Twenty years of poking at an idea

I was writing a post on a comics-making board about how Some Ideas Take Time when I realized something.

I usually tag 1995 as when I started coming up with “The Drowning City”.
I’m planning to finally start drawing it next year, after finishing Rita. Which will be in 2015.

Twenty years. It took me twenty fucking years for that thing to gestate. For me to take all the tragedies of my life and use them as raw material for this fucking story that bubbled out of my homesickness and just wouldn’t go away. Ever.

All I can say is that I hope it turns out to be worth it.

And if it isn’t? If it turns out to be a bunch of overwrought, maudlin crap that I abandon halfway through? Well, at least I’ll have finally got it out of my system.

the long-term projects rear their heads from underground now and then

Last night, I finished reading “Worm“. Some stuff in the epilogues really struck me as Not Working. I pondered it in the back of my head while I finished up some stuff for the Rainfurrest website, then went to bed.

And those ponderings moved over to consider my plans for “Drowning City”. I asked myself if the ending would be unsatisfying in the same way Worm's was. Yes, it would be, I realized. So I thought about what I felt was missing, and wrote out some descriptions of stuff to fill this narrative hole between the climax and epilogue – something about how Alecto goes from falling out of a disintegrating fairy castle, into the bleak reality of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Looking at it in the light of day, it still feels good. So yay. One more hole in the plot plugged.

Man. I've been carrying this story around for so long now. It's going to feel really, really weird when I'm at the point of having finally told it in a few years. I'll probably never turn a story over again for as long as I have this one.

But right now I should focus on more immediate projects again – that aforementioned web site, getting Rita 2 out the door, and those short pieces I've promised.

the slow process

Every now and then I’ll take out the script for “Drowning City” and poke at it. Make a couple little tweaks. But I haven’t really tried WRITING it since I did the first few chapters over Nanowrimo. I’d intended to maybe have the whole thing in a first draft script before starting it, but that may change – looking at it just now, I think I’ve got enough to get started drawing it, and to write the final draft on the page like I did for a lot of Rita. I’m planning to alternate it with chapters of Absinthe; Drowning City’s script can percolate while I draw that.

Not that I’ll be working on it any time soon; I’ve got about another year before I finish Rita. But it’s good to keep it evolving.

projects continue

Drowning City: 9554 words. About half of the nearly 1900 words I added today were pulled from my old LJ entries as I was looking to see if I’d posted anything to do with the scene where Alecto has a nightmare about a magic sword being reforged into a gun, but the rest were new stuff. I didn’t find that particular scene, and I didn’t feel like rewriting it tonight, so I pondered this one character who was originally going to be hanging out in a subway tunnel. Which is pretty absurd in New Orleans; this was a bit of LA (yes there’s subways there, and I was taking it regularly around the time Alecto showed up in my head) that made it into the story. I ditched the subway but kept her (or him) around; I figured out what she’s doing in New Orleans, and probably how she gets killed by the elves.

I also did some work on that much-delayed collaboration with Howarth today. About time. And I got several of the Kickstarter sketches done. I gotta say, this mind hack of “I’m going to knock off work for the day at 5pm” is working pretty well to create a sense of urgency and keep myself on task.

(I also cheated by doing my NaGraNoScriMoing* well past 5pm… but I think I’m gonna call that “recreation” rather than “work”. Plus I have found that it’s a total productivity killer to do it in the morning, as I want to do it sitting down – and if I do that, then I don’t get up and get to drawing for HOURS after I’m done writing.)

I’m totally not going to reach my intended wordcount of 30k on Drowning City at the end of the month if I keep going at this rate, but frankly I don’t care. I’ve got nearly 10,000 words of script and outline for it that I didn’t have ten days ago, in digital form so it’s backed up locally and in the cloud, and that is a definite win in my book already.

