Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the octave of the 3-Day contest

A week later and I am mostly recovered. As you may have noticed, dear reader, I was not able to post updates during the 3-Day Novel contest. That was in part because on Saturday and Sunday, my eyes were closing and my head was tipping forward by 8:30 pm, though I managed to struggle on past 9 pm.
Ah well, I told myself. I'll get an early night and start off all chipper by 5 am (my usual time of getting up). Did I? Nope, I lay slugabed until 6:30 am.
On the Monday night, when I had to chuck it in at midnight no matter what, the story (finally!) came together, I was full of caffeinated energy and could have kept going until 2 am. Instead, I forced myself to let it go at 11:30 pm, with a brief read-through.

Tuesday morning I compiled from Scrivener, emailed it to myself, and spent part of my lunch-hour trying to submit it through the Geist website. This worked better once I realised that the submission page only accepted pdf, doc, docx and odt, and re-saved the file as .doc.
Excuse me while I express astonishment that .rtf is not one of the accepted formats. What the hell?

Then there was more muddling about because I also needed to submit a signed statement from someone that I wrote the whole thing during the allotted time. Or rather, a scan of said statement, saved in one of the admissable formats, which do not include jpg.
The submission directions, by the way, were barely adapted from the hard-copy snail-mail directions, and included an admonition to not send in your only copy of your ms. because it would not be returned. It's been so long since I've seen that note; I don't think I've subbed hard-copy for  two or three years.

So. Anyways. Story.
Wordcount came out short of 15k, which is the lowest I've had, though I've never got much above 18k. Even with the old trick of expandable middle, some scenes are seriously skimped.
Saturday I started out with an exploration, discovering the setting for myself as much as for the hypothetical reader. Little Cressida wanders through the huge, ever-changing house that she has lived in for as long as she remembers. She needs to find someone who will listen to her news:  that she has seen a stranger--a young boy--in the untended gardens. The others who are usually present in the house are the cook, Betta, and the librarian (never named). The other she doesn't know about is Granda, the old woman spinning in the topmost tower. Granda dreams of a dance on the eve of war, and waking sees the smoke of battle and destruction from her high window.
Sunday I picked up the boy's storyline, making him a refugee from an internment camp with traumatic memories of escape. I also inserted segments of two undergrad girls discussing the Heroine's Journey and its application to fiction. I'd meant to have them discussing what was happening in the story, but somehow the talk wouldn't go that way--it felt too blatant, so I went for echoes instead, discussing the books that inspired aspects of the storyline, like The Secret Garden, The Princess and the Goblins, and Gormenghast.
This is where the absence of an outline really hit me. I knew in a vague way that Cressida needed to go through the house, with different rooms providing experiences--a choice of fates or paths--that would take her through the heroine's journey, and that the boy would take different roles in each of them, such as brother, consort, opponent, child. But I couldn't get them started. I set up the scenes in Scrivener, but other than a confrontation with the Sphinx and a ballroom scene, they were barely sketched, and I couldn't get enough of a picture in my head to do the in-media-res opening that I usually do when I don't know what's going to happen (it saves me the work of figuring out how they got there in the first place, which in this case would be by opening a door).
Monday I could see the ending. Cressida, charged with closing off the paths/doors that connected the house with the world, so that it would be protected from the war that was engulfing said world, decides that she won't close off the last one, which is where the boy Alph had come through, because if the house didn't provide a refuge, at whatever risk, it would wither. But how to get there?
Mark, when I went downstairs to whinge, pointed out that I usually wrote the ending Monday afternoon, and why didn't I do that now and see if the middle came in after that. So I did--and the ending expanded, because once Cressida (now about 20 yrs old, as both children grew up in the course of the journey, time being flexible in the house) understood what Alph had come from, she couldn't just let it go. So there was a rescue and escape of those in the internment camp, which I tried to play low-key so that the kinda-magic-realism story wasn't overtaken by an action movie.
Then I whipped back and started filling in the interior journey, full of caffeinated energy (non-decaf coffee supplied by supportive husband, thank you) but time was ticking on, and at 11:30 I had to accept that I wasn't going to finish the fill-in to my satisfaction.

What with low wordcount and skimpy middle, I doubt this one will hit the shortlist. I might take the concept and mess around with it some more, maybe for Nanowrimo. But I can't do Nanowrimo until the Cost of Silver revision is done.
So, back to the salt mines of revision I go.