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Back from Indianapolis

I'm back home again after a weekend in Indianapolis, where I was the Guest of Honor at InConjunction. The good folks of the Circle of Janus were most hospitable, the hotel was nice enough, the parties were lively (until some high school baseball players in the hotel complained about the noise and shut us down), and I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. A small contingent from the Brotherhood Without Banners was on hand, as lively as ever. It was great to see Trebla looking much happier and healthier with his new bionic spine, to hang out with Pedicab Kate (well, she's really a student, but as I explained to her, I know hundreds of students, but only one pedicabbie). My GOH liaison, the lovely Laura, came to the con with a cage of bats, which was pretty cool as well, and I met a couple of readers from Bulgaria who told me that in my Bulgarian editions, "battering ram" is translated with the word for a male sheep. I keep picturing the scene at the Wall, where the wildlings try to knock through the gate with... ah... sheep under their arms... the Bulgarians must think I'm very imaginative.

I had a reading at the convention, and decided to read the newly-completed prologue from A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I've been struggling with this particular chapter off and on for years (not continuously, of course, when a chapter gives me as much trouble as this one has, I tend to put it aside, move on and write something else, and come back to it later with fresh eyes), writing and rewriting it, moving chunks of it around, trying different structures. There's a lot of flashbacks in the chapter -- not just one flashback, but more like four, each to a different time in the viewpoint character's life -- and integrating those with each other and with the present action has proved to be a bitch and a half. I finally did manage to get the ducks all in a row, however, so I thought I'd see how it went over.

FWIW, I have always found convention readings to be very valuable, especially when I'm doing a chapter than I've never read before. No matter how many times you go over your work on a computer screen, somehow mistakes still slip past you... but when you're reading aloud, they leap right up into your face, screaming and spraying spittle. Typos, missing words, double words, tortured syntax, clunky dialogue, you name it. I always try to keep a pen on hand, so I can mark up my reading copy as I go.

And sometimes you see bigger problems too, as I did in this case. The audience seemed to like the chapter well enough, which pleased me. I talked to some of the BWB about it afterward, and was glad to hear that it mostly worked. There are still problems, though. A couple of awkward transitions, a false step and double beat in the middle, maybe too much repetition. Yes, I have reshuffled certain sections of the prologue half a dozen times already, but at the reading it became clear to that I need to look at the sequencing of the flashbacks yet again. I may be close, but I'm not there year. So that's one of the things I've been doing since returning home: polishing, trimming, and restructuring the bloody prologue one more time. For the last time, I hope... but really, who knows?

This, by the way, is the quandary that every writer faces on every book. When is a chapter really done? When is it good enough? We all walk tightropes there. On one side are those who just pound out first drafts, publish them, and move on to the next book. On the other side is poor souls like the character from THE PLAGUE, endlessly revising one sentence over and over in search of some illusory perfection. The best work, I believe, comes from those who stay up the tightrope, leaning this way and that, but never falling off to either side. That's what I try to do... and yes, that's one big reason why the books take so long.

Anyway, I had a great time in Indiana, but now I'm home again, and I have a prologue to revise. Ciao.


( 174 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 11th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
"I may be close, but I'm not there year."

Ominous Freudian slip.

Jul. 11th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
I was about to ask how much I should read into that.
(no subject) - pen_grunt - Jul. 11th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - irkedone - Jul. 14th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
wtf - teknomanice2k6 - Jul. 15th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anowyn - Jul. 24th, 2007 05:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
I suppose now would be a poor time to mention I always skip the Prologues...

Ha! As if. I like how in every book (SPOILERS), the prologue is from the viewpoint of a doomed character. (Actually, come to think of it, so was the epilogue in Storm.) I keep wondering if I'm going to pick up the newest book, and get that horrible sinking sensation when I realize that this prologue is through Sam's eyes, or Jaime's, or Brienne's. (/SPOILERS)

I'm curious if you ever try to correct the problems you find while you're actually reading them outloud--it would seem like sort of a bad idea ("And then, he raised the axe and--oo. Hold on a tic. Doesn't make any bloody sense, his hands are raised, how can he--I'll be right with you, folks!"), but you'd have to have a lot of faith in yourself to push through and hope the strength of the story will get you past the rougher spots.
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
I don't write words, but I compose music, and several times during the progress of a composition, I'll listen to what I have on my computer. This works for me much like a reading aloud... I'll listen to it with a hard copy in front of me and make quick stars or marks so I'll remember to go back and revise this or that, and usually when I go back to it, I remember what it was that I felt needed fixing. But then, I've never had anyone hear pieces that weren't at least mostly done, so this might not apply. :)
(no subject) - zmarlowe - Jul. 11th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
Great to have you back. I love how you're so passionate about the writing process. It inspires schlubs like me. :)
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
You wouldn't, of course, feel like sharing that chapter with your most loyal fans, now would you?
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
There are some excellent reports from the convention, as well as a few very detailed reports of the chapter in question, over at the A Song of Ice and Fire forums (here and here respectively).

