Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's up with Ray's writing?

So the last time I posted, which was over two months ago, I was just finishing up the edits for Talonshale. Remember that? All caught up now? Good. I hope you're reading this sitting down, because what I have to tell you isn't very pleasant. I sent the aforementioned, polished manuscript to my agent, and as it turns out, he wasn't exactly thrilled with the book. He liked the characters, liked the world and concept, but thought it needed a new plot.

Yes, you read that right -- it needed a new plot.

The problem was that Talonshale was a murder mystery, and like many murder mysteries, the main characters weren't seriously threatened until the murderer was unmasked. I'd structured the plot to move from clue to clue -- banking on the 'what's-going-on' factor to keep the reader turning pages. And as my agent pointed out, a book like this, for a market like this, should have more action and conflict and tension -- the plot should move from peril to peril. Aiming a murder mystery at teenage dudes wasn't exactly a bad call, I don't think -- it just wasn't the best call.

And I do want to make the best call.

So, like a good lil' writer-man, feeling slightly cowed and overwhelmed, I started working on a new plot. And that, of course, meant writing an entirely new book -- but in the same world with the same characters.

And what I found was that, actually, coming up with a series of escalating perils isn't so hard. What's stinking hard as hell, and what's had me tearing my hair out and wondering if writer's block might not be the myth I thought it was, is coming up with a series of escalating perils that isn't predictable.

Because once I took the mystery element out of Talonshale, I had nothing left but 'kids-in-danger'. Nothing terribly original or terribly interesting. I literally started writing the book three more times. Three additional first chapters, all of which felt plain and listless. (Oh, and did I mention that before the 350 page version, I'd written 170 pages on an entirely different 'adventurer's journal' version which I eventually scrapped? Yeah. So altogether, I've written over 600 freaking pages under the title 'Talonshale'.)

Anyway. In the interest of wrapping this up before I really start rambling and whining, I'll just tell you where I'm at right now, and let you get back to your lives.

Page 63.

But it's a version that I'm actually pretty happy with. It's first person present, darker and bloodier than the previous versions, and it has that feeling of building up its own momentum -- becoming one of those beast-like stories on the verge of breaking free and running wild of it's own accord. And you know, I reeelly hope it does.

Because right about now, I could reeeally use a story that writes itself .


Monica said...

wow.. frustrating. but i like that you didn't give up. I can't wait to read this. love murder mysteries. I've just started writing a really dark story, and i find my MC coming into my brain at night and leaving me tidbits.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

So happy to see your name pop up on the dashboard and find out what is up with you! Writing is so hard, isn't it? I feel like I could study this post and learn some things about my own wip. Like you, I have so many words into it already. But hopefully all those words do actually make us better writers and this book may now write itself. I hope that for you.

Anonymous said...

Ah, my heart sunk. A new plot? A NEW BOOK?! But at the same time I know that if anybody can tackle this challenge, it's you, my friend. And when I'm buying Talonshale for my kids, we'll know that it will all be worth it.

Sending you super fantastic and productive vibes!


Ray Veen said...

Monica -- Good for you, that's a sign that your MS is taking on a life of its own.

Tina -- Thanks for actually being excited over me updating my blog. I was pretty sure everybody had moved on and forgotten about me.

Mercedes -- And thank you -- this is the most encouraging thing I've heard in a long time. You're such a good lil' writing buddy.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I've missed you, Ray. Good to know you've been in the trenches. I have no doubt your book will be much stronger for all of your hard work. ;-)

Anita said...

So that's what you've been doing! For what's worth, you really got me on the darker and bloodier.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Egads. So basically the agent wanted a whole new book. And you're doing it.

I'm impressed, Ray. I really am. I'd probably have to lay on the floor and cry before I could even think about it. Or maybe have a stiff drink or two. Or three.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I'm getting ready to start reading the old version. Will give you my thoughts on it when I'm done. Had a rough two weeks on my end.

Dude, I've been writing my book since......2005

Kelly Polark said...

Whoa, that is major revisions. But it sounds like your agent has faith in you, Ray (and so do we :). All of this major hard work will make Talonshale a kick butt book!
Good luck!

Ray Veen said...

Schubey-Doo -- Missed you too, buddy. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Anita -- It's been suggested that I make my story a middle grade -- all the blood and darkness pretty much ensures that it stays YA. Thanks for sticking around.

Mary -- You're funny: I've actually had very many stiff drinks. They're sort of an anasthetic -- turns out scrapping an entire, completed, edited MS can be quite painful.

BJ -- Take your time, buddy, read it for fun. Unfortunately I'm beyond suggestions on how to improve it because the whole story's been flushed down the... flushing thingy.

Kelley -- I appreciate that vote of confidence. I really do. A re-working of this proportion requires tons of emotional suppport.

Bryan B. said...

This is the ONE week that I don't check your blog and you post something.

As I've said before, this is one of those great stories that you'll be able to tell to amazed fans that think you're perfect and really believe all your words just fall magically onto the page from some prose Heaven.


K. M. Walton said...

Wow, Ray, that's quite the tale. Page 63 ain't too shabby, my friend. It's like what an editor from Razorbill said at the SCBWI conference...one you get an agent, the real work begins.

Keep it going...

VeeFlower said...

Well, I liked the original. I enjoyed reading it and the pages turned all too quickly. Glad I'm not an agent! Guess I don't know what sells. I just know what I do and don't like.

Cate Gardner said...

Welcome back. Sorry to read about your book, but yay for the new one - I'm sure it will be fabulous.

Madison said...

Hello. Long time, no talk. Now I know why...you've been busy writing. Me? Been busy not writing. College does that lol :p

Anyway, I know it's tough, but I'm sure the new book will turn out great! Don't give up! :)

(PS...I love how your Live Traffic Feed never gets the city I'm in right. First it's Charlotte, now it's Statesville. Ever heard of Mt. Holly? lol)

Vikki said...

Okay, A) I'm so glad you blogged because I've been wondering what's going on with you, and B) ACK!!!! Those are some hefty revisions. But, don't lose faith...you'll get on a roll with the new plot and it'll all start flowing. These are times that will make your eventual success all the more gratifying. :>)

Kelly Polark said...

You've been awarded on my blog to force you into posting again. :) (oh, yeah and you deserve the award too)