Friday, October 1

Other stuff

I thought (in addition to the political whingeing below) some of you might be interested in the progress of CAINE BLACK KNIFE.

Writing this book has been an interesting process; it's the first time since I starting actually getting paid for this shit that I've been working without a net -- that is, lacking a detailed outline that traces the chain of causation from initiating incident through climax (the technical term is Bond-movie Big Blowoff).

So I'm 60,000 words in, and I discover that there are things (and, in fact, people) Caine actually knew at the beginning of the novel that would have affected how he handles the situation.

So I have spent the last month or so re-conceptualizing the whole fucking thing. Basically, I'm back-creating an outline that will incorporate as much as possible of the work I've already done, changing only where necessary.

The good news is, it's gonna be really, really good. My word on it. The bad news is, now I'm running behind.

As usual.



Shawn Scarber said...

I’ve a few old-timer western writers I get to sit around and shoot the shit about writing with from time to time, and these guys swear that ‘writing for discovery’ is the best way to go.

I tried and tried to write that way, but never seemed to ‘get it’. It wasn’t until I actually started writing initial treatments (like screenwriters from the old 1930’s movie houses) and then breaking those back down into outlines for analysis that I was able to even come close to producing a story I could be proud of. I don’t see anything wrong with a roadmap as long as it’s not your master.

I tend to go treatment, outline, back to another treatment, and then on to a first draft. I think what helps me is the fact that the treatment is just telling the story. No fancy dialogue or descriptions, just getting down the facts and the action reaction stuff so that’s it’s logical and works for my character. This helps me focus on the things that are important to the story – no extra world building or extra character development. It might seem like a lot of work at first, but when I finally sit down to write my first draft I’m free to actually go into Uta Hagen mode and experience the story moment by moment.

Nice thing about this method is that my first draft is pretty close to my last draft. I only have to clean up my crummy grammar and spelling mistakes and make a few minor changes.

I’m sure that was more info than you wanted, but I thought I would graciously reward you with my profound wisdom since you chose to speak on something other than politics. ;)

Shawn Scarber – one of the many secret RNC operatives. Hey, what do you expect, they’re the party of the rich, and they pay great!

Seriously though, I await CAINE BLACK KNIFE the way a 13 year old boy awaits his mother’s latest Victoria Secrets catalog.

Anonymous said...

I've personally never gotten too far into a story w/o having to revamp it- usually stories formulate in my mind for a long long time before they finally solidify into something write-down-able. (Which results in my having an arseload of unwritten ideas in my head- far more than I've stuckgot down on paper, so to speak.) But my in-the-head revampings have sometimes gotten pretty thorough.

And that was an excellent, excellent analogy, Shawn.

MWS said...

"Writing for discovery" is easy for people who write Westerns.

Fucking easy.

For example, they don't have to explain what a horse is, figure out what their ecological relationship is to coyotes, mountain lions and Apaches, decide how a six-shooter works, or codify the metaphysical relationship between the laws of physics and Christian theology. Among a host of other things.

In other words, two-thirds of the work that a fantasy novelist does is already done FOR them.

Shit, even MYSTERY writers can't just "write for discovery," since they (at least) have to know who did what and why, and have some idea how their hero is going to figure it out.

If you're writing SFantasy, use a fucking outline. Unless you just don't really give a shit about internal consistency (which, after all, is relevant largely to my own style of SFantasy -- the more fabulous and fabulated styles are often IMPROVED by self-contradiction, but that's another story).

The only reason I thought I could get away without doing so is that I'm working in a universe in which I've already published some 500,000 words (and written nearly another 500,000).

Guess what?

I was wrong.

Anonymous said...


I'm a really big fan of the "Caine" saga. I was just wondering, as good as the books are, you leave much in the shadows. While this adds spice to the story as readers try to figure out what happened between who and where this actually took place, you could probably get a bigger response by writing about Caine's past adventures, like Escape from the Boedeckan, or A Servent to the Empire.

We all know the outcome, but your fans want the juicy part of it, not the rewards. I was dissappointed when I read about what Berne had done to Caine when working under Hannto the Scythe, but that was only because it skimmed over the adventure. Although my internet access is limited and I have only heard a brief overlay of Caine Black Knife, but I can't hardly wait.

Could you possibly consider writing on Caine's past adventures? It would make the character of Caine just that much more interesting. Also, I'm addicted to the random acts of violence that Caine usually finds himself in. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I just know that there are many others out there who feel the same as I do concerning Caine's career. Thanks again.

Cora said...

Before starting to write, I have an outline in my head. But I never put it down on paper. I've tried doing it and it utterly killed my desire to write the actual story.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Cora. You're the only person I know who's actually finished something long working without an outline. I know a lot of would-be writers; I've went to seminars and the like and met them. Most of them say the same thing you do--they simply feel outlining ruins the story. But everyone I've met who says that has never completed anything lengthier than a novella. One girls' drawer was filled with the first ten pages of novels that then died. Whereas, of the writers I know who DO outline, 9 out of 10 finish their longer works.

I'm therefore a big fan of outlining everything--I spent about 3 months detailing EVERYTHING about my fantasy trilogy I have planned. 20 pages of various character histories, 25 of world history, 20 per book of plot, and ten of various racial characteristics. That's a lot. Did it kill my desire to write the story? Temporarily. This particular story's haunted me for over 6 years, and I've already tossed two versions of the first novel. I've got a feeling it will be to me what Heroes Die was to Matt--that story you itch at for years and can't quite get. And in the meantime, I've got at least two movies to work on. So my hiatus isn't a huge deal; I've still got enough information--and passion--for this world that leaping back into it will be easy.

I'm not dissing your style--actually, I'm impressed. Writing without a net is a damn hard thing to do; I have a hell of a time doing it on short stories, let alone novel-length.

Just remember: Everyone is different. No two people are not on fire. The end.


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david said...

Hi Matthew, I was reading your blog and like the guy mentioned in the Yoda gas post I cannot find your email anywhere. I just wanted to say how much I love Star Wars Traitor. I read it back in grade 10 (about 5 years ago) when I got it out from the library. I read it twice in the period I could have it. Later around christmas that year I took it out again and read it, must have been 4 times in the period. Anyways, I bought it later that year and it's one of those books that I continually read and re-read. Probably the best part I love is finding the meaning in everything, lies we hear, supposed truths we were brought up with etc. I won't take up anymore or your time but I must say I'm pretty paranoid about how I write this as I'm sending it to an author, haha.

Thank you for writing it.