Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Last night my Lulu copy of The Pagani Project arrived. It's always fun for me to see the bound version because I read the manuscript in a different way as a result. I'm more critical of the flow of the prose and more sensitive to the actual emotional impact of the scenes. Even though I've revised 3 or 4 chapters since I first ordered this version, including the addition of about 3,000 words, it's still useful for me and well worth the $15 it takes to get it. And $15 is a lot right now since I'm paying a mortgage and have had to add a dog walker to my budget!

During my bus ride this morning, I read several chapters of the book. I'm responding really strangely to it because, I guess, it's different from the way I wrote before. As I was writing I experimented with different techniques, and I had forgotten about a lot of it. So now that I'm reading it, the experimental nature is coming to the forefront again.

Distance - One thing I played with is distance. This was fairly unintuitive to me because usually I think the smartest advice is to make the action feel close so that readers can experience it on a sensory level. But there are a lot of sections where I didn't do that in the book. For one, I talk a lot about habitual scenes, recurring things, rather than individual experiences. I felt that was important to make it feel like a lot of time has passed. Second, I was playing with the idea that a 300-year-old person would start to lose a lot of the smaller details. So, there are generalities throughout. Third, a lot of what the narrator reports comes from indirect information, and I really played with that idea. Some news stories are so strange as a result of the writer's attempt to reconstruct the scene. There are often jumps in logic, when a person does something that doesn't get explained. I included some of that in my scenes.

On one level, I worry that all of these devices only work to keep a reader from really getting into the story. On another level, the prose feels like it's carrying more weight behind it to me. Even though there are a lot of non-scenes, I find myself getting immersed in the prose because it feels like I'm getting information through these different layers of reporting (a story told by someone who heard the story from someone). This morning that was working for me, and I hope it works for other people too.

Reality - The premise of the book is beyond belief: Six people live for hundreds of years because they are connected to this special machine. I balanced that with a lot of things that seemed real. One of the ideas behind the book is that America has changed. It's like other dystopian books in that way, but my dystopia is far less bleak than most. But one of the things I did was move real events around the world. For example, a lot of violent crimes that took place internationally are now happening in the U.S. That way, I was able to create both the sense of reality (real crimes) with unreality (occurring much closer to home). I hope this also adds to the sense that a lot of time has passed. Think Planet of the Apes. Another way I played with reality is that I formed bridges between different past events, so that different crimes lead to other crimes in a way that didn't necessarily happen in real life. A scientists has parts of his personality that are reminiscent of Hitler. Suicide bombers have teamed up with a Jonestown-like cult leader. I didn't realize this at the time, but I think that came out of my own need to set up a bit of a "warning" about the future.

Well, I don't know if these concepts come to the forefront for people reading the book, but as I'm going over it now, I'm reminded that these were some of the mechanistic inspirations I was working with.

The other benefit of getting the Lulu book is that the manuscript feels "completed" even though I'm still working on it. As a consequence, I feel like I'm floating, and that makes me hungry to weigh myself down with a new project. I get the same feeling when I'm between reading books. I'd much rather be in the middle of stories than on either end. So, it motivates me to write something new.

What's Peanut eating? Small white crumbs on the elevator floor.


  1. I find myself writing a lot of summarize "telling" with my current book, a lot of non-scene stuff sort of poured into the middles of scenes, I guess. It's a narrative that wanders around a lot, not always moving in the direction of the central story action. I don't know if that's good or bad; it seems to read okay for now.

    I know that I've been playing with a lot of narrative techniques as I've gone along, but like you I expect to be surprised when I read the MS after finishing it. I'm sure I've forgotten most of the experiments I've attempted. Right now I'm just worried about finishing, about spinning out the remains of the plot, about remembering to include all the scenes I have in mind.

    The Pagani Project intrigues. Some day, hopefully, I'll see a few words of it.

    I've also decided what my next novel is going to be. Yay!

  2. Yes, some day, hopefully, you will see a few words of it. Possibly, the order for your Lulu copy has already been placed. Possibly.

    My current vision for Everybody is that it will be much more traditional. I'm exploring what makes my favorite classics work by trying to identify what makes them great and working with those things as my tool box. It's really making me question everything, and in the end I wonder if I'll just get bored by the idea and write something that comes more naturally. There is only one way to find out, and I bet you're think I should just write the damn book.

  3. I think you should just write the damned book. My next project is going to be very straightforward, I hope. I'm approaching it as a sort of relaxing vacation rather than an attempt to learn more about the art of writing. I find myself considering the three-act structure again, and maybe reading some Jane Austen to prep for it. I think I'm going to talk about music a lot in that book, and the idea of artists as servants and craftsmen. Maybe. Plus, there will be a big damn bomb in the basement of the Vienna Opera House, which should be a good time. And Franz Josef Haydn's letters to beautiful women. And a happy ending. Maybe.

    1. I have a couple of "vacation" books that I mean to write, one is a superhero fantasy book for my sister-in-law and another is a comedy. I keep pushing them aside. I wish I just had those books. I wish I didn't have to actually write them.

  4. I've heard through the grapevine that some readers didn't like how I handled time in The Breakaway. I remember being an issue when I wrote - deciding how to pass time, and if time should pass at all or if I should just make it a shorter period. In the end, I'm happy with how I handled it. With yours, I'm very curious to see how you handle the passage of all that time!

    I love getting Lulu copies! I just did one for BONDED as a bound manuscript for review for an author who said she'll endorse it for me. I can't wait to get it in the mail. Your cover has me wanting a copy, Mr. Malasarn.

    Scott, I'm excited you've decided on your next novel!

    1. Michelle, I don't remember time being a factor when I read Breakaway, which is probably a sign that it was done invisibly in a good way. Everything we do is ignored, and that's a sign that we do it well, right? :)

    2. Yeah, the craft should be invisible unless you're actively looking for it.

      My copy of The Breakaway showed up today! I am mostly between books (I've got some nonfiction stuff to finish), so I'll start reading it this weekend. Hurrah! A new MDA novel!

      Other possible titles for my new book: Famous in Vienna, The Hungarians, Theresa Leaves Him, and The Farewell Symphony.

    3. I like the Farewell Symphony. You keep talking about music in that book. And yay for The Breakaway! I'm curious - what author picture is in the back of your copy?

    4. You, outside in front of maybe a grove of birches. Long hair, 3/4 view from your left. It's one of your older pics, I think. Oh, I know: it's from the same photo shoot as the picture you use on your blog. Does that help?

    5. Yes, that helps, thanks. :) It used to be a different picture before the whole author pic fake copyright infringement threat fiasco.