Adam Christopher | Steampunk and dark fantasy author. Now with added superheroes!

Adam Christopher is a New Zealand-born SF writer living in the sunny north of England.

Archive for August 6, 2009

The end is the beginning is the end

Seven Wonders is finished.

Oh yes. The bad guy got what was coming, the good guys got what was coming. There was a meeting on the moon, there was an attack on the city. There was one mother of a finale, with the superheroes of the world uniting in high orbit to defend the planet against an alien attack. Exciting and action-packed, I hope.

Except it’s not finished. The final chapter has been written, the last sentence typed. The story is complete and plot threads resolved.
Except for the middle bit of the book, which I skipped.

Now, I had my reasons. Seven Wonders was pretty difficult to get started. Although I’m a fan of and familiar with the superhero genre, it’s a new one to write in for me, and getting it right is tricky. It has to be serious but not po-faced, with all the capes and spandex and X-ray vision of comics, but without descending into parody or silliness. I cracked it in the end, and the second half of Seven Wonders really took off.

But in order to make the jump and get things rolling, I had to call it quits on the earlier part of the book. I’ve called it “Act II” on Twitter, but really it’s the second half of Act I. There is a big transition to make between all of my characters making their independent discoveries at the beginning of the book, to the giant battles at the end. This bit is really integral, the whole reason for writing the book in the first place, the whole high concept thing. I stopped writing it because I didn’t know the characters well enough, and wasn’t happy with what they were doing. What I had written turned into a series of independent events with no apparent arc or theme. So I stopped, knowing that I would return at the end and add all this in. Now that I know what becomes of the characters in the story – sometimes diverging from my original outline by quite a margin – I can go back, plant the seeds, build the arc, and push everyone where they need to go. Aceness. Currently the manuscript is at 89,284 words, which gives me just over 10k to fill in.

And then I sat down to do some outlining of this Act I.5, and it’s so long I think I’m going to need, oh, 50k to fit it all on. Well, hot dang.

As with my first novel, Dark Heart, the target wordcount is 100,000, for various reasons I have mentioned in the past, but mainly because for a first novel from an unpublished author, 99.99%-recurring agents won’t touch anything longer. While this doesn’t influence my writing to a significant extent – a story is as long as it needs to be – it is something I try and keep track of. Dark Heart ended up as 126,000-something, which means it’ll need trimming in the second draft. The second draft that I’m supposed to be working on now, in August, while the completed vomit draft of Seven Wonders sits on the shelf in as fancy Lulu POD’ed trade paperback editing copy.

But it looks – maybe – that Seven Wonders is going to be longer, possibly much longer. Well, fine. The first draft is the first draft is the first draft. As Scott Sigler said (more on my interview with him later!), you’ve gotta get that clay on the wheel. So Seven Wonders is going to be a long one, and will need maybe another month to finish up.

What does that mean? Absolutely nothing, really, except I’m a list-maker and a box-checker, and had the rest of 2009 mapped out, writing-wise. Now that schedule is out by a month, which considering the glacial pace of writing and publishing in general, is nothing major. But one frustration is seeing steampunk increase in popularity almost daily, and I’ve got a cracking steampunk series that begins with Dark Heart, a novel that is in need of rewriting before I can even begin to think of shopping it around.

But that’s just me. Steampunk won’t go away. If anything, it’ll be even more popular in 2010, looking at forthcoming books, films and TV shows.

So what do I do? I write, and keep writing, and do my damnedest to make Seven Wonders completely awesome, even if it is 150,000 words long.

Time to put some new dates on the wall planner.

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