Novel/la/ette

I fear that I’m going to inevitably be guilty of a bit of vaguebooking (vagueblogging?) here, which I generally try to avoid as much as I can, but which is occasionally an inevitable peril of the writing life, but I did something recently that felt like a big deal to me, and I want to talk about it, to the extent that I am presently able:

Though I have been writing for a living for more than a year now, and almost inevitably write something just about–though not quite–every day, that something is not always fiction. In fact, though I currently have more than 20 short stories either sold or published in 2014 (a big jump up from the two or so that I published last year), the lion’s share of my income–and thus, the writing that I do–comes from freelance content work, producing blog articles, press releases, and even tweets for various companies and organizations, never with my own byline attached. So writing new fiction is still a great feeling, when I get the chance to do it, and recently I completed, in three days no less, what will probably be my third-longest published work, once it is published; a novella (or novelette, depending on your definition) that currently clocks at around 14,000 words and will be the centerpiece of my next collection, about which I can’t actually say much just yet, but there’ll be an official announcement coming soon, I promise.

I say that I wrote it in three days, and that’s true, in the sense that I typed 14,000 words over the course of three days (with a one-day break in-between when I had to do other things instead), but I have been working on this story for more than a year. I don’t know exactly when the idea for this story first came to me, but I know that it was before the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland back in April, because I was already talking about it with people there. Over the months that this story took shape in my notebooks, it underwent several permutations, and I probably wrote the first 5,000 words of it half-a-dozen times. It has been sitting at the top of my perennial to-do list for so long now that I was beginning to think it would never get crossed off, before I finally sat down and knocked out that rough draft in three days of more-or-less continual writing.

I haven’t actually re-read the story since I (figuratively) typed “the end” on it–I try to always give my stories at least a few days before I so much as look at them a second time–but my first reader has taken a look at it already, and I feel pretty good about it. I’m excited about this one, and eager to talk, but I can’t really, not yet. So why am I writing a post about something I can’t really talk about? Well, it’s not the story that I felt warranted the post, so much as the process. The combination of a few days of intensive writing after months of notations and brainstorming felt like something that I wanted to document, though I don’t know how much anyone outside of my head is actually interested in reading much about process.

I’ve never been much of a process person, really. While I have things that typically work for me–on most shorter stories, for example, I always type the thing out at least twice, because I find that rewriting, rather than simply revising, catches things that I might otherwise miss, things that aren’t quite mistakes, but that do make the story better–I also find that different work requires different approaches, and my process tends to change from one piece to another. That said, it’s worth noting that, in addition to being one of the longer things I ever finished, this is also the second thing I ever wrote entirely in Scrivener. (The first was Gardinel’s Real Estate.) I didn’t come anywhere close to using the full potential of the platform on this project, mostly just writing in it exactly as I would any other word processor, but I did make extensive use of the separate “notes” feature in order to store snippets for later use, and keep timelines and stuff straight. For Gardinel’s Scrivener was far more indispensable, since I was constantly making reference to Mike’s incredible drawings as I was doing the writing, and Scrivener let me toggle back and forth easily without switching windows.

The vagaries of freelance work often mean that it’s much more convenient to work in Word, but after this second run, I have a feeling that Scrivener will become a major fixture of my fiction toolkit, especially for longer and more complex works like the novel/la/ette I just completed.

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