Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Look Back at Spanner Book 1, with Editing Notes

After my NaNoFiMo victory for December 2010, I can finally take a break to look back on what I've written for Spanner the novel so far and see what the pressures of NaNoWriMo victory and publication deadlines have caused me to leave out.

Of course, I'm currently working on Chapter 22; Chapter 18 won't be posted till tomorrow. But this late in the book, I'm now in a much better position to see the plot holes I need to fill in for the second draft (and first book draft).

Amazingly enough, for once the plot's not the problem! Writing Bad Company, I had little trouble with the characters, but the plot still refuses to come together even three years later. Looking back at Spanner, I find I need to upgrade some of the characters from background to "minor yet important" status. These are the most important:
  1. Karen Kubota. She's proved to be so important late in the book that I need to boost her role in the earlier three-quarters. I already have her as head cheerleader, which all but makes her, and not her cousin Shira (the main character), Charmian's natural nemesis, where Shira is jock king Bart's. The other important thing I need to keep in mind is that she is a devout Buddhist, and in fact a youth leader in her Buddhist organization.
  2. Aira Izumi. As I've written her in the serial, she looks like a fairly normal-seeming kid from a bizarre background. I need to emphasize her freakishness more. I need to make it clearer that, far more than gangster Koji and sadistic Nenene, this "loli" is trouble incarnate — just like Shira herself.
  3. Hope Reston. Shira's mother doesn't appear much at all, and when she does she's more of a background character than anything. For the second draft (for the book), I need to bring her into the foreground, because she's really every bit as important as Karen, and because otherwise the ending won't work.
  4. Ariel Shield. So far, she appears only in Chapters 4, 7, and 15. She needs to hover in the background more, so in the second draft I'll need to find more places to put her so she can watch over her niece and nephew, the Shelley twins, and keep an eye on the fascinating Shira.
  5. Willa Richter-Thomas. I need to characterize her better. To understand her, you need to know that she is:
    1. a psychologist whose position in her guild is constantly threatened.
    2. a socialist.
    So far I only have her as a beautiful and elegantly dressed former (?) postpunk rocker who got trapped in a disastrous marriage with villain Dr. Henry Becket for a month back in 1992 and who later (for reasons explained clearly in Chapter 7) married her own daughter. There's not enough of her life showing up on the page.
  6. The hackers. In the serial edition I find I have a tendency to focus on only a few characters in a large group. That means not just Team Bremelo/Spanner, but the hackers of the Skeleton Krewe and the crew of their pirate TV station, KCUF. I need to bring more of them back in so it'll look like more of a group effort.
There's one more thing I've downplayed so far: the social context. I need to make it crystal clear that the replacement of Union with New Confederacy and of United Nations with United Corporations means deliberate mass impoverishment resulting from an elite policy of vicious and unending class war. I need to make the consequences of the "Law of Social Darwinism" visceral. I need to make sure it hurts. Only then will you understand the desperation and enthusiasm with which the Cascadian people take to the streets and the illegal ballot box in Chapter 23 and why it causes "Black Panic in the Suites" (the chapter title), and the revolutionary situation in Book 5.

This will be part of my editing agenda for Books 1 and 2 during NaNoEdMo. These and other improvements will make the book much stronger than the serial. In short: in Spanner, unlike Bad Company, I need to improve the characters and context. The plot? No problem.

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