Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Process Examination #22: PLOT!

I am looking at anywhere from two to four chapters remaining in THUMB. My current word count is at about 93K. I could conceivably finish this draft this week, and by the end of the month looks imminently doable. Part of my brain is already trying to map out the bumps and scrapes that need to be smoothed and schelacked; the other part is hamster-wheeling these last few chapters to wring out as much plot as possible to tie it all up into a complete draft.

The vague ideas and hazy outlines of these chapters will no longer suffice. I have to get down to the details and step through a viable course that carries the characters to a resolution that I might have even set up in a chapter or two way back at the beginning. I'm tugging at all sorts of half-remembered threads from Act 1, retconning shamelessly some events in all previous acts, referring to things that I know will easily fit into previous chapters but aren't there as yet. Every trick I can muster to make the plot two-step its way to The End.

There is no discovering what happens as I write at the moment. No, now I'm discovering what happens as I notebook and block the scenes. The characters have had their chance to surprise me. Now they must submit. For the most part, they're cooperating. As I've said before, this process for me is all about finding a common language between the right and left brains to tell a story. The characters have been a part of that, they know that there's a lot of work to be done and that just finishing the simple "who does what next and how" quickly will get everybody fully on the same page so the real heart and soul of the story can get hashed out.

(As a very interesting aside, my brain kicked out the notion that this story isn't the flogging of family matters that I thought--or, at least, that's only the most obvious thing going on and may not be the most significant. Last night my brain started going off about the Singularity and how I think it's not going to create a world unfathomable to us. Rather, the Singularity is going to get absorbed the same way all technological advances have been and humanity will chug right along in much the same way, just with neat-o tools and tech because today's laws and economies aren't equipped to deal with humanity evolving past our current boundaries, even if the tech might one day exist to do so. Or something like that. Could be just a lazy way around explaining why my story can have tech that allows for cloning and consciousness transfer, but is just Big Business in Space. That's what the Month of Short Fiction is for, to let wacky ideas like that stew and fester and, you know, develop into something I can actually type coherently and with a straight face.)

It's actually rather nice to be able to look at various methods of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished for each scene in the notebook stage and having all the info at my fingertips to compare and contrast those methods. I think it's something that, for me, I can only accomplish after achieving familiarity with the story in the course of the draft. To do so before writing any words feels arbitrary to my process.

Still, I am taking notes on how I'm outlining these last few scenes, how I'm notebooking the various ways everything can shake down. It's very possible that I'll figure out a way to do more advance planning earlier in the draft game by paying attention to what I'm doing now.

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