I Owe It All to One Thing
That thing, of course, is Metroid Metal.
I’ve finally finished my first draft of She Returns From War. Over half of this draft was written with their wailing riffs and pounding bass lines pouring through my headphones. I couldn’t really say why. While drafting The Dead of Winter, I listened to a much more diverse selection of music through my Nightwish Pandora channel, supplemented by VNV Nation. For this book, though, I was so thoroughly enamored with this group’s interpretations of Metroid themes that I listened to little else during the months of November and December. Mad props to Rob Haines for guiding me to their shrine.
This drafting process differed from my experience with The Dead of Winter in other ways as well. Most notably, the pressure of the deadline removed nearly all of the casual, just-for-shits feeling of drafting my first book. Ironic when you consider that She Returns From War took me over a month longer to write despite both books being nearly identical in length, but there it is. I wasn’t just drafting in response to some vague, largely ignorant ambition of becoming a novelist; I was drafting in response to a very real contract in which I agreed to write a book. That thought has gnawed at the back of my mind since I first signed on with Angry Robot, whittling away at my security, sanity, and laziness like some giant, meth-addled rodent with an antisocial complex.
I suppose my single greatest apprehension
iswas the fear that this book will somehow not measure up to The Dead of Winter. I found myself constantly questioning its quality, deathly afraid that, had their places been switched, this novel would not have landed me the deal. It’s hardly fair to compare a first draft with a manuscript I’d spent a year polishing, but insecurities care not for justice. Knowing that this book will be held up to a standard and that it will be published adds entire new dimensions of obsessing over quality, even in the first draft. I fully recognize that I’m far too close to the manuscript now to have any hope of making an objective-ish assessment of its quality. All I see are the flaws, the parts that extracted wails of misery from my inner editor, the short sections of prose that took me far too many hours to choke out. Whether or not my beta readers pick up on these chinks in the armor remains to be seen.
Fortunately, I simultaneously operated under the
delusionimpression that I was incorporating the lessons I’d learned from The Dead of Winter into this draft. These were mostly on a compositional level–sentence construction and dialogue and whatnot–rather than esoteric things like pacing and theme and tension. Wordcraft rather than storycraft, if you will. I’m hoping that, if successful, this increased attention to the mechanics during the first draft will free me up to pay more attention to abstracts in the revising stages, but that remains to be seen. I’m sure beta readers will look back at this post and howl with laughter after finding all of my typos, misused words, and clunky flow.