On the Subject of Writing, Part Two
Posted by Doug on June 7, 2010
Since a month ago when I wrote my last post on the particular subject of writing, I got up to 37,000+ words and then made a classic mistake: I started thinking too much about what I had written. Of course, all that I had wrote suddenly became not good enough, and after a few days of not writing much at all, I decided to abandon the plan I detailed in that blog post (which seemed like such a great idea at the time), and began a rewrite, from the ground up. Kind of a fail, I know, but what can I say? This is my first time actually writing with serious intent to publish. I’m a noob, sorry.
Lame excuses, I know, but now that I’ve got them out of my system, I can move forwards.
I’ve set my daily writing goal a little lower, at a more sustainable 1,000 words per day, and so far, after eight days, I’ve managed to exceed that even without trying too hard. This means it will likely be August or September before Rikuzentakata is available. Still, I think that even though this is a step backwards, it’s still a positive move overall. The story starts stronger, I think, weaving some action and exposition together in the prologue before settling into the story of a rookie mecha pilot’s first battles and a veteran mecha pilot’s last ones. Just compare the first paragraphs of my original–
The previous pilot of the twenty-meter-tall mecha that Special Warrant Officer Enokido Harumi now sat at the controls to had committed suicide in the predawn hours of the previous day. Enokido had not known him–he had been part of a unit based in Saitama, whereas she was with the 389th Battalion, ‘C’ Company out of Itoigawa–but the specter of his tragic end weighed heavily upon her. The final act of the mecha’s former pilot had been to press the barrel of his standard JGSDF issue handgun, a Minebea 9mm, into his right eye socket, and then pull the trigger, while seated in the cockpit where Enokido now sat. Thankfully, it had been thoroughly cleaned, but Enokido found the harsh antiseptic odor lingering in the cockpit disturbing.
Enokido carried an identical Minebea handgun strapped to her side. That could have been me, she thought, and for a brief moment, imagined herself turning the pistol to her own head and–
Don’t think like that!, she told herself, pushing the ominous thoughts away. Enokido focused her mind on staying connected to the mecha’s control system as she piloted it. Known as a ‘titan’, the mecha was forty-three metric tons of steel and composite armor. As the light of dawn broke over the hills of Iwate in early spring of the year 2013, she jogged eastward towards Kamaishi, paralleling one of the national highways at a little over seventy kilometers per hour, the titan guided by Enokido’s mental commands. Just don’t think about it. Focus on the task at hand. Get to Kamaishi, find the dismounted pilot, give him the titan, and then wait to be picked up. Then, I’ll go find a temple and pray for the deceased. But try as she might, she could not keep the morbid thoughts from dominating her: That is, if I survive. Maybe someone will be praying for me instead? Maybe Hisagi-nee, or Miyuki-san, she thought, the names of her friends from the 389th coming to mind. That is, if they survive…
–to what I have now–
The previous pilot of the twenty-meter-tall mecha that Enokido Harumi now sat at the controls to had committed suicide in the predawn hours of the previous day. Enokido had been transferred into the 389th Battalion only two months ago, and she was in a Charlie Company, so she had barely known the young man, who had been a member of Alfa Company. Even still, the specter of his tragic end weighed heavily upon her. It was a harsh reminder of the nature of the lives that mecha pilots like herself lived.
The final acts of the deceased were to climb into this mecha’s cockpit, securely strap himself in, press the barrel of his standard-issue handgun into his eye socket, and pull the trigger. He had given no warnings, and he had left no farewells. The cockpit had been thoroughly cleaned, but Enokido found the harsh antiseptic odor that still lingered inside disturbing. Enokido’s sidearm was identical to the one the pilot had killed himself with, a Minebea 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
That could just as easily have been me.
The thought came unbidden into Enokido’s mind, and for a brief moment, she imagined turning the handgun to her own head and–
“Harumi! What are you doing?” Over the radio, the voice of one of her senior teammates, Sakuraba Hisagi, sounded staticky, distorted, garbled, but the sense of urgency came across loud and clear. Enokido turned to look at her, or more accurately, to look at the mecha she piloted, a drab olive green humanoid machine crafted of steel and composite armor. Known as a ‘titan’ , the mecha was decorated only with the insignia of the Ground Self-Defense Force and the 389th Battalion’s logo. With a wave of her titan’s arm, Sakuraba beckoned Enokido. “We’ve orders to intercept the Eskies at Tanohata–they’ll be making landfall any minute now! Let’s go!”
I think the second one just works better. Both work to set the mood, both get almost the same bits of exposition out of the way, but the latter gets to some action quicker. I’d have started with Enokido in the midst of conflict from the first sentence, but I like putting the bit about the suicidal pilot up there first.
In any case, I have at least two potential buyers lined up, too: one of my co-workers and one of my former co-workers, after hearing a brief description of the main story arcs, have both stated that they would be buying it when it came out. Which means I’ve also got people who will be disappointed if I don’t actually finish writing it. This is good and bad: good, because it is encouraging, but bad, because of the pressure. So it goes.
In other slightly related news, I’ve been following Mark Coker’s Official Smashwords blog, and seeing his post on serialized novels makes me feel compelled to make a clarification: even though Rikuzentakata is Book One of a (hopefully) larger series, it is not a serial. It will be a complete novel. I’m not saying every little thread I introduce in the narrative will be neatly tied up by the end, but all the major ones will be. Each book of the series will be written so as to allow it to be enjoyed regardless of whether or not any of the other books in the series have been read. While sequels and trilogies and similar formats are all good and fun, I just don’t like the idea of serialized novels. Even if there was one that caught my eye, I probably would not buy it, instead waiting until the entire series was completed and then buying a compendium or collection.