DTD — 514, and the critical question of the nature of immortality

The writing tonight went well. In fact, all the new front-end material has gone well. It’s much cleaner, sharper, more focused than the material I was getting earlier (the stuff that has been moved toward the middle of the novel.)

Which of course is good.

Over the weekend, though, I addressed something that has been nagging at the back of my mind since I started Dreaming The Dead—specifically, exactly what sort of immortality my immortal characters have, how it works, and what its limitations are.

Initially, I’d been pretty broad in how I allowed my immortality to work. One guy lost a head and, because he had plenty of fuel (other folks’ dead bodies) to draw from, grew another one and got up and walked away from the site of his own near death.

That’s broad. That’s a superpower.

And I’d promised myself that, because of the nature of the story I’m telling, I would not permit any superpowers. Immortality does not mean invulnerability…and over the weekend, I spent a lot of time running through my head the previous superpower-type immortality of some of my characters, versus the much more fragile immortality of someone who can live forever if he doesn’t get hit by a bus.

Decide that my folks can heal quickly from most wounds—if they can put pressure on the bleeding, they have high-quality cellular regeneration. Could grow a lopped-off fingertip back in an hour or two, a hand in a week if they could rest. They have better-than-average immunity to diseases—again, at the cellular level, they’re fine-tuned.

But much, of the first part of what I wrote is now not going to make the cut. Out of the 34K words I’ve written, I know the first 3K are solid, and I can probably salvage some from the later portions, but I’m not looking at a light rewrite to update anymore. I’m looking at major cuts. At best I figure my real current wordcount is around 15K. I woudn’t be surprised if it turns out to be lower than 10K.

But I’m going to continue to work the plan here. Write the new scenes, then figure out what I have to cut and rewrite in the existing scenes, just making notes on it for the revision, and then move on to the next new material.

Funny thing is, I’m not the least disheartened by losing all those words I’m going to lose. I figured out how to make the book better, figured out what was bothering me, and figured out how to fix it over the weekend. So it was a damn good weekend for me.

How are your words coming?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

38 comments… add one
  • Eve Aug 10, 2009 @ 23:39

    827 words and too tired to say more than that.

  • Patricia Aug 10, 2009 @ 23:25

    1,680 words for Sunday and Monday, but I forgot to count Sunday and I’m too tired to remember what a wrote on what days. πŸ˜€ Anyways…This was a really fun scene (for me anyway) because my MC has met some trouble, and I mean deep trouble, and someone close to him died. He has been dragged halfway across the continent in one night and is about to wake up to find out that there is no waking up from this nightmare.

  • Jim Mitchel Aug 10, 2009 @ 22:35

    Chapter 7.

    The nightmare creature is in a killing frenzy. Huge jaws came crushing down severing flesh from bone. The creature was focused on one particular member in the party of heroes.

    Word count for today: 268

  • Gabby Aug 10, 2009 @ 22:35

    532 words today.

  • Don Aug 10, 2009 @ 21:11

    Did 780 today could have done more but having computer issues. Pondering getting a new Dell computers are getting to be like cars how much do you put in an old one before, your better off getting a new one.
    Things on the writing front are progressing he Greens have sent the monsters they use as weapons louse on Earth. But the Banold on Earth have not heard from their Home world. The Banold leader is worried, mean wile the phones are dead and the MC is about to take a hurt man to the hospital. They will not make it of course, as things slowly fall apart around them.

  • megan Aug 10, 2009 @ 18:17

    Holly, as always, your process is inspirational. I hit a block with my WIP last week, and over the weekend I had some minor breakthrough thoughts, like maybe I was trying to write in a milleau I can’t beleive in, even though I love to read a good YA fantasy set in the ‘now’. Still have me thinking cap on there. BUT, I did get back my first finished short (3k) , from my friend and her crit was great, I can see the probs and beleive I will be able to fix them, they werent many, but did stop her true enjoyment. Otherwise she loved it. go me! And go every one else!

  • unxplaindfires Aug 10, 2009 @ 18:08

    Wow! What two weeks without electricity can do. I just got back from a much needed vacation. Roughed it; a tent, some fire, and killing things to eat. (ie. Real Camping) It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and completely liberating.
    The entire time, I thought about my book about a total of two minutes. Between rock climbing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, and scaring off a mountain lion with two pieces of wood; I didn’t really have time to think about it.
    Last night however, once everything was square away and I home, it exploded and I realized I spent every minute away thinking about my novel – at least a part of me did. And that part torn it apart and pieced it together and I couldn’t be happier. Starting from the beginning. Word count zero. and it feels RIGHT. I have a feeling for the next few weeks words are going to fly and I will enjoy it.

