Peter John McLean

fighting the urge to overcomplicate my book (Writing)

I opened a Word file and started jotting down all the notes I have on my book about rats. General ideas, meta ideas (hate that term), plans for what still needs to be fit in. When I do this – especially when I think about the meta concepts (still think that term sounds asinine) – I have a tendency to massively overcomplicate my book. If I just plug along and write six hundred words a day the result is a steady and interesting book, when I take time to plan it out I end up with some hybrid-mind-shit-beast that has nine interwoven plots all told in the third person by an unreliable narrator who overuses footnotes. And that isn’t what I want.

*How’s this for an unreliable narrator unstuck from time? I finished the book before I got around to finishing this blog post, so now I can wax philosophical about how I didn’t over complicate it.

I wrote the basic draft. It’s 45,000 words of garbage prose, stick figure characters, some drama, some romance, some guns, some drugs etc. I did everything wrong probably, it’s a really basic draft. When I go back in a few weeks and read it I have no doubt I’ll cringe a lot. But still, I just got it out there.

Now I can go back and really mess with it after a few weeks of other projects. I just finished a new short story and am playing around with a second novel called Cow (about the inflatable cow) right now. It’s written by a completely unreliable narrator who is sharing various aspects and ideas about the cow as he goes along. It will have alternate endings. It will be fun.

When I go back I will be able to make the book about rats more labyrinthine. It will be easier to organize the character’s descent into depravity while matching it with the story arch’s ascent into violence, and hopefully the subplots of lesbian murder and gang politics will be effectively built as well. Plot is by far the hardest thing for me, so all of that will be chaos.

More importantly, I can go back and flesh out the rat, his friend, the girl, Andre, the gang, Jim, and everything else. Right now I’m sure that, aside from dialogue, the characters are all the same two dimensional simpletons.

This is where it gets fun. This is when I get to make the rough draft my bitch.