Building the Airplane ...

No...I haven't been on any sort of vacation. (The annual pilgrimage to State College not withstanding).

In what free time I've had, I've been trying to finish up the current "Act" of No Cognitive Defect. Two "Acts" have been completed so introduction of some of the major characters and setting the scene was the first. Next came a trip to the past to establish some history. The current "Act" will leave most of the characters in peril while I recharge my batteries. (I don't think I'll be "recharging" for very long...I really want to keep this moving).

In the course of doing this project ...of writing the first draft of a novel online, warts and all ...I've begun to discover a bit about how my process works. Many writers work like sculptors...they throw a big mess of clay in front of them and carve away to release the sculpture that was "...already there, waiting for them."

That doesn't work for me.

I've discovered I write a novel much like I built balsa wood model airplanes when I was a kid. I lay down the underpinnings of the story much like I would lay down the bare balsa ribs of a model's wings and fuselage. When I built the airplanes, a finished frame was clearly recognizable as an aircraft ...and it was not only ugly but utterly incapable of flight. It's the same thing with No Cognitive Defect. I am laying down the framework. There are pieces that read well, and pieces that read (to me at least) as clumsy and forced.

But, again, I'm building the "airframe" of the novel. When my model airplanes had their major components framed out, it was time to cover them with tissue paper, add the cockpit detail, begin the careful process of applying layers of paint, decals, etc. From all that detail work, the airplane emerged.

When I finish the first draft of No Cognitive Defect, and the "airframe" is complete, here is what think will happen next.

  1. I will have a brief nervous breakdown. Couple hours, couple days. Who knows?
  2. I will put NCD aside for a month or two.
  3. I will read it, hate it, and contemplate slitting my wrists with a dull razor.
  4. I will then begin the detail work...filling in the gaps, fleshing out characters, taking out the things that don't work. This will resemble what I did with The Tears of Saint Lawrence, a draft of which is still on this site. The final version (which isn't posted) was lean, mean, and added some meat to the character's bones.

Once I'm through all four of the above steps, that will be the second draft. I will then repeat these steps, and all the requisite nervous breakdowns therein for each draft of the novel, until I have something hopefully worthy of being sent out to an editor.

Will it be sold?

Well, that's another story...and probably another round of nervous breakdowns. But I do this because I don't have a choice. I write because I have to, not because I want to. I am driven, God help me. I have no delusions of grandeur. I have no expectations of success. I just have the keyboard, the monitor, and characters that talk to me and want me to tell their stories. ...and now to write!

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