Gary is a fellow Damnation Books author. Awesome guy. His book, Brutal Light, is available at http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615725380.
Writing, Rewriting, Impending Apocalypse, and Everything After
Every writer has a particular way of approaching writing and rewriting a story. Some rely on heavily detailed outlines and character notes, leaving little to chance during the actual writing process, while others favor a more ‘seat-of-the-pants’ approach, embracing spontenaety while dealing with the messiness that it brings. What follows is the step-by-step approach I took to writing and re-writing my dark fantasy novel Brutal Light. If you’re a writer, I can’t promise this approach will work for you, but it’s something to consider.
1. I started with an outline–but not a detailed one. I already knew who some of the characters would be, as I was using an unpublished short story of mine as a springboard, but I needed to work through the story in a methodical way, to both see if there was enough there to make a novel and to try to think through any problems that I had not yet foreseen. For instance–from where do various characters get the energy to go from the real world to the unreality I was calling the Noumenal? How much did a certain clairvoyant in the book actually foresee? Would night-gaunts from the dead spaces do all the research they promised me?
2. On finishing the outline, I waited for several weeks, until it became apparent that no clever Windows virus would come along and transform it into a novel. Reluctantly, and only after a pep-talk delivered by Jaranash’ghthk the Indweller of Night (my new Life Coach), I started the actual writing.
3. The first quarter of the novel came out fairly briskly in first draft, after a few misfires. I realized that, no matter how cool it would be, it was unlikely that the secret conspiracy documented by intentional misprints in variant editions of Alice in Wonderland actually had anything to do with the rest of the book. Also, zombies are terrible at making balloon animals from their own intestines. No amount of magic realism can cover that!
4. Revision time! I went back over the first seven chapters to find the inconsistent bits. I then went back over them to see if there were any consistent bits, as those were more likely to stand out. I then worked them over–not until everything was consistent, but until the consistent parts were definitely consistent, and the inconsistent parts were consistent with one another, though not with the consistent parts. I also broke some run-on sentences up into sentence fragments by pounding my head against the keyboard in strategic spots.
5. I wrote the second quarter of the book a little slower than the first. Jaranash’ghthk was being a baby about my concussions from the revision round, so I fired him. I managed to finish despite being plagued by faceless terrors that roam in the night and leave pissy little post-it-notes on computer screens.
6. During my post-completion-of-second-quarter revelry, I somehow was drawn down to the scientifically hyperadvanced underground civilization of the Deros. (They hate being called ‘DEtrimental RObotS,’ by the way, and insist that ‘Deros’ actually means ‘DElightful RodeOS,’ which I was told are a defining characteristic of Lemurians. That and a love of lutefisk.) After tough negotiations, the Deros agreed to oversee the continuity of the novel. I wrote the second half in a hallucinatory daze, then spent the next several months translating what I’d written from the ‘mantong’ of the Deros to English. This mainly involved excising all the ‘lols’ and ‘moars’ and removing all instances of various characters recommending products endorsed by the Lemurian Chamber of Commerce.
7. I returned to the surface world, to find out that everything I knew was wrong. So, situation normal. I put my first draft away and did some more reading, while the Deros smoothed out my continuity errors and the night-gaunts did my holiday shopping.
8. My reading of books on occult and alchemical matters (including Manly P. Halls’ “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” and Sonia Trotmeyer’s “Oh, Come On, No One Names Their Kid ‘Manly,’ Do They?”) makes me realize that a lot of what I’d put into the first draft and its revisions had additional meanings that could be drawn out to either deepen the mystery or just screw with peoples’ heads. As I am all in favor of both, I made notes on incorporating these into the next draft. I also fired the night-gaunts for eating all the ho-hos.
9. Second draft! I wrote, revised, wrote some more, added scenes, deleted large sections, put back more stuff, fixed some issues, broke some others, and on and on. I’m pretty sure my ‘second draft’ was actually thirty-six drafts. By then, I was subsisting entirely on clamato and rice cakes, and whenever I showered, some form of mutant creature would rise from the sewage plant the next day, intent on razing the world of the living. The traffic backups were unbelievable.
