ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Fourth Third of Novel Writing

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I'm writing my tenth novel. With the exception of the first novel, which took more than two years to complete, my writing, as it applies to novels, follows an established pattern. This pattern has remained unbroken since 2002, and will probably remain unbroken until I finally succumb to my arch-nemesis. I thought it would change, hell, I hoped it would change, but it looks like this is my particular style. So, I now present to you my four thirds of novel writing.

The First Third. The characters are fresh in my head. I don't really know them, but I'm eager to do so. I mean, come on, they are so damned interesting. The plot is still the best plot anyone has ever conceived. My working title is brilliant. The writing is crisp and awesome and absolutely bound to be the winner of at the very least a National Book Award. My god, I am so good and this is so much fun, how come I'm not writing two books right now instead of one. Wait? Is that Stephen King calling for advice? I'll put him on hold. I don't have the time. I'm too busy being perfect.

The Second Third. My characters are stupid and they suck. I can't even remember who they are. They all merge into silly pretenders who shouldn't even be characters on a daytime soap opera. And who's the asshat who came up with this plot? Seriously? Does Marvel comics know you've stolen their formula for Overused Plot #14? And dude, what the fuck is up with all of the gerunds you keep slapping in sentences. Don't you know it's illegal in seventeen states? And another thing. Split Infinitives is not a Marvel superhero alternate world character arc! It's a crime!

The Third Third. I calm down. I go back, I massage the text and realize it's not even half as bad as I thought. In fact, had I not listened to my inner Satan, I'd be finished by now. Self Doubt is a cowardly arch viillian and my long time arch-nemesis and it can strike down even the best of us, without warning and without mercy. I don't actually get a lot of writing done during this period, but by the time I'm finished with the Third Third, I'm on the downward slope of the novel, into act three, and sliding head first towards the final climactic set pieces. Everything is going to be just fine. I might not be awesome, but I'm pretty damn good. I find my pride beginning to return.

The Fourth Third. Wait, who are the characters? What are they doing? Do you mean you're getting paid actual money to write this dribble? What? You mean you've already been paid? Don't you think you should give the money back. Fuck you. No. Fuck you. Leave me alone and go bother Brian Keene. Fuck you, he's too strong for us. Then go bother John Skipp. He's a lot of fun. He knows porn stars. No triple fuck you. Skipp has the  +5 Cloak of Self Doubt Protection. I can't get past it. (-- an internal battle ensues too graphic for this page, involving Facebook, Twitter, Googling old college roommates, browsing vintage clothes on Ebay, rearranging my library chronologically according to author's birth dates  genre, and publisher, rebuilding my website, drinking great gobs of wine, writing articles about writing, and singing along to old Brittany Spears videos) Then, in a passion-filled two weeks, I finish the first draft of the novel, keeping one step ahead of my arch-nemesis. By the time I type THE END, I'm restless to be done with this book and move on to something else, to go somewhere my arch-nemesis doesn't frequent.

But that's not it.

You thought it was over, didn't you.

The Fifth Third. Eventually you'll have to return to your novel, unless you're a LuLu author or have your girlfriend/mother/sister/brother/aunt edit it for you followed by you self-publishing it and spending the next four years sitting behind card tables at craft fairs and conventions calling yourself an author. In this fifth third, you're impassioned  You've already fought so many battles, you're a tired warrior. You find yourself hacking and slashing the first brilliant third of you novel like sleep-sundered Conan after he wakes up in the Land of the Lotus-eaters. By the time you've finished your edit, the novel is more lean and filled with less brilliance. It is now a work you can turn loose upon a legion of real editors. If you're lucky enough to work for a major publishing house, you'll have half a dozen editors, many fresh out of an Ivy League college stuck being an editor until they can write their own great American novel. These editors know more about grammar and sentence structure than you'll ever know. If you're not so lucky, your cousin Gregg and his fiance will edit it with post-it notes, followed by a group of beta readers whose knowledge of the English language was learned through comic books and role-playing games, and an endless string of Tolkien pretenders (like your own). However it's done, the novel needs edited many times. It's gone from brilliant to craptacular back to moderately good. Will it ever be brilliant again? That's not for you to decide. That's for the Readerverse. In fact, you don't care. By now you're working on your next novel, and let me tell you, it is fucking brilliant.


3 comments :

  1. Bravo, my friend! You have captured the true spirit of novel writing.

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  2. Lol! I know, right. I cast off the sequined shawl to reveal the nasty, three day old G string beneath.

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  3. "...had I not listened to my inner Satan, I'd be finished by now." That could be my life you're writing about.

    Thanks, Jan Harris

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