    Words today = -14786 (yes thats a negative :] )

  • Dena C. Aug 10, 2009 @ 17:33

    Well it’s back to a normal schedule again after being on vacation for two weeks. I took most those two weeks off from writing, but it hasn’t seemed to make the ability to write suffer at all. I logged in 1348 today and I’m quite happy about it.

  • Julia GD Aug 10, 2009 @ 16:39

    The weekend was not very productive. I had to go to work (sadly, that’s sort of normal for a scientist. We sacrifice our weekends for God knows what reason. Definitely not for money. No one gets paid for working on weekends >.< )
    So, total count is about 500 words Saturday and 1700 for Sunday.
    I did a lot of thinking and plotting though while working so I guess, all in all it was not that bad.
    I finally decided that telepathy will happen in my book and resigned myself to add another plotline. It's going to be complicated, but I feel it'll add a lot of flavor to the story.

    Immortality is a hard thing to work with – it takes a lot of explaining to make it seem logical and non-cliche. I think, you got it well. Certainly, the biologist in me screams "impossible" at the idea of growing a finger back in an hour or two. But, what do we know. Maybe for your characters the cells can divide faster than bacteria… Though it'll still be superpower? πŸ™‚ If you want to avoid superpowers in general, make regeneration times a bit longer. To close the wound one does not need to regenerate the tissue that was injured, but instead just to seal off the blood vessels (takes couple minutes even for the biggest) and close the tear in tissue (skin closure could be possible overnight if the width is less that 1 cm) and than the tissue could heal at whatever rate depending on the organ and the size of a wound. I guess, if taking into account the number of cells and the necessary developmental processes, a 5 days – one week would be enough for a small finger. Sorry, I got too carried away by the idea. Anyway, I think in fiction an author can just set the rules. So regardless of what I wrote, if you say an hour – an hour it is. πŸ™‚
    Sorry if this is a duplicate comment. I fail with computers, they just hate me.

  • Julia GD Aug 10, 2009 @ 16:38

    Strange… Somehow I do not see my comment, even though when I tried to re-post it the system says I am trying to duplicate it. It’s amazing how I can manage to screw up even the simplest thing >.<

    • Julia GD Aug 10, 2009 @ 16:42

      I think it might be the length. Maybe I should cut it down a bit?

  • Minze Aug 10, 2009 @ 16:37

    525 words. At first I didn’t want to write, but I made myself so I’d stay in the habit, and… it worked. Yay me. What I’m wrestling with isn’t immortality, but technology. There’ll be a lot of that in the novel – it’s a historical mystery – and I’m still wondering whether to use real, (then) existing technology or whether to make it a steampunk novel and just make it up as I go along. (My Muse says she wants Jane Austen with time bombs.)

  • Julia GD Aug 10, 2009 @ 15:57

    The weekend was not very productive. I had to go to work (sadly, that’s sort of normal for a scientist. We sacrifice our weekends for God knows what reason. Definitely not for money. No one gets paid for working on weekends >.< )
    So, total count is about 500 words Saturday and 1700 for Sunday.
    I did a lot of thinking and plotting though while working so I guess, all in all it was not that bad.
    I finally decided that telepathy will happen in my book and resigned myself to add another plotline. It's going to be complicated, but I feel it'll add a lot of flavor to the story.

    Immortality is a hard thing to work with – it takes a lot of explaining to make it seem logical and non-cliche. I think, you got it well. Certainly, the biologist in me screams "impossible" at the idea of growing a finger back in an hour or two. But, what do we know. Maybe for your characters the cells can divide faster than bacteria… Though it'll still be superpower? πŸ™‚ If you want to avoid superpowers in general, make regeneration times a bit longer. To close the wound one does not need to regenerate the tissue that was injured, but instead just to seal off the blood vessels (takes couple minutes even for the biggest) and close the tear in tissue (skin closure could be possible overnight if the width is less that 1 cm) and than the tissue could heal at whatever rate depending on the organ and the size of a wound. I guess, if taking into account the number of cells and the necessary developmental processes, a 5 days – one week would be enough for a small finger. Sorry, I got too carried away by the idea. Anyway, I think in fiction an author can just set the rules. So regardless of what I wrote, if you say an hour – an hour it is. πŸ™‚

  • Mikaela Aug 10, 2009 @ 15:07

    Since we left Gothenburg today, instead of yesterday, I took today off too! I did have a revelation about another WIP this weekend. I have a feeling the rewrite will be extensive on that one later this autumn!

