Until the chemistry is right

Many people think that it is important to have a title before you begin writing the book, but I think you should never sit around waiting for the right title to strike before you start writing. Crack on with the story, put in the hard work and the title will come eventually — Darren Shan

I think I may have come up with a title for my second novel. Imagine that.

It took me the weekend to come up with something. I’m not entirely committed to it yet but it feels like a good fit. I’m just going to let it linger for a bit.

Kinda like trying a new fragrance. A new blend of essential oils and aromatics. My blend already has the base and middle notes. I’ve been working with those from the beginning, refining as I move through the writing process. I’ve been playing with the top notes and they are the last pieces to the fragrance puzzle. A book title, book cover art work and the discerning eye of an editor as she combs through the manuscript once I’m ready to hand it over to her. The top notes are slowly coming together. Let each ingredient settle in, one by one. I have to see how the new title takes to the characters and the story landscape. They have to mingle. They have to be a really good fit before I can commit.

There will be chemistry. The good kind, I hope. Seriously, the last thing I want to have is the lab exploding in white hot heat. With some things, I’ll let the explosion happen. With the book, I’ll only tolerate a little smoke. Just enough to not set off the water sprinklers.

Now that I believe I have the book title, I can move forward with figuring out the art for the book cover. Can I do this myself or shall I invest in someone who has a bigger wheelhouse than me? I think I’ll have the answer by the end of this week.

I can also go back to the manuscript and work on a second draft. There’s one thing I want to add to it already. Just a handful of lines of dialogue. Then I’ll go over each scene (paragraph by paragraph, if necessary) to see if I can put a little more spunk and sparkle to what’s already there.

I stayed away from the manuscript for two weeks. But it was never far from my mind anyway. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that length of separation but I ended up finding a couple of stories to read online that had consumed certain aspects of my imagination. Let’s just say when I go in, I find myself going in for all or nothing.

And I have to drag myself away from all-or-nothing and turn my attention to a different kind of all-or-nothing — my novel, my characters, my boys. It won’t be difficult to fall back in with my boys. They know what I’ve been indulging in and, no surprise, they whole-heartedly approve of this particular indulgence.

Now, I must head back to the lab and play with all the notes, work with my boys. Just a little more experimenting, just a little more refinement until the chemistry is just right.

Art is…

All art is political. All art is philosophical. All art has a message Scott Derrickson

Just because art — whether it comes in the form of a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, a piece of music, a film or a novel — is meant to be enjoyed by the viewer/reader, it doesn’t mean it can’t be political, philosophical or carry a message at the same time.

The photographs that I’ve created may be pretty and even interesting. But my choice in photographic subject matter is deliberate. How I shoot it is deliberate. What is omitted from an image is deliberate.

The same can be said about my fiction writing. My choice of writing in the first or third person, my choice in story setting, my choice in topics to tackle are deliberate. Who my characters are, are deliberate. Everything in my storytelling is consciously and subconsciously deliberate.

The decision to be deliberate comes from an accumulation of life experiences, my morality, and a reaction to and manifestation of what I consider to be fundamentally important to me.

Art is a reaction to the world that surrounds the artist. Creativity stems from the relationship a person has with the world he or she functions in. Art is not separate from the rest of the world. Art is not created in a vacuum. It is a reflection, a reaction to the world.

So when entertainers, actors, filmmakers, writers and artists are told to go back to what they do best and keep their noses out of politics by those who have very compartmentalized ideas of what artists and entertainers should be, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

It is complete bullshit to tell a particular group of people that their opinion is unwanted, that they’re not capable of wading into politics and current affairs. An invisible hierarchy is at work here. Those who go into the arts are not as smart or intelligent as a business person, an academic or a politician. Or maybe the artist is seen as being more vacuous, vapid or flighty. Head in the clouds instead of feet on the ground. Classism. Right brain folks vs. left brain folks.

Anyway, there goes the idea of having a healthy discussion. Down the fucking toilet.

As an artist, everything I’ve created visually or in the written word is a reaction to the time in which it was being created. My work is a reflection of my mindset during that period of time. It is a reflection of the music, the people and the visuals in other mediums that have inspired the stories I have told so far.

My personal politics and philosophies are in my work. Sometimes it’s blatant, most times it’s subtle. But it’s there. You can ignore it but you can’t hide from it. You can’t hide from me.

So, yes, all art is political. All art is philosophical. All art has a message.

Going the distance

After finishing the first draft of my second in the wee hours of Tuesday morning last week, I told myself to take at least the rest of the day away from the manuscript. I was successful. Mostly.

I didn’t look at the manuscript but I was thinking about it. Four hours of sleep doesn’t make you lucid enough to think about your writing in any critical manner. So, I spent the afternoon emailing, texting and messaging folks about the first draft.

And the next day, as in around 12:30am Wednesday morning, I was writing a new opening scene for the novel. The original opening scene now becomes the second scene. I know… I couldn’t stay away from the manuscript for 24 hours. I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t shut down my brain for 24 hours.

My brain moved into polishing mode without any effort on my part. It’s still in polishing mode even though I still believe I’m working on my first draft. But if I’ve added a new scene and I’m tightening up some of the dialogue, does that mean I’ve now started on my second draft? I’m thinking I’m still working on the first draft. I’m still operating as if I’m working on the first draft. So, I probably haven’t left first draft mode.

Well, I’m calling it now. First draft. Don’t tell me otherwise. It’s my novel so bugger off.

To be honest, I probably think I won’t be in second draft mode until after my writing mentor and my technical advisor have read the manuscript. They’ve both been notified that it’s done. They also know I’m currently going through the manuscript again before they get to read it.

There’s the belief that writing the story is the easy part compared to what needs to be done after you’re done writing it. I haven’t decided one way or the other.

If you’ve mapped out the scenes you want in the novel, the writing part is easy.  Even then, you won’t necessarily follow what you’ve mapped out because a better idea about a plot point comes up and you end up shuffling things around or getting rid of some things altogether.

I actually find the stuff that comes after pretty interesting. Being in polishing mode isn’t bad. It’s about getting the manuscript in the best shape possible before you hand it over to an editor. Quite honestly, I’d rather not have the editor be distracted by easily correctable spelling and grammar when they should be concentrating on more pertinant aspects of the story.

Figuring out the book cover will be fun. I cringe a little when I say that. Figuring out a title for the novel would go a long way in figuring out the design of the book cover. Well, good luck to me in trying to come up with a book title because I suck at it. Maybe an idea will pop up as I go through the manuscript a second time. I can only hope.

Regardless of what’s easier, the writing or the stuff after the writing, the story is still with me. And it will probably be with me until it’s published. Even then, I have plans for my characters after they come alive in book form. Yeah, this story will stay with me for quite some time. I won’t be discussing what those plans are until much later in the year or maybe after the new year.

Yeah, the light is at the end of tunnel. I walked out of the tunnel and into the light. And I see a whole set of other challenges in front of me. This is not unexpected.

It never ends. It’s about going the distance. And I don’t mind it at all.