Sunday, September 29, 2013

Homecoming Complete, Plus the Calendar Ahead

First thing's first - my latest novel, Homecoming, is done!  Well, at least through the first draft.

I wanted the novel to come in somewhere between 80,000 and 85,000 words.  I met my coming in at 80,296 words.  It's thick enough to give it girth without being so large it will turn people off.  I'll have to start editing next, and I expect to cull between 8,000 and 12,000 words, but that part is months away.  For now, the manuscript will rest so I can look at it later with fresh eyes.

This one is different than anything I've ever written.  I did it in a journal format, where the narrator's notes from witnessing historic events form the structure of the story.  The main character isn't even essential to the novel - he's simply a vehicle through which the story can be told.  I tried to capture the emotion of the tale as it happened, all while knowing that future works created from the journal, in the narrator's world, would be more antiseptic than the raw power of what he'd just seen.

It's a historical tale, not an action novel.  Yes, there's action in the book, but don't think the outcome was ever in doubt.  Instead, the story is about the transformation of human naiveté to a more sobering and realistic view of the world.  Having been to war myself, I know that if we're distant from a conflict as a society, we tend to view war as some romantic notion that will be quick and clean.  Unfortunately, reality is never that way, and it changes us, even when the outcome is known.  The transformation that the characters in Homecoming go through is a reaction to the barbarities of war as they discover that even plans with the best of intentions can get twisted by the scourge of conflict.  It makes us do things we never thought we would in even our darkest moments, and it strips away the self-righteous notion that if we can just impose our will on someone else, everything will turn out just right.

As with other novels, things surprised me while writing this one.  First of all, those who are consistent readers of this blog, you know I had to start over after I was more than 10% of the way through.  That hurt and caused more consternation than anything, at least until I got back into a rhythm.  However, I'm certain it was the right decision - the first approach was choppy and didn't yield the feel I was going for.  Second, I was kind of surprised at the speed with which this one came off - I did 80,000 words in right at two months, and I could've done more if I hadn't taken several breaks.

Homecoming also ended in a way that sets up future works.  I honestly wasn't expecting that when I started, but it's nice to know there's a known universe for me to return to, one replete with stories that can still develop.  I don't know if I'll continue this format for future works set in that universe, but that's something I can worry about down the road.  For now, I'll just enjoy this one, along with the possibilities it sets up.

That makes four novels I've now done in less than two years.  I'm still a little ways off from publishing - gotta get back to the mainland of the USA first - but it's nice to know I'll have a well to dig into once I start.

So what now?  Well, the first thing I'm going to do is do the last edit on Wrongful Death.  I've decided to keep the title, and I've done the first two rounds of edits.  The final edit is all about reading it the same way I would any novel and making minor corrections.  I've grown more proud of Wrongful Death over time, and I think it'll do well with the target audience.  That edit should be complete by the middle of October.

Second, I need to do the first edit on Schism.  This one will be a complicated edit due to two factors - first, the format of the novel, with the interpositioning of blog sites and news reports to go with the story, as well as its focus on  the overall plot rather than a central character, makes it unlike anything I've written before; second, I wrote it in four parts, but the final part doesn't do justice to what America would be like in the aftermath of a new civil war, so I'm going to split it out into two parts(after expanding it).  That's going to take some finesse, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.  I expect the edit to be done by the first of December.

Third, I'm going to try and write a short story per week.  This will allow me to enter a few more contests, in addition to adding to a future work.  Either my 9th or 10th book in print will be a short story collection.  I've got 10 short stories so far, and my goal is to get 25-30 together before publishing it.  If I can do one a week between now and the end of the year, I'll have another 13 done without the pressure of writing a full-fledged novel.

The future looks bright, and I'm thrilled to be at the end of another novel.  A few housekeeping chores, plus some work to keep my creative focus sharp, is in the offing until January when I plan to start my next work - a true horror novel I've been thinking about for more than a decade.  Guess I'd better be up on how to do it.

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