Monday, May 26, 2008

End of the Tunnel

Work Trains, Miraflores,
Alson Skinner Clark,
oil on canvas, c.1913.

Pardon me while I mix metaphors and mention a boring subject.

My urban fantasy WIP, A Malignancy of Ghosts, stands presently at 75,000 words.

I see light at the end of the tunnel.

Lillie's in deep shit and I'm about to get her out of it.

If I am able to fully implement the advice of an excellent beta reader (who has seen 80 % of it and whose advice is 90% dead-on) the MS should pull into the platform after revision around or over the 80,000 word mark -- the minimum target length for a standard novel.

During this process, I found two items slowed my progress past my original projection of a late winter completion: short stories and short stories.

Short stories already written. Short stories bugging my wee behind, hollering and whining to be written.

For, as I discovered, with Stone Child (already pubbed) and Corpse Candles (due out next month) A Malignancy of Ghosts amounts, essentially, to prequel, to backstory. The whole bloody novel must remain consistent and congruent with chronicles already published about the character of Lillie St. Claire. This progression of both plot and character requires careful handling and considerable thought.

It's been a bugger.

Then there's been the distraction of the unwritten sequels and short stories: the cat lady ghost, the ghost with the bloody knife, the hostel for homeless ghosts idea, and half a dozen others -- partial, half-formed plots that sit and yammer and distract me from the WIP.

As well, these potential stories force me to make presumptive decisions about which minor plot line doors should be left open -- or at least ajar -- for future exploration of Lillie's adventures with the paranatural.


Ello asked me to mention the following and I'm happy to do so:

"Dr. Gigi Durham, the author of the Lolita Effect, the media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about it, is guest appearing on my blog this coming WEdnesday to answer questions on this very important topic. It would be wonderful if you could help spread the word or at the very least stop by and be part of our Q&A discussions."


writtenwyrdd said...

Glad it's going well, Bernita.

As far as the short stories being current time and Malignity a backstory, I shall offer up an observation. Over the years, I've seen short stories (for example by Bujold and Vonda McIntyre) which later became a full novel. And I've seen stories that were part of a world that became a novel. sometimes there were inconsistencies.

My opinion FWIW is that it seems a normal situation to have your short stories, published before the novel, be somewhat inconsistent. There are even authors who feel free to make their worlds inconsistent between stand-alone novels. Examples escape me at the moment, however.

Once the novel is published, then the shorts will be expected to fit the world of the book; but I wouldn't worry about the book fitting the world of the stories. These days a sequel novel would have to be consistent, though.

ChrisEldin said...

This is an interesting model. I like how all of your writing weaves into one story arc. Very nice.

And congratulations for the tunnel crossing! right hand, left hand. pound keys, pound.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written.
Don't think I can escape minor ones.
As each story serves to amplify the world building I have obsessed about consistency.

"right hand, left hand. pound keys, pound."
Made me laugh, Chris. Pound keys, pound . Exactly how I do it. Beat the poor keys to death!

BernardL said...

I agree with your attention to detail. Readers notice even the smallest inconsistencies, especially fans of a particular character. Congratulations on nearing work completion. There is nothing like the moment you write The End on a project which has filled your mind for months.

Rowan said...

Good going Bernita! I love "Pound keys, pound". That just compounds with your train metaphor to give me the impression of some steam-powered juggernaut crushing onward to the objective.

Plus, I wouldn't worry about some inconsistensies, so long as your world is consistent. If the stories are told by different characters (or even the same one), they could always remember a bit off each time. Stress can do strange things to the brain, yanno?

Bernita said...

Bernard, I shall be so glad. Presently in the I-will-get-to-the-end-if-it-kills-me mode.

Rowan, thank you. That is true about minor inconsistencies, and some inconsistencies in a story are more apparent than real, as we tend to eliminate some details and add others according to our audience.
Yes, I love it! Chris excels in the neat turn of phrase.

Robyn said...

Congrats! I know I can't wait to actually read it, being half in love with Thresher myself. Stone Child was beyond good.

I appreciate your attention to detail.

Bernita said...

Stone Child was beyond good.
Oh, Robyn. Thank you
~ please God, don't let me disappoint those who like the short story ~

Travis Erwin said...

My WIP has been slowed by my tweaking and submitting of previously written short stories, but I feel like a slacker if I do not have something out on submission so I feel like that is a necessary diversion.

Dave F. said...

Short stories bugging..., hollering and whining to be written

I know that feeling. Why is it that side stories are so much fun and the main story so much work?

raine said...

Understand your attention to detail and trying to be consistent. Readers spot differences, but will often be forgiving of pre-story as prototype.
Unfortunately it would bugger the heck out of me to have the inconsistencies haunting me like...well, a malignancy of ghosts. ;)

Most importantly, congratulations on seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, yay!
Looking forward to reading all.

Bernita said...

Short stories certainly are a divertissement, Travis.Much like a balance of guilts.

Dave, I think it mainly devolves on the length/time factor and completion satisfaction.

Thank you, Raine.
~more fearing of disappoin ting expectations~

Dave F. said...

