So, a few years ago now, I wrote one of these entries about what happens when you write something and later realize it's crap. The entry in question was about Chapter 3 of A Kind of Drug and how I wrote quite a volume of pages before I realized I hated it and had to start from scratch.
Well, hoorah. Cause I've done it again.
Before I even finished my newest short story - A Single Sentence: Tyrants, Heathens, and Other Men of Grace - I realized there were elements about the story that were rubbing me the wrong way. But that's not infrequent and they're usually issues that I can polish up in the editing process. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.
About a week or so ago, I realized that I pretty much hated the story. It wasn't awful, per say, but I didn't like half the characters, the pace, and even the overall plot was something I had not only used before, but in another A Single Sentence story to boot. So, after a lot of thought, I decided I'd be throwing the whole thing away.
Now, a lot of the base plot elements I was still happy with. Even one or two of the characters I still liked. The general world as it existed I was happy with, I just was unhappy with the direction that I decided to take it in. So, I thought about it over for a few days and, on Monday, took the idea from scratch and decided to come up with an entirely new plot.
The good news is, I did it. The bad news is, I still have to write it.
This means there is a negative 5,000% chance I will have a new story done in a week. I plan on begin writing again tomorrow night and at this point I have no idea how long it'll take for me to finish the story. I usually don't. It's one of those things where I just sit down and write and eventually find out if it's a 10-page story I'm writing or a 400-page story. (I thought Apocrypha would be about 15-20 pages before I started writing. It was 40. A Kind of Drug was originally a 6-page short story. Now it's 600 pages.)
The title of the story will also be changing. To what, I'm not sure yet. I'm throwing a couple of ideas around. But with the plot changing so violently, the original title doesn't make any sense. I might call it The Oracle of Babylon. I might call it The Third American Civil War. I might call it The Seven Gods of Parliament. I might call it none of those things.
But overall, my deepest apologies for building this story up for months and then dropping the ball at the last possible minute. I'm a dickhole. I know.
So, I never gave a proper update when I put ‘Apocrypha’ online 2 weeks ago. Why? Cause I’m a big fucking asshole, that’s why. (Actually, it’s cause I didn’t get my edits finished and it uploaded until nearly 1am on a school night and I went to bed without ever making the post. Then I forgot about. Sooo, eat it.)
But, because I’m a swell son of a bitch, I decided to make that post now. And tell you all a little bit about the story’s background while I’m at it. Cause that seems like the cool thing to do.
‘Apocrypha’ began as two separate story ideas that I jammed together into one. The first was ‘What if it was mankind’s purpose to destroy the earth rather than save it?” and the second was “Humans (organic life) find it relatively simple to create machines & computers (inorganic life). Does the opposite apply? Would a machine find it easier to create an animal rather than another machine?”. Then I took those two ideas, combined them together, and gave them a MASSIVE dose of religious undertones (if you didn’t pick up on that, look up what the word ‘apocrypha’ means). As for the sciency stuff, some of it I learned along the way (like Von Neumann Probes), some of it I already knew (like the Fermi Paradox), and some of it I plain made the fuck up (like Speaking in Tongues).
Honestly, I found it funny that no one had ever thought of the whole “speaking in tongues” thing before (or, at least, no one has to my knowledge). I’ve read & watched a lot of science fiction over the years and having lots of alien species communicate seamlessly with one another is an issue that comes up frequently. It was also one that I had to mull over for a while, too, since I knew there’d be scientists from all over the world during First Contact. Why would The Machine know English and not German or Mandarin or Swahili? Or what if he did? How would he communicate those languages all at once? And this is when you learn to never be satisfied with your first idea. Cause my original idea was to have The Machine learn all of the Earth’s languages during the 3 days between the cowboy event and the scientist summit. Then it could just speak different sentences to different people as needed. The problem there was still the cowboy event. How would it say “This is awkward” to the cowboys? I debated deleting the line, but it just had too much weight. It was such a funny line for such an epic moment, it seemed wrong to remove it cause I was being lazy and couldn’t think of a better solution to my problem. So, I thought about it some more and realized The Machine shouldn’t even speak in language. If it’s so advanced, why is it using just simple, auditory syllables strung together into words & sentences? It should speak almost psychically, in bursts of thought that are simply understood or translated by the recipient. This, of course, would mean it would be speaking not just every language on earth at once, but every language in the universe at once since any animal capable of thought would be capable of understanding The Machine. Really, I never got into it, but technically The Machine could speak dog and dolphin and llama, too.
