Today we have more of Charlie Kenmore, talking about his writing experiences when a certain call happens. As writers, we’ve all been there, and I love seeing how others deal with something like this. Charlie does a great job of letting us take a peek into his creative process, especially when under a stressful deadline.
BETIMES BESTRIDE BEHEMOTHS
By Charlie Kenmore
I did it! In early September, I learned that Harper Voyager was having a two-week open call in the first two weeks of October for unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. This was an incredible opportunity. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any manuscripts that were ready to submit. The minimum length was 70,000 words, and the only finished novels in my “waiting to placed” file were 44,000 to 49,000 words.
I had a 44,000 word science fiction novel, Aabharika, about a human derivative female detective on a far off world who discovers the face of a prospective client in an alley, and has to discover who the client was and why she would have been hired before she is killed because of it. I had a few ideas for a second book, and thought that if I stuck the second book at the end of the first book, then maybe I could get it out over 70,000 words. However, that left two significant problems. First, I only had a month to write 25,000 plus words. Second, I really had no idea what to write.
For some authors, 25,000 words is an average week’s work. I am not one of those authors. I can turn out several thousand words a day for several days running. However, I’ve never maintained that pace for any prolonged period time. Since mostly I write short stories, there has never been such a need. Nonetheless, I decided to try to expand Aabharika to meet the minimum HV requirements in four weeks.
The second problem was just as daunting. I had no clear idea of where the story should go. At the end of the shorter version of the novel, I left Abby in the middle of a civil war. I had no idea where I was headed, but I’m a pantser, so I took David Tennant’s Dr. Who’s advice, “allons-y”, and just picked up where I left off. Abby continued her training while her forces gathered intelligence and consolidated their positions. I felt pretty comfortable with where the story was headed. As I sat back and prepared for the two sides to battle for galactic supremacy, out of nowhere, the Muse decided that it was the ideal time for a third party inter-galactic invasion. What the kzhetz?
What if the alien assassins weren’t just hired guns? What if they were actually the vanguard for an incursion by their species? Well, if I take the attack on the base and turn it into a double cross and trap…. Then if the CWs change their alliance to the Sisterhood.…
Here is where being a pantser played to my advantage. I just let the Muse go off in her unanticipated direction, and didn’t waste a lot of time worrying about the prior plot line. I figured that she knew what she was doing, and we’d get to the end of the story together.
A trip out of town, some real world business, a death in the family, and four weeks dwindled to one. There was no time to follow my tee shirt’s advice that “Even if it’s crap, just get it on the page.” I had to get the story on the page, but there was no time left for crap. With only a couple of days to go, the word count was approaching 70,000. Then a new problem arose.
For many years, I wrote with a small, gray cat on my shoulder or my lap. Daisy was nineteen, and failing. She didn’t appear to be in pain, but she couldn’t eat and had trouble standing. She stayed with me as I wrote the end of the story. I finished the book, 74,000+ words, and an hour later she passed. Yes, there is a character named Daisy in the book.
Aabharika is under submission to Harper Voyager. While it is clichéd to say that one can do anything one sets one’s mind to, at a minimum, this novel demonstrated to me that if there is a story to be told, you need to just sit there and tell it. Whatever the problems are, they are surmountable. Just keep writing.
Thanks for letting me ramble.
CK Copyright 10/8/12, moral rights asserted worldwide.