It's not the same thing as reading it, maybe, but it can be good fun. :) There are reports from previous chapters GRRM has read from ADwD here, as well.
(no subject) - firerosearien - Jul. 11th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cybroleach - Jul. 13th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, and great to hear from you. I just added you to my friends page so I can see your updates. We met at InConjunction... After the party outside was broken up, my husband was the talkative chap sitting in the other armchair by you, and I was on the floor by him. Keep on keepin' on! I'm not a writer, but a composer of music, and I must say that I am inspired as well. ^_^
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
Sheep under their arms.... this makes them seem less dangerous!

I'm glad to hear that you had a good time. And look! No food poisoning this time!
Jul. 12th, 2007 06:44 am (UTC)
I am amused, yet not surprised to find you here ;)
(no subject) - aerolyn1 - Jul. 12th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
about the ram in Bulgarian - jackrum_2 - Jul. 15th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: about the ram in Bulgarian - astral_avenger - Jul. 17th, 2007 11:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: about the ram in Bulgarian - talmach - Jul. 18th, 2007 05:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
Hrrm. Good luck!
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
You can always test out stuff on us, dear George.

Jul. 12th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
Nice icon
(no subject) - ratatustryk9 - Jul. 17th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
I had a blast at InCon, and it was great to see you there, George. Your chapter held me enthralled, with every image coming to life as if it were right in front of me.
Don't forget the other story about "orell" in the bulgarian translation. "Eagl had an eagle" was priceless, I couldn't stop laughing :)
Jul. 16th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but there's no such thing in the bulgarian translation, so your laughing was in vain :) Believe me *thumbs up*
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Well, my daughter is dragging me out to see the new Harry Potter movie. Which reminds me that I am looking forward to HBO's rendition of your books even more.

Writing itself is a difficult tightrope; the entire series needs to be finished so that it is complete, but the quality of the work depends on you having enough time to think about it. I remember reading that J.R.R. Tolkien read the chapters of his books aloud to a small circle of friends; if you can utilize your assistant or close friends that way, it might be helpful. I write non-fiction, and find that the longer it gets, the more trouble with repetition etc. I have... but I'm not a great writer. Even so, I edit and edit and still am not satisfied.
Jul. 11th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
JRR Tolkien also sent copies of his drafts to his son, who was out on one of the Africa campaigns. I'm sure it made for interesting reading in the desert.
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
hahhaha! that would make a sight, ne? wild barbarians with trembling sheep pinned under their arms, trying to breach the gate of the wall. *pictures it and laughs*
at least the sheep would be difficult to make out in the snow. I just wonder what they'd eat up there, hehe.

and prologues are really difficult, so I understand your struggle. I've tried writing some for my novels (which I write just for the heck of it.) I mostly end up adding too much information and boring myself to tears when rereading. =P
so good luck on your prologue!!!
I'm really looking forward to the result, and I'm sure you'll be very glad when you're finally done with that part.

have a lovely day!
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
the parties were lively (until some high school baseball players in the hotel complained about the noise and shut us down)

And so ended history's first recorded example of high school kids complaining to an authority figure that their partying elders were creating too much noise...
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
Jocks vs. Geeks all over again!
somehow, a connection... - miss_ion - Jul. 12th, 2007 03:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
Ask a Musician when a song is complete...same same.

Hopefully we'll get a good American story about Battering Sheep (not the Battery of Sheep, or Sheep Batteries - PKD at least has the latter covered, and isn't there enough Violence in the world?)
Jul. 11th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this, George. It's truly comforting for those of us struggling with the same things- to know that it really does happen to the BEST of us. :-)
Jul. 11th, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
For the last time, I hope... but really, who knows?

Good for you! If a job is worth doing... etc etc.
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( 174 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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