Tuesday, June 5, 2012

DARKNESS WALKS #2

Well, Day One was a wash...

I never can predict these things. As a part of my attempts to be healthier, I go to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Right now I'm focusing on cardio, but I still do a little weights afterward. This week, I kicked things up a notch - doing some interval running on the treadmill. I'd always been afraid that exercising meant not getting any writing done that day because of sheer fatigue, but I've actually found the opposite, as more often than not, I'm energized after a workout and have had better days writing after the gym than on days off.

Not so much yesterday.

The physical energy was there, but mentally, I was completely unfocused. My mind was sluggish, yet jittery at the same time - knowing what I needed to do, but just unable - and unwilling - to commit. Deep down, I know exactly what the problem is: I'm scared as hell of getting into this thing and having it come out shitty. So, to compensate, I do something else, under the guise that "I'm not ready to start just yet" when really I should just dive in and get my feet wet. 

Last night I passed time telling myself I needed to re-study format. It was a legitimate reason - I didn't recall exactly how to proceed, despite having set up a "novel template" eons ago that just needed a few tweaks for short story format - but c'mon, I'm writing this thing in Open Office: I can change all that later. But my fear and overwhelming need to feel like I'm doing everything perfectly from jump kicked in, so re-studying it was.

At the end of the evening, all I had done was made a few adjustments to the template and saved it as "Darkness Walks." Not a single word of story was written, but I convinced myself it was still something major - technically, the book now "exists." The whole save-the-file-name schtick is a gimmick I often use - a mental trick to create "momentum" by actually making a concept "real." It's served me well, but, honestly, it means absolutely nothing if I don't follow it up with something (like, say, 25-30,000 words in this case).

So with no gym today, having taken a nap to sharpen my brain cells and a hot cup of coffee at my side, here's hoping for a better Day Two. Just gotta stop procrastinating, push the jitters aside and get to work--

Though I can't help but feel that maybe I should complete the outline first...

- KS

Sunday, June 3, 2012

DARKNESS WALKS #1

Things got off to a scorching start... then cooled down a bit.

But they're warming up again.

The week started with Darkness Walks firmly being a novella series. Installments were being mapped out and I was well on my way to outlining Book One. But a funny thing happened on the way to Chapter One...

Feeling the story was getting a little long in the tooth for my chosen art form, I took some time to actually research novella structure. Like so many others, I imagine, I assumed a novella was nothing more than a short novel. How embarrassing to admit I was totally wrong.

What do you mean, they generally don't have chapters?!

Subplots are a no-no? Really?


Turns out that, like screenwriting, composing a novella has its own set of conventions. Good to know...

So what exactly did I have here? I'll be completely honest as to why I want this to be a novella series: I want out of the rat race, permanently. And I'd love to make money doing something I love to do. Few know this, but I wrote prose before I ever wrote a screenplay. Sure, it wasn't much - short stories based on the week's spelling words in school or a "novel" featuring comic strip characters I'd created (another career I contemplated at one time, except for this nagging little problem of not being able to draw that well) - but it was something, and I enjoyed it. But then I got into movies and that was that...

Until now. However, after my bit of research and looking at what I had outlined, it was obvious that I was heading into novel territory - and that's definitely where I didn't want to be. Novels are beautiful, and I plan to write them at some point - but they just take so damn long to put together, and I'm wanting results as soon as possible. I need them as soon as possible. I need to do if what I'm writing is going to work and if I'm going to be able to make a living do it. I spent eleven years chasing dreams of selling screenplays to no avail; I'm not about to do the same in this avenue.

The cool thing is, though, I won't have to. With the advent and rise of self-publishing and e-platforms like the iPad, Kindle, Nook and others, I can easily place my work before those whom it most matters - the buying public - without having to be stifled by "gatekeepers" at the major and minor publishing houses. And I can learn very quickly what will work and what won't - even quicker if I can figure out what it is I'm writing.

It's simple math. Let's say I take one writer's advice and write three novellas before I place any of them on the market (the idea being that if one is a hit, you immediately have more content to offer - "strike while the iron is hot"): if write a novella 20,000 words long (a suggested length for beginners planning to sell their work on e-platforms; at approximately 250 words per page, it comes out to 80 pages), the three I'd write would total roughly 240 pages, or a novel (some would say a short one at that).

Now, the counterargument would be "If you're going to write three novellas before you drop them, equaling a novel, what's wrong with taking the time to write Darkness Walks as a novel and putting that out?"

My answer? "Who said I was going to wait until I had three in the can?" Remember my need for results and feedback as soon as possible? Do you really think I'm going to wait until I have three novellas written, polished and perfected before I test the waters and see if any of it will sell in the first place? As my non-existent British doppelganger would say, "Not bloody likely."

But that's putting the cart a mile in front of the horse. The material I had built called to be born as a novel, yet I had commercial and temporal considerations that were in direct opposition. Left, right. Oil, water. Republican, Democrat. Tom, Jerry...

Would I actually break one of the writer's most sacred commandments - compromising my story in order to make a quick buck (I mean, I guess it's not that sacred, folks do it all the damn time - but I'm trying to be better than that)?  I couldn't. I just... couldn't. So I resigned myself to the fact that Darkness Walks was going to be a novel - and my impatient, wanna-be-day-job-free self would have to just suck it up and wait. There's no guarantees the thing will sell anyway...

Then today happened. It's funny how a conversation with someone (or even yourself - don't judge me) can lead to the break-though you so desperately need. My lady, Shaundra, asked me if the story was going to remain a novel (I'd expressed my frustrations to her before), seeming excited about the possibility. I again complained about the amount of time it would take, but how I didn't want to damage the story. She asked about writing a novella prequel, but I explained that it wouldn't work given how the story proper begins. Shaundra countered, inquiring if there was a way to take what I had and break it into pieces, essentially releasing a novel, but in installments.  I told her yes, but I'd have to work out how to do that from a story standpoint - part of which meant determining what the conflict would be in each installment.

Shaundra suggested the first part be about Wendy, coming to grips with what she's become and how her life is forever changed. The next book could feature more of the story I already had outlined. I retorted that the whole "coming to grips" thing was what Book One was supposed to be about, and that if I saved her conflict with the pack (or nest? Or flock? I'm not sure what I'm going to call a group of vampires yet) for the second book, then I'd have no conflict for the first one - unless I somehow just made it an internal conflict... 

That flippant response changed everything.

Shaundra asked for clarification, and I posited that the entirety of Book One could be about Wendy dealing with what she's become, while at the same fighting her relentless thirst for blood and the urge to kill those closest to her. Then, as Shaundra suggested, the second book could feature Wendy's conflict with her killers...

Shaundra loved the idea immediately and, the more I thought about it, so did I. She quickly added that with each book I could increase the threat level, at the same time expanding the world of the story. It was perfect - I'd get to keep all the story I'd written, even adding to the total number of books in the series given how the story would be more tightly rationed - and I'd get to stay in novella territory, allowing me to get work on the market quicker, and either reaping the benefits sooner or finding out my time could be better spent without wasting so much of it to find out.

So that's where we are. Earlier in the week on the Facebook page I posted that writing would commence Monday, and I plan on sticking to that. I won't have a completed outline (unless I have a marathon day at the keyboard tomorrow), but I've got more than enough laid out to get the ball rolling.

Should be interesting...

- KS