* National Graphic Novel Scripting Month

write write write

7350 words, now. I haven’t made up for writing none Monday, but I’ve at least made up the slight deficit in only writing like 800 words yesterday. Is there a place where writers can apologize to their characters for the horrible things they do to them? Because I think I just had some of the seemingly “nice” elves rape my protaganist, then wipe that out of her mind and make her agree to what they wanted her to do. Ugh. It’s only implied, but ugh.

I am definitely going to have to split my time drawing this story with something lighter (like Absinthe!), as it goes to some pretty dark places.

I’ve transferred most of the remainder of the useful notes from my deck of index cards into Scrivener. Chapter 2 is entirely scripted in rough form, and chapter 3 is starting to take place.

Also while working on some of the initial dialogue fragments for chapter 3, I hit up Wikipedia for some reference. They’re running a donation drive, and I was like, oh why not, I use it so damn much, so I gave ’em $10.

trundling away

5346 words. Huzzah. Chapter 2 is up to page 9. The chapter’s not done but I think it’s close to done despite being about half the length of chapter 1. 2 will probably be a few pages more, at least; there’s some loose dialogue waiting for me to wrap the setting and acting around it. Also some of the dialogue in this chapter is kind of weak and overly direct; I haven’t found the voice for any of the Fair Folk yet.

I almost knocked off early, but I was like fuck you Peggy, you wrote like 1200 words the first two days but that doesn’t let you wimp out, 1000 words per day is still your minimum all damn month long. (Which the observant will note is only going to work out to 30k words at the end of the month rather than the 50k required for a traditional Nanowrimo run; I’ve set my goals lower because I’m focused entirely on beating this giant pile of old ideas into SHAPE rather than Writing A Novel.)

I’m debating if I want to move it from Evernote into Scrivener, so I can have separate sections for each chapter and easily get things like “overall wordcount”. I was originally thinking I might write some of it in bed with the iPad, which pretty much meant it needed to live in EN, but so far I’ve done all my writing here with the computer and its keyboard. I got Scrivener cheap in the recent MacHeist bundle, so it’s not like I’d be putting it into a time-limited beta or anything…

Now to go home, or at least to another cafe, and get some work done on something else. Probably FC t-shirts, I think.

putter putter

3. Blah is raising a finger. He’s looking quite imperious. We can see Alecto standing up in the background; she’s starting to look a little annoyed.

BLAH Excuse me. Am I going to be able to take a report on this to the Huntsmaster any time soon, or shall I come back after the blame has been thoroughly assigned to whichever one of you gets tired of arguing first?

ALECTO Um, hey, hello? What’s going on here? Are you people even listening to me?

4602 words. Chapter 2 of Drowning City is about half written. And will definitely need some editing as I kind of wandered a bit. But I got to show how bitchy the Fair Folk are, so that’s cool.

Also I got some progress in on the next page of Rita, including some design/model stuff for upcoming pages. Plus I came out of the shower and drew an overview of the shape of the rest of book 2 on the mirror, then sat down and expanded on it in my sketchbook a bit, and made some more notes on the overall shape of book 3. There are ducks, and I am getting them into a row, damnit.

Also I managed to make myself exercise a bit again. I’ve crept up in weight; I’m now hovering around 170, which is about 15 pounds heavier than I would prefer to be. I’ve really got to just restart the habit of exercising daily to lose this instead of spreading out even more in the wintertime.


1325 new words, 2960 so far.

I’m done with chapter 1. It’s nice to see something that I’ve been carrying around in my head for about a third of my life finally coming out on paper.

It’s also interesting to be doing something I know will be a comic as entirely words for now. As I got near the end of this chapter, I had a thought about how to manipulate the sloppiness of the art to hint at the protagonist’s mental state, and how to start to foreshadow the blackouts that will be important later on, so I went back and added a few words to the appropriate panels. After a year and a half of doing Rita as a headlong fall towards the ending, this feels like an incredible luxury, and I’m sure it will feel even more like one when I realize something I write near the end of the story needs to have seeds planted through the whole thing.

