Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Novel First Efforts

Or, how I learned that outlining is probably not for me.

As I start working on overhauling my WIR to move from a collaborative universe to one wholly of my own creation, I've been reminded of "The Mikovsky Formula," (note the typical Ludlum-esque 3-word title) my first attempt to write a novel, back in 1981. At the time, I was working in a not good neighborhood without restaurants in the immediate vicinity, just a tiny bar that would run out of food (there was a limited menu of hamburgers and cheese sandwiches) about midway through lunch hour. So, I brought my lunch and ate in a lot and wrote. I wrote at home, too, after work, and in longhand wrote the first draft of this never-typed-up novel. I had recently started writing fan fic for zines and the protag of this novel was a reworking of a character I created for my Man from UNCLE stories: Anna Koslova, former KGB agent in exile in the US and working as a PI of sorts.

I didn't even think of writing an outline. I just wrote and figured it out as I went, same as I did with my fan fic. I figured out the mystery by the end and it felt good. In a way, it was a detailed outline. And then, I lost interest. I meant to revise it, polish it, submit it somewhere, but it really wasn't very good and I'd figured it all out. I was done with it.

Many years later, I tried again, this time to rework an actual piece of fan fiction, a novella-length Equalizer story. It was to be the first time a friend and I were going to write collaboratively. We got as far as renaming the characters and changing the Equalizer universe concepts. I lost interest. After all, I'd already written that story and didn't want to do it again.

In between those times, I tried to plot out a complicated fan fic story with an outline and got nowhere. Without the characters living and breathing the story, I had no real concept of how to move things forward. It wasn't my story, but theirs, so the story elements weren't in my mind until I wrote characters doing and saying the things needing to be done and said.

So now I have a first draft and need to revise. I didn't use an outline to get it written and it took 3 attempts to finish, but finished it is. And I think, because I will be making substantial changes to the protagonist and the universe, and because a fair amount of time has passed to make it feel fresh, I'll get the next draft written. Without losing interest. I hope.

Crossposted to my LiveJournal.

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