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Monday and I Have Hate and Redemption.

In fiction, things break. They break like rotten wood and you can't fix them and you drown as narratives snap, characters turn hollow and brittle, and the words feel like they're born in the mind of a dyslexic five year old.

In classes, I tell students this, but I always have this sneaking suspicion that they don't believe me. Perhaps I'm not dramatic enough, or maybe I need a monkey helper, but it's not really a problem. What one person considers broken and what another person considers good aren't necessarily on the same page. Instead, it's a knowing realisation on the author's part that stems from a growing awareness of what he/she is capable of and what is desired in the work. The more an author grows into his or her capabilities, the better the author become at identifying what is broken.

There are broken chapters in A Walking Tour of the Dreaming City. So far, I've had three. At one stage, they might have been serviceable, but they're unredeemable now. There's nothing there but ash and my hate and I've had to begin from scratch for these chapters: new characters, new plots, new ideas on how they fit into the mosaic of the book as a whole. It has pushed me back some in the schedule, adding an extra month, I think.

That's okay.

See, I honestly thought I was going to have a fourth broken chapter today. I've been trying to make it work for the last two weeks and I woke up today with nothing but hate for it, and I thought, Fuck it. If it doesn't work by the end of today, I'll just scrap it and begin again. It would have cost me thirteen thousand words, which means that it was one of the more structurally important chapters, but better to kill it than to allow the rot to set into the other eighty thousand words. A dead piece of fiction must be amputated, just as with a dead flesh and living men and women.

That, however, did not happen. The characters found their place. The chapter found its way to the end. It's now called 'the Spring City'.

Now, to find some children to pour petrol over.

Comments

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speshal_k
Feb. 15th, 2005 09:16 am (UTC)
Just out of interest, how long does it take to write 13000 words of fiction?

Or, perhaps more specifically: How long does it take to write 13000 words AND how long does it take to make them into the 13000 words you actually want?
benpeek
Feb. 15th, 2005 10:14 am (UTC)
it takes me about two and a half, three days to puke up those words. that's solid time in front of the comp. it'd take me about another week or two of solid work to make it readable. of course, that's a rough estimate, as i've gone over and under it, depending on the project, and on my interest in it. but as a rough take, yeah, that'd be able it.
future_conduit
Feb. 15th, 2005 10:55 am (UTC)
i get the same kind of thing when writing songs. except i have verses & chord progressions, not chapters. same thing tho, just in much smaller quantities. some of my earlier attempts took near 3 years on and off to get "right". some of those are still waiting to be finished.

amputation is often necessary, so is necromancy.

quite often i keep the draughts. and when i'm stuck, bored or just cleaning out the filing cabnet i'll come across a small note book marking the graves of an era's worth of dead songs. and there beneath the rubble and ash i may find one tiny little part that is useful.

sometimes one old song spawns 5 new ones. other times 5 mediocre ones meld into one good one.

as they say, todays shit becomes tomorrows fertilizer.

it amazes me to think that you could just ditch 13,000 words! does that mean you'd just leave them for dead? or would you try and re-work more-or-less the same chapter but from a different vantage point?
benpeek
Feb. 15th, 2005 11:44 am (UTC)
if it's dead, it's dead. reworking those words won't make it live. so usually i just leave, and i might use concepts, like a character, or a plot strange, or an idea. i might even snag a scene setting, but i honestly like to kick it all away and start fresh. just kick it the fuck out.

the three chapters that died, i kicked all from two of those chapters out. nothing remains from them. the third one, i'm keeping the idea, and just doing it in a different way.

but, you know, thirteen thousand words isn't much. not in the grand scheme of things. and if it's dead, it's dead. other authors might be different, natch, but me... i got no pity for myself and my work.
future_conduit
Feb. 15th, 2005 03:07 pm (UTC)
fair enough.
future_conduit
Feb. 15th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC)
say, i've been meaning to ask. Is that brail in the top right hand corner of the Urban Sprawl?
benpeek
Feb. 15th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC)
you know, i have no idea. i suspect it could be, but either way, i reckon it looks cool.
future_conduit
Feb. 16th, 2005 08:26 am (UTC)
very, um, considerate of you if it is
benpeek
Feb. 16th, 2005 09:58 am (UTC)
heh. truthfully, i had nothing to do with it being there. it's just something that appeared when i picked this style for the journal.
future_conduit
Feb. 16th, 2005 10:36 am (UTC)
damn. i thought you were being ironic. maybe the journal style architect was.
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