Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Approaching the Finish Line


Finishing a novel is a lot like running a race against Achilles’ tortoise. You know the story, the one in which a tortoise convinces Achilles that a finish line can’t be reached. You can find a summary here.

Of course, as anyone who has faced a deadline knows, finish lines are real. Thesis projects have due dates, and books have scheduled launches. The trick is making sure the work itself is truly finished, and doing that requires planning, daily effort, and demanding editors.

I had all those things on Vipers.

The book started as a detailed synopsis assembled back in May 2009. Since Vipers is a sequel, I needed to take care to build on the details laid out in the first book (Veins 2008). Such building requires attention to the placement of landmarks and roads as well as the relationships of the primary characters. Moreover, since both Vipers and Veins employ scenes that overlap and backtrack in complex ways, I needed to make sure I had the sequence of events clearly established before I started writing.

To that end, I augmented my synopsis with detailed maps and timelines that I could consult (and modify as needed) during the writing process.

Some writers feel that detailed outlining and planning
diminish the joys of discovery. They want to write their books as the action plays out. They want to be surprised in the same ways that the book’s readers will be surprised when chains of events lead to unexpected twists. I want the same things. I love that moment when details that I’ve put in motion lead down unplanned paths, and I experienced many such moments while working on the synopsis for Vipers. Timelines, maps, and synopses don’t diminish such possibilities, they enhance them.

The actual writing of the book took four months, with the preliminary manuscript being submitted right around the time of World Fantasy in October 2009. After submitting the book, I got straight to work on This Way To Egress, the story collection that Ash-Tree Press released at World Horror in March 2010. I also wrote some new short fiction in that period, endeavoring to clear my plate in time for the rewriting and editing of Vipers, which began this past April.

The final steps toward the finish line involved working with the editing and design teams at FE Books. Part of this final process involved collaborating with FE artist Gerasimos Kolokas on the book’s illustrations, which further helped me visualize the book’s characters and scenes. There’s a story about how the artist Francis Cugat helped F. Scott Fitzgerald visualize one of the key symbolic element of The Great Gatsby, and I found myself thinking about that relationship as I worked with Gerasimos on his illustrations for Vipers.

More about that tomorrow. Until then, remember . . . they’re coming!

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree about timelines, maps, etc., as useful and inspiring rather than detracting! Love to use photos and tidbits of research to tuck into the mss here and there. Thanks for your insight!