Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pushing through the middle

There are many tough spots when writing a novel. Getting started, feeling like you have the characters, the basic story arc, this takes a while but really isn't that tough. Getting over the 30K word hump is a bit of challenge because that's the point at which I feel the novel is really establishing the 'voice', I know the characters, I'm getting confident with where the story is going, the basic 'vibe' is there. Often I'll tweak and futz, and cut, and uncut, and recut, and reuncut, and reorder, and insert and delete, and change, and use the 'find' function alot to make sure idiosyncracies of dialog, or naming conventions are consistent, and...and......and at some point between 25K and 30K I'll say...yah, that's what I wanted.

Then there's the middle part (about 45K-55K) where I start to second-guess myself, I can see the tempo of the story (I like the vibe, but is there enough action, do I spend too much time on character or scene development, not enough? is Cooper's subplot too overdeveloped, etc) but I reevaluate if this is really what I was thinking about for the story arc in that brief flash of inspiration several month's to a year ago, and...well that's where I am now; pushing through the middle.

As you know (if you've been following the blog) I've taken an expatriate assignment managing a project in Tbilisi, Georgia and it's a bear of a job. Overseas, new area of business, trying to meet family obligations (I know wahhh...). But the reason I bring this up for this little essay is that I'm writing much more slowly than I did in my two previous novels, so this particular angst-ridden patch is telescoping on me.

But it's not all bad, spending more time with my inner-author-insecuritites has allowed me to spend more time with the characters too, and one of the things I have realized is that my bad guys really need a voice. I've struggled with this for a while because the alien's voice, or the alien itself maybe, comes across as a Lovecraftian villain, and this inherently conflicts with the more hardboiled/pulpy/sparse voice with which the rest of the novel speaks.

The military scifi novel features an expeditionary infantry battalion investigating a seeming natural disaster (series of meteor showers) on a colony world. The 'natural disaster' is actually an alien invasion and told from the POV of Salome (a colonist), Captain Vogel (a pilot) and Sergeant Cooper (a Grunt), with a few cameo POVs. The 'alien' invaders are based on Dictyostelium fruiting bodies, and through them I explore some of my thoughts on memes, identity, 'self' and the nature of conciousness (but don't worry- there's lots of gun-play, gallons of testosterone, a strong and independent female MC, a romantic triangle and not every body dies at the end, almost not everyone...). I've been strugling with how to convey the alien POV here in the middle of the book (see, stay with me, I usually have a point!), so I decided to include the enemy as a POV character...hey, it's a big step for me, I don't just give up my POV to any character that comes along with a winning smile and a catchy line.

Anyway, I think I've reached a compromise that works, but you, dear reader will have to be the judge.
I have also include for your amusement, a snapshot of my Tbilisi Gym.

Through a dark alley, down a rickty flight of stairs, in a moldy sub-basement, thousands of kilos of mismatched plates, dumbbells, kettlebells (measured in Pood), is my lifting heaven. These are the bench presses; two vertical pipes sunk into the concrete floor, welded rebar supports hammered into the wall, and bolts to rest the bar upon. Simplicity in form and function. Now all you have to do is pick the bar up off the pegs, lower it to your chest and put it back...many, many times.

And the tough part for me, right?

Yes, you guessed it... pushing through the middle part.

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