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breeden
ursulav

Slate Revisited

In advance of NaNoFiMo I dug out that long ago novel from 2006′s Nanowrimo, about Slate the ninja accountant and the paladin with the dead demon in his head, and started re-reading it, editing as I went.

Huh.

Reading something six years old is odd.

Most of it is…serviceable. Which is an ugly-sounding word, but I think undeservedly so. Writing has to be serviceable to do the job. There are long stretches where the writing gets you from Point A to Point B and I don’t know that I can come up with a better way to do it. And parts of it really work well.

So, serviceable with flashes of great. Maybe not as good as I’d write today, starting cold, but it hangs together.

And then there’s the dialog.

I have long maintained that dialog is a separate skill from writing the Point A to Point B bits, and I know perfectly well that I’m much better at one than the other. The dialog has points that have me actually laughing at the keyboard. I couldn’t do those better. In fact, I start to think “This would be a good line–” and two lines later, there it is.

It’s just odd, because the contrast between “serviceable” and “awesome” is so much starker. I have gotten better at writing Point A to Point B, but my dialog was as good then as it is now.

The editing at this point is mostly hacking apart over-long sentences and sending sad commas to their eternal reward. Occasionally I skip to the end and make a note in the file.

When I get to the end, though, I have to decide whether there’s enough going on with the plot to make it worthwhile to actually finish the bloody thing.

Plots are my weak point. I can write you a scene all day long, but my plots tend to consist of “Let’s go the long way around, and then perhaps there will be self-actualization/torture/spectacle/cake.” My only hope is that readers come along, scene by scene.

This is why I like fairy tales. Somebody already did that bit.

And there’s a lot to be said for “A fun ramble with good conversation,” but that won’t necessarily sell the book. And there are such potentially big things going on—dude has a decaying demon in his head! Ivory clockwork golems destroy the city! Fatalistic accountant ninja learns to love life again! Tattoos eat everybody!—that having the point of the book STILL be excuse-for-witty-banter-between-assassins becomes…I dunno, a bit bathetic?

I think I know the plot of this one. I suspect that once I get to the end of what I’ve got, I can write down the damn synopsis, go back and chop out a few chunks that do nothing much, and cram bits of plot into the resulting holes.

Just not sure if, on this one, the game is worth the candle.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

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