This is the second in a series of posts about the redrafting process of THE LONG ROAD which will be composed and published as I rewrite the book. The other posts in this series are here.
To recap, my goal from last week was:
Let’s see…by this time next week I will have worldbarfed the war itself. Right now I have a solid sense of the conditions and context of it but still a very nebulous sense of what actually happened.
What has actually happened:
I have, in fact, worldbarfed most of the war! Not all of it – I don’t yet have a full sense of the endgame – but I have managed to figure out a large chunk of the Ominous Middle Section which I have for years avoided building out. Progress has been made!
I have over 30 handwritten pages of slightly organized fodder for this next draft. I’ve managed to get past the hard part of ecologically and dialectically centering the war in pre-existing conditions. That was the heavy lifting needed to make the crux of this book make sense to me, and now that I’ve got that nailed down I’ve been mapping out the specifics of the course of that war. And by mapping out I mean throwing ideas on the page as soon as I get them.
This is not the most efficient way to do this. It is not the easiest jumble of information to use down the line, as I found yesterday when I paged through my growing notebook for a tidbit of information I was sure I wrote down somewhere – here? no before that…or after? I don’t know. somewhere – but couldn’t find. And then I just kept on wroldbarfing anyway.
It is liberating. It is necessary to just throw it all out there without sorting it out. And I have figured out why this is working for me so well: it’s organic. It feels very much like I am watching these histories unfold rather than trying to engineer something, which is exactly how it should feel. When I write a good indication that the writing is going well is when I feel like a passenger, or a spectator. Like the story is happening of its own accord and I am simply recording it. Getting to that feeling already is a good sign.
Now, I’m in the thick of working out the war itself. Now, by inclination and habit I tend to write smaller stories, ones that just happen, not earth-shattering events. That’s one reason why I felt the need to redo this foundational worldbuilding in the first place – the scope of this story has always been offputting to me. Counterintuitive. But, goddamn it, it is my story! And it has such potential! And now I’m finally getting to a point where it does actually feel like it’s my story and has potential I can bring out.
So I’m in the thick of the war, now, as I said. And I thought (erroneously – notice how often that happens) that I would just plot it out. That it would be clear-cut and dry. Instead, my planning process for the war itself has been like this:
This is a map of how a computer decides what move to make in a chess game it is playing against itself (click through for source link). And this is basically what I’ve been doing. It’s actually very exciting – I worldbarf a bit about one side is up to, their options, the divergences of opinion within their ranks and then BAM switch to the other side that totally does something surprising! And then side 1 has to react to that. Well how would I react to that? LIKE THIS, SIDE 2, THAT’S HOW I WOULD REACT. Oh yeah? Yeah, Side 1? Well what if Side 2 DID THIS, huh??
Back and forth trying to outsmart myself. Now that I’ve spent all that time working out the limits and edges of this world’s sandbox, framing the paradigm in which this war takes place, and structuring who has access to what resources why and when, this back and forth is actually quite seamless and easy to do. All that foundational work was really building the rules of the game, and now I get to play it.
Next week’s goal. I will hopefully be done playing this game of chess against myself. I’ll have a sense of how the war transpires and why it transpires that way, and I will be able to start figuring out who the cast of characters will be in the book.