I’m still sort of following the same plan I have for Rita; I have an overall structure planned out, and I’m pretty much just writing from the beginning until I reach the end. I’ve got a few fragments planned out in more detail. We’ll see how this all comes together at the end of the month.

Meanwhile I spent most of yesterday waiting around the house for volume 1 of Rita to be delivered. It did not show up, so I called the shipping company. Hopefully it will show up today, though this time I was scheduled for somewhere between 10 and 2, and, well, it’s pretty close to 2 now. I should call them and check, because I’d kinda like to take a shower but I don’t want to miss the delivery if it does show up in the next half hour or so! I want a receptionist.

Guess I’ll work on converting the next page of Rita from a sketch into a drawing. Seven panels, including setting a couple of new scenes. This thing is so complicated. But worth it!

national graphic novel scripting month

For a couple of months, I’ve been saying that I’m going to spend Nanowrimo writing a first draft of The Drowning City. Well, it’s the first of November, so it’s time for me to put up or shut up.

And so far I have, indeed, put up – I just wrote 1250 words, which comprise the script to the first nine pages and some brief notes about how the chapter plays out, which should probably be another 3-4 pages.

I’m working with some pre-existing notes and dialogue fragments, so it’s debatable if this “counts” – NNWM is supposed to be about writing a bunch of new content. But that’s 1250 new words on top of stuff I already had in Evernote, so I’m saying that yes, it damn well counts for me. Hopefully I will be able to plow through to new territory, as well. My brain is offering interesting suggestions now.

exhuming from the vault


Here’s a thing I pulled out of storage the other day. The deck of index cards that comprises most of the existing notes on The Drowning City, my long-gestating work of trans metaphor urban fantasy. I’d had a few notes in Evernote; some of the whiter cards are ones I transcribed those notes onto yesterday and the day before. Some of the others are new ideas that came out of seeing how these new ideas meshed with older parts I’d forgotten about.

I put this deck together not too long after I arrived in Boston, with all my possessions lost to Katrina. I wanted to dredge up as much of this story as I could. Put it down on paper again before it was lost along with all the sketchbooks it was scattered throughout. I got down the bare bones of the plot; I got down all of the various incidents I’d come up with. I even started to flesh it out into something I could use to draw the comic from – some of the early chapters are fairly defined.

But it still wasn’t ready. Still was missing something. And I also knew I still didn’t have the comics-making chops to make it what it needed to be. So it went on the shelf and I proposed a collaboration with Nick. Which went fairly well for a chapter. Then the Tarot deck, then the move to Seattle, then the breakup, then the need to do comics again. I thought of trying to do this as my first solo project, but it was still missing something, and I wanted to do something more upbeat to pull me out of the emotional funk of a breakup – this story is pretty relentlessly dark.

I’ve been learning a lot by doing Rita. And a few ideas came to me for this story that I think really filled in the missing parts of the core. There’s still outer details to work out – stuff involving Sidhé conspiracies and courtly intrigues, stuff involving unlikely romances – but the bones, ah, the bones. The bones are there, polished and ready to be built upon.

My plan is to try and write the first draft of a script for the whole story during Nanowrimo. Yeah, I’ll be cheating – NNWM is supposed to be from scratch, as I understand it. But I don’t care. This thing’s been brewing inside me for about fifteen years, and it’s time to make ready to let it out. I intend to work on this and Absinthe in parallel once I’m done with Rita. And if Absinthe finishes before Drowning City is done, there will be some other light-hearted story to break up the gloom.

Some parts of the story I’ve talked about, here and there. The woman turning into a monster. The elves invading her city, the Hero whose story she’s a minor character in, the resolutely unmagical sword who moves between the elves, the Hero, and our monster. The endless rain, the blackouts. Other things I haven’t spoken about yet. The Black Dog who follows her and his ultimate significance. The reason she’s becoming a monster. The ways the elves toy with her.

I dunno. I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to start pounding this pile of angst and fantasy into a shape. But I don’t think I’ll ever be much more ready.