Home > Writing > I Owe It All to One Thing

I Owe It All to One Thing

That thing, of course, is Metroid Metal.

Pictured: my thinking cap

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.

Fortunately, I happen to know some guys who have experience in dealing with giant rodents.

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.

I'm pretty sure there are only a few small ones, though.

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.

Seriously, quit laughing. I don't see the problem.

Categories: Writing
  1. February 23, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    I so feel your pain, Lee, since I just handed in the first draft of my own second book to Angry Robot. I know it’s way less polished than the first, so I’m just hoping that, having seen what I’m capable of, they’ll recognise the diamond in the rough 🙂

    • February 23, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      I’m sure they’ll recognize it and let you into the Cave of Wonders. I, on the other hand, still have to pull this draft out of “Gazim the humble thief” territory.

  2. February 23, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    (Insert Michael Palin voice) First draft? First draft? Ooooh, I lie awake at night dreeeeeaaaamin’ of ‘andin’ in a first draft!

    30k into the first draft of my 2nd AR book. The finish line seems a looooooong way away.

    • February 23, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      Were I to dream of ‘andin’ in this first draft, it would swiftly turn to a nightmare of Marc and Lee responding with a hearty “What the hell is this?”

      • February 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM

        Well, I call it a first draft. It’s the first complete draft, but the opening chapters have been rewritten several times, I think, whilst I was trying to nail the story. I like to start from a solid foundation, but I end up basically winging it for most of the second half of the book 🙂

        Now I have to start all over again with a third book, without knowing if they’re OK with the plot of the second one *wibbles*

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