So, there you go. That’s how much thought went into just that little segment of the story. Honestly, in a lot of ways, ‘Apocrypha’ was harder to write than ‘A Kind of Drug’. All those technical bells and whistles required a TON of forethought, not to mention properly mixing them all together to get a story and not just a jumbled mess of information & ideas. And this has just been all the technical crap. I mean, none of this even gets into the characters of Lou & Eden. Or the religious subtext. Or that I was pissed that there’s currently a brilliant comic book being published called ‘Saga’ (cause that’s what I really wanted to name this story before I chose ‘Apocrypha’).
And I’m tired now. And this post is excessively long. So, I’m going to go now. Till next time. Cheers.
Geez, where to even start....
I had the first idea for A Kind of Drug so long ago, I can't even remember it. Well over a decade. Long before I ever had any desire to be a writer. The idea was simple: What if a language existed that you could understand without learning it and what if it could spread like a disease? I then just sat and toyed around with this idea in my head for years upon years.
Eventually, around 2004, I decided I wanted to see if I could write. And so I wrote a short story called "DjerRUckqS" about a man living in a post-apocalyptic world that had been destroyed by Words. About four pages into it I said, "Shit" out loud. I realized that there was too much material in the short story and that it needed to be a novel. And so, a year later, I came up with the idea of creating a chapter centered around each different Word. I thought about calling the novel "A Kind of Drug" and thus the core of the novel was birthed. Again, this was 7 years ago now. (Oh, and I plan on releasing that original short story once A Kind of Drug is finished. I can't release it yet cause the endings are still very similar. Don't want to ruin the climax for all of you.)
But anyway. Due to college and life and work and existence, the idea sat on the shelf for another 2 years before I decided to try another hand at it. But my original idea was to not "start at the beginning" with Rapture and Beth Vacey. I wanted to start 2/3 of the way through the story with a crazy, dense, dramatic chapter and then, with chapter 2, rewind back to the beginning.
However, after talking to numerous professors and fellow students, they told me I was a fucking idiot and that I should just start at the beginning like a goddamn adult. Which I obviously did.
But by the time I decided to listen to them, it was too late. Chapter 1 - Wrath - was already written. I had penned the story of two guys, practically alone in the world, and scared to death of people Addicted to Wrath. But the world of that old chapter and the world of A Kind of Drug as you know it today are radically different. And in a thousand ways, I'm glad for it. I'm much happier with the direction I chose to take with the novel. Starting from the beginning turned out to be some good advice.
Either way, I figure a lot of you might get a kick out of what A Kind of Drug looks like in a sort of "alternate universe". This was how I originally envisioned the world after Despair, way back around 2007/2008. If you've ever read it, it's sort of reminiscent of Richard Matheson's novella, "I Am Legend" (which is way different from the Will Smith Zombie flick).
Anyway, keep an eye out for the pieces of story I obviously decided to keep and the ones I obviously decided to trash. But overall, I hope you just enjoy the read and you're much happier with what I chose to do with AKOD instead.
Thank you. And good drunk.
At the end of Chapter 3, when I posted the "Behind the Scenes" pieces, I talked about how writing can sometimes be very frustrating. That you find yourself working against yourself on a relatively frequent basis. That you are "punching yourself in the face".
Well, that sort of happened again here.
Only a week or two ago, I was looking over the chapter and realized that while I hadn't screwed up Delirium as bad as I screwed up Hilarity, I did have the tone and pacing all wrong. This means I am now in the process of re-writing most of the chapter while simultaneously trying to conceptualize and write Chapter 6 - Despair.
Punching. Myself. In the face.
So, please, bear with me these next few weeks. I might be even less sane than normal.
To quote one of my favorite authors:
"Writing is a job for people who like punching themselves in the face, I'm pretty sure."
A lot of times, writing can be very frustrating. Even doubly so since it's all frustration that you're giving yourself. It's not like your boss is coming in and screwing up your day. When something goes wrong with what you're writing, it's your own fault. Which, yeah, kind of feels like you just punched yourself in the face.
Hilarity was definitely one of these cases. After brainstorming and writing for a month, I realized everything I wrote was crap. I went back to the drawing board and created the chapter as you all know it. But I save everything I write, even if I consider it unusable. So, today I don't give you new material, but alternate reality material. I have posted what I wrote of Hilarity v1.0 along with the 2.5 pages of brainstorming notes that would become Hilarity v2.5 (v2.0 was ever so slightly different and simply got written over rather than saved as a separate file).
And now, it's time to make myself a sandwich. Good day.