Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Espresso Book Machine update

Here's a link to an interview of Tom Allen, COO of On Demand Books/the Espresso Book Machine

(The actual interview is on page 2, after the historical intro, so be sure to hit the 'next page' button at the bottom of the page.)

My own novel

So, I was cleaning out the basement office last week and stumbled upon my old writing files, so I dusted them off and sorted through to find the original outline for the novel I am currently at 90,000 words on. Several facts struck me.

First, the outline (which would have come after a long period of thinking of the story before committing an outline to paper) is dated March 17, 1975. So that means I have had this novel in my head for well over 35 years. The original outline is very close to the current version; as close as I would likely stick to any outline in the actual writing stage. (My characters are the sort who insist on saying what they want, even when it means going off script.) So that's pretty amazing to me considering I haven't seen this outline since filing it in this filing cabinet when I first moved to Lethbridge, 20 years ago. I've added the character of a young boy sometime in the 1990s (because Sean Stewart told me it is next to impossible to write good action SF with kids in it; so, you know, wanted a bit of a challenge) and I added a dog during the actual writing (because I got a dog during the actual writing, and because, you know, the boy needed a dog). So considering it's all just been scenes evolving in my head all those years, bit surprised to see how close I am to original idea.

Second, the two pages of opening scene (all that existed aside from the outline) are hand printed on strips of lined paper stapled to an 8.5 X 11 sheet. That is, I had written a bit, then changed my mind, cut the sentences I wanted to save out of the page, and stapled them to a new sheet, to continue writing; then cut bottom off that page, and stabled surviving paragraph to a new sheet; and repeated this several times until filling the page. Which is how one did word processing, circa 1975.

Third, the initial outline is on a 5X3 index card hand printed in such tiny letters I cannot read it without a magnifying glass. I recall that I used to keep all my notes that way. Unbelievable -- and unreadable -- to me now. I hereby solemnly swear not to take typing for granted again. Long live the keyboard! (If I thought typing 90,000 word manuscript was hard, I cannot imagine what it would have been like writing a novel by hand.

Fourth -- and this really hurts -- are lines like this piece of dialog: "Frayer is well into his fifties, but don't let that throw you, he's a damn good officer." Questions of literary merit aside, it's a little annoying to have one's younger self send such a clear message to me now, saying I am of such an advanced age to be officially over the hill and my competence suspect. *Sigh*

Fifth, re-reading this outline, it appears that I didn't have any ideas back then either for what comes next. I have about three scenes left to cover on the original outline, and then I'm on my own.... 36 years and I still don't know how the stupid book is supposed to end.