7 November, 2015, Block of Wood Editing

Okay, I've finished the first draft of Tourist Hunter, and it is a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would be. Seriously, when I first started, I figured I would be lucky to get fifty thousand words out of this turkey. Maybe, just maybe, it would be as long as Pyrrhic Kingdom, and that was if I was trying really hard. So, I don't know where the hundred thousand and change came from. I even spent the last couple of chapters asking myself why it wasn't over yet. Tourist Hunter had no business being so long even if it was just the first draft.

It's a comedy. Okay, I don't know if I can really go so far as to call it a comedy. I was going more for entertainingly amusing kind-of like String Finger Theatre since I cannot tell a joke to save me life. Seriously, I should not be allowed to deliberately be funny. I can only manage to amuse people by accident, which is why String Finger Theatre aimed for mildly amusing rather than make people laugh with a joke comedy. But, I digress.

Tourist Hunter is supposed to be humorously entertaining, and that's the kind-of thing that should be done in moderation, which means one-hundred thousand words is way over the top. This worries me far more than it should, but screw it. What am I going to do, right?

Which actually brings us around to the next stage in the evolution of a novel, the editing, and the thing about editing is you have to be prepared to be utterly ruthless. Those precious little babies of yours have to die. In fact, you never should have put your little darlings in there in the first place. Do not get hung up on words. Do not become enamored of your own language, turn of phrase, character, place or concept. It's all fodder for the chopping block, and it all needs to go.

I recently describe the first draft elsewhere as the block of wood that will be whittled down into the actual object by the editing process. By the time editing is done, there should be a rather impressive pile of wood shavings next to the intricately carved and shaped artwork. I rather like this analogy. Hopefully, it doesn't rank too high on the precious little darling scale and is actually useful.

The hardest part of the editing process is probably being able to look at that block of wood first draft objectively, and I can assure you that it is bloody hard. The best way I know to gain that ounce of objectivity is to take a break from the work, get some distance, and otherwise get some perspective. Basically, don't look at it for three to six months. Don't think about it. Try to forget that it exists.

Now, the chance of gaining six-month perspective is not good, and I really rather doubt I would be able to go that long. I'm aiming for three months. I've even set a countdown reminder. Three months is somewhere in January. I forget. Something like that. So, that's the minimum amount of time I need to more-or-less pretend that Tourist Hunter doesn't exist. We'll just see how well that goes.

So, thoughts on the first draft. Yeah, I don't know. I mean the original plan was for a comedy along the lines of String Finger Theatre, which could get really rather crazy, and Tourist Hunter just never managed that level of crazy. I just could never bring myself to go for those insane heights. Nobody gets tossed over a door. There are no hedgehogs sleeping in boxes, and nobody gets out of jams by telling the Beast that Forgot Time the time or giving Rumplestiltskin a box full of thousands of little boxes that will go flying every which-way when that box is eventually opened.

So, yeah, I don't know why not. I mean, String Finger Theatre really is the best distillation of my sense of humor. No clear idea why I couldn't bring myself to just go for it, which doesn't mean I don't have a theory. Now, I know this is going to sound stupid, but I think it has to do with the fact that Tourist Hunter is just text. There are no pictures. There's no visual reference. Everything is in the reader's head, and I just got hung up on that. The reader has to picture it, and the heights of crazy just require more from the reader. Everything just seems that much more improbable when you have to read it as opposed to when you are looking at it.

So, yeah, I don't know. Tourist Hunter exists in a more concrete reality simply by virtue of the fact that it exists purely in words. It's hard enough on the reader having to imagine this vaguely futuristic world, and there is an awful lot that the reader has to take on faith. Sure, the world looks a lot like the outside world, and there's a lot that kind-of sort-of sounds like extensions of things we've got know. But, it's a lot to take in. So, the more absurd the humor the harder it is for the reader to accept.

I don't know. That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.

I'm not saying that a wholly written story couldn't be absolutely bat-shit insane. I'm just saying I couldn't bring myself to go there with this particular story. Sure, silly stuff happens. Absurd situations occur, but they're not the point. Tourist Hunter is about the characters and how they deal with the world around them. It's not about the jokes.

Also, Tourist Hunter is built around a rather dark and gritty core, and the less said about that the better.

copyright © 2015 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved