Saturday, March 6, 2010

Re-Tying my Gordian Knot

Last year I accepted a contract to do a revised, second edition of Blood & Thunder. The project originally took about a year and a half to write, and that included doing a quantity of original research as well as assimilating all of the research previously done. As a writing exercise, it was without a doubt the hardest thing I ever had to write. Biographical writing occupies a completely different head space than fiction writing. You don't have the freedom to dictate the story, or tweak the plot, or even to play with the dialogue. What was said, was said. And what was done, was done.

That's not to say there isn't room for creativity in biographical writing; on the contrary, making the story come alive and "flow" for the modern reader requires a deft, creative touch. But, as you well know, it take a lot of work to make something look easy, and that's exactly what Blood & Thunder was for me. I sweated writing it so that you wouldn't sweat reading it.

Well, now I'm in the process of rewriting the book, adding in discoveries that were made between 2005 and now, and expanding and correcting existing chapters. I thought it would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong.

See, when I write something, especially something like this, I try to create a seamless transition from point to point, like a conversation. I've got it all laid out in A-B-C fashion. Now, I'm trying to shoehorn B.5 between B and C and it's upsetting the flow. I'm rewriting way more than I had anticipated. And I'm scrapping some things that I originally really liked to make points transition better.

But what's really hard is that I'm trying desperately to re-examine my mindset from five years ago and I find it nearly impossible to do so. When I write anything, fiction or essay, real or imagined, as soon as the story leaves my head, I start erasing the data from my mental hard drive to make room for new stuff. More than once, I've re-read a story I wrote several years ago and found myself laughing at some point of dialogue or turn of events that I'd honestly forgotten that I'd written. Either that, or dementia is setting in early. Let's hope it's door number one.

Getting back to the point, I now find myself reading pages from my book and wondering why I wrote something that way, and trying to ascertain if it comes up again later. I remember when I was writing the book the first time that I had points I intentionally made in chapter 3, knowing that when I got to chapter 8, they would come back up again, with new clarity and meaning, and people would think I'm a genius. Now I'm looking at that magic trick, and I don't know how in the hell I pulled it off.

Starting from scratch isn't an option. I've got too many other things on my plate, and besides, the book isn't broken. In automotive speak, I'm simply tricking it out. Turning it into a high-performance roadster. It's just that I've got a set of metric wrenches and all of the nuts and bolts are standard. I'm getting the job done, but there's a lot more trial and error than I anticipated.

1 comment:

  1. I'm getting that deja vu thing as I go through the old Lone Star projects to package them for new distribution platforms. I'd hate to have to re-write or re-draw them again.