10. In the middle of heavy editing, I was conscripted by the armies of darkness and forced into their stealth battle against all that was good and true and noble. My part of the battle was to fix plot points while helping the Deros build their continent-shattering neko-bombs. (Do you know how many catgirls and catboys you need to achieve critical neko mass? It is a frightening number!) But for every item I fixed, more seemed to break. Sentences fragmented. Participles dangled. Tenses grew passive. Cat-humanoids wailed. The time of man was at an end!
11. THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED OR SOMETHING.
12. I finished the last revision, dabbed a tear from my eye, and saved my files. The next day, I sent my manuscript on to a publisher, then strode out into the world that was also enjoying its second chance. I basked in the sun, breathed the fresh air, and sang for joy.
13. I woke up in the hospital, recovering from everything that was thrown at me for my singing. I was mildly distressed to find that Jaranash’ghthk was now my nurse. But I was still happy, for I had completed my novel.
Blurb for “Brutal Light”:
All Kagami Takeda wants is to be left alone, so that no one else can be destroyed by the madness she keeps at bay. Her connection to the Radiance–a merciless and godlike sea of light–has driven her family insane and given her lover strange abilities and terrible visions. But the occult forces that covet her access to the Radiance are relentless in their pursuit. Worse, the Radiance itself has created an enemy who can kill her–a fate that would unleash its ravenous power on a defenseless city…
Rhea Cole is also on the run, after murdering her husband with a power she never knew she had–a power given her by a strange girl with a single touch. Pursued by a grim man unable to dream and a dead soul with a taste for human flesh, she must contend with those who would use her to open the way to the Radiance, and fight a battle that stretches from the streets of Detroit to a forest of terrifying rogue memories.
Excerpt from “Brutal Light”:
She swam through his new flesh, tearing him from the mountain and into the searing bright sky. Blood and terror streamed in her wake. As he fell to the sea, he smiled. She had come to him.
Kelly Creyts savored his pain. That he could feel pain again made him scream with joy. He was told to be ready to receive her, and thought he had known what to expect. As always, she proved to be more.
He let the mountain he had stolen fade, a moment before he struck the roiling waters.
“You’ve gotten better,” he called without opening his mouth. “I never felt you until you were in.”
He expected a reply from his lover of old. She did nothing, save drink the raw energy her violent entry set free. A day before her assault would’ve killed him but now he had power to spare.
Once she called it poison, and craved it more than her life.
To see her and taste her again–had they really been apart less than two years? If she knew the things he had done, the compromises he made–
You’re in trouble already, girl. Why come to me?
The weight of the sea increased as he sank, but Kelly refused to give up the body he had so recently taken the power to recreate. He knew he had made her angry, maybe angry enough to do lasting damage. If he struggled at this point, he thought he would lose, having ceded so much advantage. He had come so far and done so much. Nothing he had been told had yet failed to happen.
“I will come to you,” he said. “As I promised.”
Intense light erupted from his wound and trailed his blood in the black waters. She coalesced into a rough human female shape, with fingers that burned his flesh where they dug into him. Her tongue blackened his lips, despite the presence and pressure of the deep sea. He kissed her and she erupted into him, cauterizing his wounds as she passed back through the door she had carved.
Buy links for “Brutal Light”:
DamnationBooks.com (.mobi, .epub, .pdf, .pdb): http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615725380
Amazon.com (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/Brutal-Light-ebook/dp/B006EVZYIC/
Amazon.com (Print edition):
Links for of all other vendors (continually updated): http://BrutalLight.GaryWOlson.com
Print ISBN (for ordering paperback via bookstore): 978-1-61572-539-7
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-538-0
Bio for Gary W. Olson:
Gary W. Olson grew up in Michigan and, despite the weather, stuck around. In 1991 he graduated from Central Michigan University and went to work as a software engineer. He loves to read and write stories that transgress the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, while examining ideas of identity and its loss in the many forms it can have.
Away from working and writing, Gary enjoys spending time with his wife, their cats, and their mostly reputable family and friends. His website is at http://www.garywolson.com, and features his blog, A Taste of Strange (http://www.garywolson.com/blog), as well as links to everyplace else he is on the Internet, such as Twitter (http://twitter.com/gwox) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/gary.w.olson.author).