Sunday, January 17, 2010

Working Towards Fenian Avenger Second Draft in New Year

The last few months of 2009 were very active for me. In September, I set out with an ambitious goal. I wanted to come up with a completely new concept for a novel, one that didn’t involve an additional book in a series or calling upon my stable of characters and storylines. I wanted to complete the story treatment and outline by November 1st and participate in NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). For those not familiar with NANOWRIMO is a non-profit group that encourages writers to set a goal of starting and completing a first draft during the month of November.

That was quite a lofty goal. Assuming that I had a treatment and outline to work with, finishing a first draft is not out of the question. Finishing a draft is historically a very quick process for me. The time consuming (and probably most enjoyable) is the process of developing the treatment and outline. Some concepts of mine take years to get through this process. An idea hits me, and I take months just thinking about it, playing out scenarios in my head, and sometimes having conversations with potential characters in my head Yes, I spend a lot of time talking to myself (people who work with me are more than likely nodding their heads at this).

To do all of this in that short period of September 1st through November 30th would be an accomplishment.

To be fair, I did not allow myself to use any ideas I was already working on and I could not use any character that I have ever used before in another book or story.

I wanted to do some kind of adventure story. Something relatively light. I had just finished a story treatment that for In the Mind of Declan Murphy, which is a story about an autistic man who, in his altered vision, can clearly see the devil taking souls in his small Irish town, but he can’t communicate with anyone to warn them. This concept was very deep, spiritual, and abstract. And was quite a downer. I wanted this new story to have energy of its own, as that would help me get through this task.

I came up with the idea of an Irish super-hero, fighting corruption in a fictional depression-ridden Ireland in the form of corporate moguls that have their own vision of what Ireland should and should not be, and fighting the Garda (the Irish police) as they continually shake down the Irish citizens.

It was a fun story to plot. Coming up with an origin that had a mysteriously exceptional boy name Eamon Malone who is part of a new direction in child development and education (and potentially turning him into a weapon). After his parents are killed in an apartment fire after an altercation with the executives at the foundation in charge of educating Eamon, he finds himself alone on the street with only revenge on his mind. After an incident in St. Stephen’s Green where Garda officers are shaking down a woman, Eamon takes on the guise of the Fenian Avenger and dispatches them. He soon is taken in by his friend Angus to live in his subterranean home underneath the streets of Dublin (my own version of a bat cave). The danger of this story treatment is throwing too much into the plot.

I was very pleased that going into the last week of October I had a working story treatment and outline. I was ready to go.

On November 1st I was off an running. With a detailed treatment and an outline that details signposts and journeys of protagonists, antagonists, and impact characters – the hard part was done. It was just a matter of making time to write. The story took a life of it’s own. I thought of many directions the characters could go, and tightening up the original treatment as I fully worked through some of the scenarios.

Some 63,000 words and thirty days later, I had my goal completed. I had finished the first draft up until the last five chapters. I never do the last five chapters in a first draft. I always like to re-read the draft after a period of time to make sure that the ending I intended to use is still feasible.

It’s a waste of time to set goals to write during the holidays. It just doesn’t lend itself to consistency. And consistency is the key to writing. Writing has to become a habit, and for it to become a habit, it has to be something that you do every day. It’s not enough to be a good writing; you have to practice being a good writer and pushing yourself to better yourself.

So, for the new year I plan to get back into the habit of writing. And events so far in the new year have a way of trying to get in the way of that. In addition to my wonderful weekly gift of chemotherapy to dislodge any momentum I had, I’ve had a flare of my painful conditions that require the chemo, and a case of strep throat that causes me to stop taking my chemo that makes my symptoms get worse.

For the second draft, my goals are: tighten up the plot, flesh out the locations and make them pop, try to get inside the head of a confused sheltered eighteen year old super hero, and adjust the story to get rid of the prologue (a certain publication killer), and a hole in the middle where a plot point didn’t pan out.

Second drafts are my least favorite thing about writing. I’m a lousy editor of my own work and have a habit of thinking my writing is either too good or too bad.

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