Might As Well Face It

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was going to pull XIII out of the drawer and resume working on it, and I have been doing that with some degree of success since June/July (but going at a much slower pace than I am used to, which feels strange). I’m happy with my rework of the first 14 chapters, but I had to stop because I realized that I can’t really go through and line-edit without looking at the big-picture stuff first. I have ideas for later in the story that will need to be planted at the beginning, so I can’t exactly avoid taking a big-picture view.

In the course of looking at the entire story, I remembered something else about XIII that I tend to avoid thinking about: XIII was never intended to be a book. It was originally supposed to be a manga, but that never worked out for various reasons. So I tried to turn it into an actual novel, but at first, that never quite worked out either because the early drafts read more like episodes of a TV show. I realize now that this was a result of me watching a lot of soap operas at the time (and the result of being a teenager, which is when life pretty much is a soap opera).

But over the years, XIII became much less fragmented and more cohesive, so it adhered more and more to the traditional structure of a novel. As I read through it, I noticed that it still has some of the melodrama of a soap opera. To this day, I still enjoy dramas and soap operas because of the melodrama, the cliffhangers, and the large cast of characters who grow and develop (and get crazier) over many years. So in a way, I want to keep some of that in XIII.

Might as well face it. I like melodrama and histrionics. I know I’m supposed to be smart and enjoy classic novels and nonfiction books that I really have to wrap my brain around, and I do like that stuff. But not always. And I most certainly am not a “literary” writer, and I can’t pretend to be. The author and the story must remain true to themselves. Readers are smart; they can sense a fake.

2 thoughts on “Might As Well Face It

  1. “The author and the story must remain true to themselves.”

    I agree, and authors are more flexible than stories. A writer can write all sorts of different stories in a lifetime, but each story really has to be what it is. I remember reading Neil Gaimen’s Neverwhere, and it was obvious within a few pages that it had originally been a script. So what — it was still really fun.

    My second novel, U-town, started as a (very long) series of posts on some BBSs. At one point, I tried to remove that history and turn it into a “regular novel” — of regular novel length.That was worth doing, if only to prove to myself what a terrible idea it was.

    Then I went back to the original, unwieldy behemoth and wrote the rest (it ended up being over 170,000 words), embracing its awkward history. As you can see here, some chapters still have the original episode titles, from the BBS days: http://text.u-town.com/utown/starling.htm.

    It is what it is. It wouldn’t be any good if it was trying to be anything else.

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