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Jay Lake
Date: 2008-08-18 10:20
Subject: [books|writing] Working on Tourbillion
Security: Public
Tags:books, process, tourbillion, writing

Finished the initial draft of the Tourbillion outline on this morning’s flight. It was an interesting experience. casacorona and I had discussed the book at WorldCon. I’ve known for quite a while I was going to write it, and had some basic plot and character stuff rolling around in my head. She and I were able to crystallize the structure and direction of the book pretty well.

In the days since, I’ve been walking around thinking, well, I need to get on this outline. I want to start drafting sometime in September, probably after I get back from San Francisco on the 14th. Which means I need the outline written, revised, reviewed and approved. Which means I need to write. So, well, I need to get on this outline.

Yesterday when I found myself cat waxing instead of working on it, I jumped in. Rather like stepping off a high board, as it always is. I have experienced a little bit of post-cancer anxiety about my ability to tackle this, but my experiences writing “In the Forests of the Night” back in July restored my confidence. Principle is fine, practicality lurked in the blinking cursor.

And then the damned thing pretty much wrote itself. Fred was ready to go, primed and waiting for me to hit the keyboard. As I said to casacorona, much of what this book needs to be is implied or mandated by the action and themse of the previous books. Yet I’ve also set myself some pretty problem, philosophically and plot-wise. Gonna be a lot of work to make it go the way it needs to be to satisfy my reader. And this is an initial draft of the outline. It hasn’t even gone to first readers yet. But I look at it and I am pleased.

One thing I know about myself (and casacorona does, too) is that my outlines are always full of handwavium. I know writers who drill down to an immense level of detail, writing 50, 75 even 100 manuscript pages of outline for a book which will be 600 manuscript pages in final form.

Not me. If I were going to do that, I’d just be writing the damned book.

At the same time, handwavium has its dangers. There needs to be enough direction and specificity for Tor to know what they’re buying into. I need enough thematic and character coherence to not jump the shark halfway through the process. But the virtues of handwavium are correspondingly manifold. It gives me room to run, to explore the story, to be surprised.

All in all, I think I’m where I need to be for today. And I’m quite pleased about this outline draft. It will go to first readers this afternoon, and sit in the drawer for at least a week or so, though I’d like to get the revised outline out to casacorona and arcaedia by Labor Day weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll tackle a short fiction project or two, and let my brain air out a bit more before I dive into full draft mode. Longtime readers of this blog know what I’m like in full draft mode. It will be interesting to see how much my experiences of this year have modified Fred’s behavior.

At any rate, I’ve stepped onto the slide. Book is being committed as of yesterday, and I feel good about it. Watch this space for more details.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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Caren Gussoff
User: spitkitten
Date: 2008-08-18 17:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
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The Word Of Fred
User: thewordoffred
Date: 2008-08-18 18:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
How close are your outlines to your final draft?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-08-19 01:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, despite my kidding around, they are pretty close. Which is why I pay a lot of attention to writing them in the first place. On the other hand, I tend to be rather vague about endings in the outlines. Oddly enough, some critics find my endings vague. I don't know, do you think there's a relationship there?
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User: sheelangig
Date: 2008-08-18 19:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Can you talk a little bit about what handwavium is? I'm making a guess along the lines of "I don't know how I'll get the plot past this seemingly impossible obstacle, but I will".

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-08-19 01:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yep, pretty much. That invisible material from which books are actually assembled after the author has abandoned all sanity and any semblance of their outline.
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User: the_ogre
Date: 2008-08-19 03:34 (UTC)
Subject: Most excellent!
I, for one, am looking forward to it. I loved Escapement.

FYI, I posted a smallish review of Escapement to my LJ a while back - http://the-ogre.livejournal.com/451948.html
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