Monday, May 17, 2010


So right now I'm going backwards to go forwards with the second draft of the ongoing. Usually I like to press onward, ever onward, but I had a sudden blink of inspiration about the true nature of the kind of work one of the characters was doing before he became caught up in the plot, and rather than leave it until revision I unravelled an early chapter, dropped in a chunk of prose, and restitched it.

This is what happens when you don't spend a couple of months planning out a novel in every detail before writing it straight out. Which I understand is technically possible, but isn't for me. Much of the writing process in the first and second drafts is a process of discovery - or rather, a process of blundering about in a dark room, bumping into things while looking for a way out.

I do make lots of notes, actually, but usually ignore most of them because for me making notes is a Darwinian process of evolving and discarding possibilities. What's left for this project are lists of names, all kinds of notes and references on the evolution and structure of gas giants, brief portraits of various cities and odd little worldlets, and some chunks of the back stories of various characters that may or may not be threaded through the narrative. I also accumulate, like most writers who use word processors, a collection of sentences and paragraphs and entire scenes that drop below the fold.
She was still looking all around, drinking in fresh details in the view, when a second pod everted and the blunt triangle of the drone detached with a thump and flare of thrust that sent it flying away from the train.

At the same time, the child was attempting to make contact with the tutelary spirits of the river and forest. Her fantasy about the involvement of the river folk in the boy’s death had taken root and flourished.

Cactus skeleton. Fog spreads. Wonder at someone who can control weather.

And then he ducked away under the slanting barrel of the telescope and he was gone, and I could move again. The young woman beckoned to me, and I followed without thought or question through a doorway I had not noticed before, and found myself stumbling from the translation frame in the softly-lit room in the administration centre. The interview was over.
Sometimes it seems to me that what's left out is as important as what's left in.


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