In the ‘good news’ category: the steampunk thing, now tentatively entitled ‘Firebrand’, is chugging closer to being finished in first draft. So then it’ll be time for the second draft and then to send it off to the various people who have very kindly offered (and in Jasmine’s case, been begged) to beta-read it, and then there will be another round of changes based on that. On telly and in the Sims, people just wave their arms in the air and declaim that they’ve finished a book, and soon afterwards and effortlessly, the book is on the shelves. Sadly, this isn’t even the case with self-publishing: there are even more hoops to jump through, I’m sure, if you go the traditional route.
Also under ‘good news’, I think a major rewrite can save Heavy Ice. The bad news, of course, is that it’s going to mean a major rewrite. Again. Believe me, I am completely aware of the irony of having slogged away for two years on Heavy Ice only to have the steampunk thing spool out of me and get within a novella’s length of the same word count in a couple of months. I’ve really needed the break and the perspective that writing the steampunk thing has given me, and hopefully when I go back to Heavy Ice it’ll be in a spirit of ‘Now I know where this is going!’ rather than ‘I am in a maze of twisty, turny passages, all alike’.
The lesson I take away from this is that I write a hell of a lot faster when I’ve got a plot laid out in front of me and don’t have to feel my way forward and trust that I’ll have a good idea that will lead to a finished plot. Unfortunately, I find plotting in advance difficult, since when I start out on a book I don’t know the characters yet, and therefore I don’t know what they’re going to do. The reason this didn’t happen with Firebrand is that, er, it came out of a story I’d been telling myself to amuse myself while sitting in dentists’ waiting rooms or trying to get to sleep. I do this all the time, and I always have, but generally the stories in my head are too weird / embarrassing / full of inexplicable subplots because they’ve been going on since 1993 to see the light of day. And the reason I’m finding it easier to plot out Heavy Ice now is that I know what Kallisty would do in almost any given situation.
It would have been a lot easier if I’d done this in 2010, rather than assuming that I could do exactly the same thing I’d done with Requite books one and two and it would all be fine. Particularly since it wasn’t all fine while I was writing books one and two: it got stuck for a colossally long time on the Awful Corridor Scene which is now chapter four of The Hawkwood War, and I’m not even going to go into the number of iterations the Cold-Crystal Plot went through before arriving in its present form and I’m still not sure it adds much to the book besides giving Innes a reason to get into fights with people. But the thing is, if you’d said to me plot in advance then I’d have just pointed to the number of times I’d tried to plot a novel in advance and ended up with something that hadn’t turned into anything I was capable of writing (well, there was that one time it turned into a D&D campaign instead) and I’d have ignored you.
So. Writing. I know it’s a cliché to say that it’s always a learning process. But sometimes, it really, really is.