The Scythe in my Toolshed

This is an update on how Hawk is coming along.  The answer is: mostly all right, I think.  I should qualify that (joke, Moshe).

The book took an interesting and fun twist while I was in Texas last month, and I like where it’s going.  In brief, I’ve taken the first chunk of chapters and moved them to the back, leaving me to write up to them.  This isn’t something I’m used to doing, which is a challenge.  The way the book has decided to structure itself is also a bit weird, fun, and difficult.  If I can pull this off, I’ll be pleased with it.

But the interesting thing is that I find myself writing a WHOLE LOT OF CRAP.  I mean, I usually figure that, while I’m putting things together, there will be a lot that drops out in revisions; but never like this.  The first draft of the first chapters contain an amazing amount of flab, and as I write, I keep reminding myself that, in the mental shed where I keep my writerly tools, there are delicate scalpels, jigsaws, a hammer, a set of screwdrivers, and, for situations like this there’s a  scythe.  I haven’t used it much, but it’s there.  I know that once the first draft is done, there’s no reason not to haul it out and get to slashing.  The point is to get to where the story comes together in a way I like; then I can go back and cut away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.  I’ve done that before; but this time it’s just amazing how much doesn’t look like an elephant.

For me, a great deal of writing revolves around tricking my brain into doing what I want it to do.  That is, finding a way to let the hindbrain tell the forebrain what the story is that I’m actually writing.  I have a lot of ways of tricking myself, but one that seems to consistently produce good results is just to keep going.  Keep plowing on, even if I’m writing page after page of running in place.  Eventually, there comes forward movement, and then eventually a nice shape and the snick of things coming together, and then I go back and make it look like I knew it all along.

But this time, there is just so much running in place that it’s freaking me out a little bit.  I’m falling back on my cockiness, and reminding myself that I’ve done this before (like, 20-some times); I can do this, and it will come together.  But in the meantime, it’s a little bit scary thinking of all the work that scythe will be doing; I mean, when I’m done, am I going to have a novel or a piece of flash fiction?  But the big secret is, that “little bit scary” is kind of fun.


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18 thoughts on “The Scythe in my Toolshed”

  1. You know, you may be writing two different books at the same time and you won’t know until you have pulled them apart.

    Remember, when trimming fat that the BEST potatoes are cooked in left over goose fat. (Maybe its Hawk fat in this case)

  2. Heh, this sounds like my own writing approach with the important proviso that I haven’t yet actually finished either of the novels I’m working on, much less sold or published them. Somehow I imagine the prospects are rather better for Hawk, though.

  3. Mr. Brust, you’re my favorite author. I own all of your Dragaerian books, and I can’t wait to read Hawk. Vlad told you an awesome tale and you’re just perfecting it, maybe Daymar will call in some overdue favors! Either way, keep it up! (We ask nothing better.)

  4. Would it be rude to say how *relieved* I am to hear you’re having trouble with the draft and that the revisions are where you make it look like you knew it all along? I just finished a re-read of Jhereg, concluding with my thought, ‘How in the world did he DO that? I’m never going to be able to write a puzzle like that.’

    So, thanks for being so forthright. It’s encouraging. (And thanks for generous responses on other posts, as well.)

  5. How about a Writing Book collecting some of the scenes that hurt you the most when they fell victim to the scythe, accompanied by explanations of why you had to exclude them from the novel? Readers always appreciate insight into a writer’s decision-making process. At the very least, it might pay for a few cups of klava. With cream.

  6. Thanks for the insight! The writing process of my favorite authors is a curiosity of mine. For all of the cutting you say you’ve done in the past, your books have always read very polished and well thought out. It’s made me wonder if the stories have fallen from your mind perfectly woven or if there is, in fact a lot of revision involved in making the final product.

    When starting a new book in a series this long, do you start with a skeleton of plot points you want to touch along the way, or do you start writing around one part of the story and let it evolve from there?

    I can’t wait to read Hawk! Good luck with the cutting! :D

  7. Interesting idea, but no. There are very few scenes that have ever hurt me to cut. For the most part, that stuff was cut because it sucked. The beauty of the writing process is that, when I realize I suck, I never have to show anyone. :-)

  8. Each book is different. I’ve been known to use an extensive plot outline. On the other hand, my favorite way to write involves just starting with, “That would be a cool opening sentence for something,” and going on to the next cool sentence until I have to figure out what the book is about.

  9. Good luck with Hawk. I’m sure the final product will be great!
    Meanwhile, could you encourage your publisher to release Jhereg, Taltos, Yendi and Teckla in e-book format so I can read those? Just hopeing!

  10. Timprov
    17 January 2013 at 4:53 am
    Apparently Hawk is not a brief, direct, and straightforward book. I imagine that will come as a great shock to Paarfi.

    And Daymar, poor Daymar just won’t know what to think.

    These deleted scenes, the result of running in place what sort of writing are they? I mean is it dialogue, backstory, stuff that happens that you realise you don’t need?

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