my aimed to almost a tune of 10,000 words. No big deal, a story is done when it's done - no arguments - but a bit of a disappointment nonetheless. With this sequel, I'm not taking any chances. I'm going to fully flesh out character profiles as I did with my first. I'm going to outline until my damn fingers fall off. I wrote GREY DOGS in the span of under two months, and CRIMSON LETTERS in about three-quarters of the time. GREY DOGS isn't due for release for at least three or four months, so I'm not in any dire straits when it comes to a deadline.

At current, I'm suprising myself. Pleasantly, at that.

Over the course of CRIMSON LETTERS, this upcoming work hung in the back of my mind. Over the last month or so - even more in the weeks since I signed my first publication contract - I've been unable to go long without dwelling on it. In all my musing and pondering, I found nothing concrete on which to build. No pivotal climaxes, no scenes springing forth from the ether. Hell, I'll admit I still don't know what the big near-end height of tension is going to be.

However, on sitting down to begin tapping out the original outline (which will see endless modification beyond the first chapter, as it always does) I've really been amazed at the subtleties that have made themselves arrogantly apparent. Subplots. Themes. Ideas. References. Apparently my subconcious has been hard at the grindstone with this one while I've been as still as a smooth lake on the surface with this project.

All this aside, I still have a long, winding road ahead before I get into the narrative.

And yes, I'm excited despite the intimidation.

New Braniff, we hardly knew ye.

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