Lynn Viehl (Paperback Writer) has a post about these distractions. I don't know if you saw it.

It's the Sunday May 25th post. if the link doesn't work

Bernita said...

Dave , it's not the character(s) that distract me, it's the potential scenarios/difficulties I want to put them in.
A good post by Lynn - as usual.

Rick said...

Welcome to the wonderful wacky world of retcons! Strictly speaking it's only a retcon if you're trying to bury already-published (or telecast) inconsistencies. But you are in retcon-like territory the moment you're writing a prequel to something already published, because you need to make sure it fits as backstory.

In theory there's no obligation to consistency between works, but in the real world readers expect it, especially in any genre touched by SF. Though I suppose stories could be Rashoman-like with respect to each other, or even alternate-history with respect to each other.

Am I the only one who idly imagines alternate histories for my protagonist (and other characters), if key episodes in her backstory had gone differently?

Whirlochre said...

On the one hand, it's important to have non-WIPly distractions for those moments when you're stuck au WIP — having started the brain going on a problem for which no solution is in sight, you can benefit from the nudge/stickyness of peripheral stimuli.

On the other hand, distractions that monopolise your attention are bad.

So — I'm not writing anything substantial while I WIPulate; I'm just wasting time shaving and moving things that don't need to be moved.

Hope the last 5000 words aren't too much of a trial — I love ghosts.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm kind of with Writtenwyrd here. I wouldn't personally worry overmuch about making every detail of the short stories and the novel congruent. Kind of like how the movies and the book are seldom congruent. I don't think it's a problem for the novel and stories to show some discrepencies.

Bernita said...

"Am I the only one who idly imagines alternate histories for my protagonist (and other characters), if key episodes in her backstory had gone differently?"

Rick, I tend to do that before the fact, rather than after.

Thank you, Whirl.
Shaving is not my problem, fattening the product is.

Bernita said...

It's good that you, Written, and others feel that way, Charles - because there's bound to be some.

laughingwolf said...

what's another 5k, give or take? :O lol

glad you're almost there

yeah, all those other yammerers biting your butt must be muzzled, at times... but attended to, also....

Bernita said...

Laughingwolf, sometimes even 1 K is like picking dog hairs off the carpet, one by one.

Ello said...

Bernita, I think it will all mesh and I wouldn't worry so much! Besides, I want to read it already and I'm so excited to hear you are so close!!!

And thanks so much for the plug!!


Bernita said...

Thank you, Ello. You know you are welcome.

Lisa said...

Congratulations on hitting the home stretch! I like the idea of short stories that explore alternate realities for a core group of characters. STONE CHILD certainly has whet my appetite for more of Lily.

Dave F. said...

Your instincts are right about avoiding side plots and short stories and added scenes - all those cute ideas that appear in the middle of a story to crowd it.

I am watching the A&E remake of Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. I read the book at least three times years ago and watched the original movie a half dozen times. I got tired of Arthur Hill (But who cares).

My point is that every time this new script on A&E wanders into backstory or creates a new wrinkle of sabotage and subterfuge or introduces a new scientific wonder. it goes bad. It goes boring. It goes WHY AM I WASTING TWO HOURS and can I sue the people who made this movies whatever my time is worth.

By the way, I refuse to watch the Penguins play hockey after the first loss. I can't take a second loss guilt that they lost because I watched. That's why I'm watching crapola.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lisa.
The concept provides considerable opportunity for exploration along those lines.

We'll just have to see if I have gone bad, Dave.

Rick said...

Dave - your comment raises the question of what part Occam's Razor plays in fiction. Perhaps in fiction, just as in real life, the perfect crime is not fabulously convoluted, but breathtakingly simple.

laughingwolf said...

tongue was firmly in cheek, m'dear ;)

Demon Hunter said...

My short stories are begging to be read too, Bernita. Yikes. I'm getting started on a few projects this week.

I'll be back on Wednesday for the Q&A!

Bernita said...

Laughingwolf, with me revision always add to the word count.

Good, Demon dear! Let 'er rip!
I may have been unclear. The Q&A's on Ello's blog.

Dave F. said...

Don't be so harsh on yourself. Your novel will be published. I have no doubt.

Bernita said...

Encouraging of you, Dave, and very kind. Thank you.

laughingwolf said...

yes, but like dave sez: take it easier on yourself, just know it will get published, and soon :)

cindy said...

congrats on nearing the end, bernita. this is so exciting and a great accomplishment. i'm so impressed you have written short stories and have more ideas for your heroine and the world. wow! the muse is afire!

also, i wanted to let you know your beautiful avatar isn't showing up. it makes me sad. =( it happened with my plumblossom painting on my blog, and it was fixed when i reloaded it.


Bernita said...

"Soon" is usually 18 months at a minimum, Laughingwolf, and that's after an agent and a contract.

Sweet Cindy.
I just read your book(s) sold in a lovely deal to HC.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

laughingwolf said...

ok, thought maybe those had been done

but like you say, the end is visible :)

Carla said...

Congratulations, and good luck with editing!

Bernita said...

Coming closer, Laughingwolf.

Thank you, Carla.