This single 2,100ish-word chapter is the hardest-researched and most-thought-about prose I've ever written, especially given the short amount of time it's been since coming up with the story idea: December 5, so it's been less than a month. Behind the scenes, I've constructed a massive mind map to support the conceptual framework of the novel, written over 8,700 words of characters' backstory, and put together two full chapter-by-chapter outlines in Scrivener (I threw away the first).
I've also been filling my head with great (well, awful, but a great kind of awful) material, for nearly four weeks straight now. In novels: Whispers by Dean Koontz, Misery by Stephen King, Odd Thomas by Koontz, and I'm in the middle of The Shining by King. And in audio: I've listened to eighteen or so half-hour episodes of the Pseudopod horror podcast in the car going to and from work. The podcast in particular has been helpful: Pseudopod is an excellent resource for what sounds good and is paced well for the ear, instead of just the page.
It's been lot of work in a short time for 2,100 words, true, but so far the result has been unlike anything I've ever produced. Rough around the edges, but almost entirely character-driven, and using better-realized characters: plot movement can just fall into place when the characters are people you feel like you know. Their motivations pull the story along, instead of the reverse.
It's all been surprisingly easy, and surprisingly simple, and yet frighteningly exposed: I'm used to a LOT more worldbuilding being required. The Work is taking place entirely in modern-day America, with only a few brand names changed to protect the innocent. There's no sheen from duralloy bulkheads or glow from magical thought-eating algae to hide behind here: it's just me, the characters and the reader.
TL;DR: this feels great. I'm enjoying the act of writing more than I have in years, and I've hardly been hating it. This is definitely a new phase of the craft for me, and I'm loving the ride.
And now, some Work in Progress:
For the ten thousandth time, she looked at the tattoos on her arms and shoulders: calligraphy in as many different hands as she could fit: uncial, blackletter, copperplate, chancery; quotes like “Make letters burdened with affection, not perfection” and “calligraphy: the dance in a tiny stage of the living, breathing hand.”The lettering’s density was greatest around her forearms, the skin rougher there, scarred in dozens and dozens of tiny parallel lines. The blocky, brutish parallel strokes of blackletter Fraktur--verses from Luther’s Gospel of John--fit between the ridges like pavement between guardrails. They hid almost perfectly from the eye.Adriana ran her fingertips over the ridges, remembering.
More to come soon!