When I dined with George R.R. Martin a few weeks back I picked his brain in regards to his process. He confessed that he doesn’t outline. He just follows where the characters take him. I found that answer startling. Yes, it’s a very common answer for fiction writers to give but most writers have one or two protagonists, not twelve or more as is the case with the Game Of Thrones series. Compare that to mystery novelist Elizabeth George who often speaks of her intensive outlining process. By the time she sits down to actually write the story she knows exactly what is going to happen in every scene.
I’m jealous of Elizabeth George. Knowing what you’re going to write before you write it just seems so much easier. Yes, in many ways I’d love to emulate George R.R. Martin in many ways but he’s never pretended to be a “fast” writer and I assume that his process, which is clearly right for him, has something to do with that. Characters are like real people, they’re complicated and sometimes clueless. If you follow them they may lead you in a good direction, or they may lead you around in a circle which means you have to go back, retrace your steps and rewrite a bunch of chapters. Of course when they lead you in the right direction it can be a glorious, but always bumpy, journey.
I try to outline. But my characters just aren’t interested in my plans for them. I have tossed out every single outline I have ever written by the time I’m half way through my manuscript. What that means is that I end up doing a lot of rewriting. I don’t want to do a lot of rewriting but that’s just how it works out. I fumble through a rough draft and before i’m done with it I start rereading some of it a little writing spirit will lean in and whisper, “I think this scene comes a little too early on, don’t you?” or “Now that we know this character better, wouldn’t he be doing Y instead of X here?” And that’s when the tweaks come along with the more significant changes and deleted pages. Soooo many deleted pages. It’s frustrating. But the weird thing is, by the time it’s done, it’s clear that as messy and chaotic as my process is, it does eventually get me to where I want to go.
So what I’m trying to say is I’ve been doing some rewriting and while all the major changes happen later in the book I have had to make a few tweaks in the chapters I’ve already published here. I’ve updated them so if you read them now they’re up to date. For those who don’t want to re-read what you’ve already read, just know, when Sophie first meets London, one of the things he rants about is a drug called Rispolex. Later, when she goes into London’s apartment the business card she finds there now reads:
Those are the only changes you really need to know about so far. I hope you don’t mind being involved in the chaos of my process. I can’t help it. My characters are just chaotic people.
Speaking of which, here’s the next (VERY short) chapter from CHAOS, DECEIT & A KICK-ASS CUPCAKE, giving you a glimpse into the chaos of Sophie’s own inner turmoil. Enjoy!
“There’s a reason I’m afraid of the dark. When I can’t see the tangled mess that surrounds me, I start thinking about the tangled mess that is me.”
–Dying To Laugh
I woke up to the quiet whine of Ms. Dogz. Anatoly’s arm draped over my stomach, his breathing deep and steady, his body completely relaxed into sleep. I felt the weight of Mr. Katz, curled up above the covers. There was just enough light for me to see Ms. Dogz outline on the makeshift bed of spare blankets we had set-up for her. Her head was on her paws, her eyes too black to make out. But her whining…steady, mournful, rhythmic, it was heartbreaking.
Such a whirlwind of emotions. The ecstasy of the evening that topped off a day filled with confusion, daring, thrills, loss and guilt.
All fun aside I still felt so much guilt.
“There’s nothing I could have done,” I whispered aloud, to the dark, to London’s dog. Even if we had agreed to help him, we still wouldn’t have been able to save his life. It’s not our fault.
But the last few moments of his life…those could have been filled with hope. Anatoly and I filled them with disappointment. Now, with nothing around to distract me, I couldn’t escape that truth.
Anatoly mumbled something incoherent and turned to face the other wall, dragging his warmth away.
Carefully I pulled my feet out from underneath my cat. With practiced stealth, I managed to creep out from beneath the blankets without waking either of my bedmates. I crouched down by Ms. Dogz and ran my hand over the top of her head and back. She smelled cleaner than I felt. “You’re going to be OK,” I assured her.
How many people had said that to me after I lost my own father at nineteen? And, assuming she really was his daughter, how many people must have said that to Cat London within the last ten hours? All those people were right of course. But in an odd way they were totally wrong too. When you loose someone who is that central to your being you have to change the definition of what it means to be OK.
Ms. Dogz’ whining was getting softer with my touch, less plaintive. The quiet gave new amplification to the thoughts forming in my exhausted mind:
Maybe Anatoly’s right.
London was probably separated from his wife, which didn’t mean there still wasn’t love there. Not necessarily. Yes, he was clearly in the middle of a breakdown but if she was the mother of his child, Anita was his family.
If London’s family wanted my help, I would owe it to them. But they quite clearly didn’t. Would London want me to upset his family? Now, just as they had begun to grieve?
Yes, yes he would if it meant uncovering the truth.
But it was hard to figure out if that was the voice of reason or that of my own stubbornness. There was no question that I was incredibly tempted to pursue this. To investigate and see if I could solve a murder or at the very least prove that it was a murder. But why? What would be the point? No matter what I discovered, London would still be gone. His last moments on this earth would still be defined by disappointment. The latter’s my fault but I couldn’t change what was done. I couldn’t help him.
But I could still make it worse. I could hurt his daughter.
So if I did pursue this, who would I be doing it for? Me? Today should have been purely awful. And it was awful…except…it was also so much fun. I had felt…energized. More so than I had in a while. Even the resulting conflict with Anatoly had ended up amplifying our lust. What was wrong with me that I could get an endorphin kick from something so dark and twisted?
I removed my hand from Ms. Dogz back and sat quietly by her side. “It’s possible I’m a monster,” I murmured. Ms. Dogz tilted her head, looking up at me with eyes that were still perfectly camouflaged by the darkness. Then she shifted her weight and put her head on my lap.
I loved this dog.
I would have to think about what I’d needed to do to deserve her.