  • Ceallai Aug 10, 2009 @ 14:53

    341 words today, rewriting chapter one.
    I’ve started (well, nearly finished) Lawrence Block’s “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit”, and having read some very interesting stuff in the “structure” section, I’ve slightly restructured my story. I still have no idea what is going to happen once I get to the middle (it’s a 3-part story), never mind the end, but so far it’s sort of unfolded all by itself, and after four replots I’m starting to have faith it’ll keep doing that as long as I keep at it. I just hope I’ll be able to keep it all coherent in the end…
    Working a lot this week, very proud I managed to write this much (but would have been frustrated otherwise!).

  • Peggy Aug 10, 2009 @ 14:35

    Initially, I’d been pretty broad in how I allowed my immortality to work. One guy lost a head and, because he had plenty of fuel (other folks’ dead bodies) to draw from, grew another one and got up and walked away from the site of his own near death.

    That’s broad. That’s a superpower.

    That’s also cool as all hell. I’m sorry this isn’t going to make the cut.

  • Shawn Aug 10, 2009 @ 13:55

    I’ve also been having problems with my “superpowers.” My initial thought that in “Chosen,” the MCs would be brought back from the brink of death and commissioned to try to get the world back on track. The one is healed by water and the other by fire. When they are healed, they are given a connection to the element that healed them. I saw it as an “affinity” and that, with access to the thing they have an affinity with, they could be stronger, faster, heal quickly, etc. But, without access to these things, they are just normal shmoes.

    Of course, this affinity system can’t only work for them. Others might have an affinity to a certain animal, or a localized area (a glade for example). These connections can impart other abilities as well. For example, someone with an affinity for a bird, might be able to see through its eyes and use it for scouting. But the MCs are unique in that they have an affinity with all water, or all fire. What that means is part of what they have to discover. I’m still working out difficulties, but I figure the climactic scene will have our friends in the desert with no water and no fire to help in the final showdown.

  • Treelight Aug 10, 2009 @ 12:44

    I started the new writing-week with 395 words.
    Again, I wrote them while travelling by train and I quite like them because they allowed me to show a bit more of my world.
    Back at home I was too tired to continue, but I’m satisfied with this word-count.

    • Treelight Aug 10, 2009 @ 13:25

      P.S.: I forgot to mention that I finally hit the 70k mark!
      It took me about 5 and a half looong months to get there from the last big mark of 60k.
      But do you know what? I created more than half of those 10k during this writing-game!!!

      Thank you, Holly!

  • Lisa R Aug 10, 2009 @ 10:24

    1651 words. I worked on a lot of history to help my MC understand what she is up against in obtaining her goal. I still feel I am writing in the dark which may or may not be a good thing. A first novel is quite the adventure.

    On a side note, I started the Think Sideways Course.

    • Debora Aug 11, 2009 @ 6:56

      Well, you are in for an adventure!

  • Michelle Aug 10, 2009 @ 9:58

    Ditto- Holly, I love seeing what you’re doing and feeling like I’m involved in the process. Knowing that you can go back and cut so much makes me feel better when I’m in the same situation.

    730 words for me today, and I really feel like a voice is starting to come out in this story. The world-building is going great too. Loving the process.

  • Gabby Aug 10, 2009 @ 9:38

    Oh shucks, that means the headless guy is gone, doesn’t it? (I really liked that hallway scene you posted) It’s funny, when I read it, I originally thought he came back from an alternate time line so he was dead at one point but he came back through time from a point where he was still alive. Oops.

    Thank you for making your process so transparent. It really is helpful.

  • Jessica Aug 10, 2009 @ 8:20

    Just didn’t feel like writing yesterday so I didn’t. Although I definitely want to get back to it today, otherwise I’ll feel like I’ve let myself slip too far. Time for the muse and a few minor characters to go jackelope hunting.

  • Rob Aug 10, 2009 @ 8:18

    Failed to get words last night for no better reason than I was lazy. I hate those days. It’s hard for me to write at night, but with work as crazy as it’s been, I don’t have much choice. Yesterday, I just wanted the day off because I had to go into work on Saturday. πŸ™ Lame excuse, but there ya go.

    Words tonight for sure.

  • Debora Aug 10, 2009 @ 8:01

    Took Saturday off. I have finally reached the point where I can take a day off without being mortally afraid that I somehow will not be able to write the next time I try. That’s progress.

    Wrote 892 words yesterday and got to the end of a long but important digression, which may or may not make it into the book but gave me some vital insight into my MC’s emotional make-up. The longer the draft, the clumsier it starts to feel. Awkward, repetitive, inconsistent, but strangely that does not bother me all that much. Telling the story is what matters to me, and I can’t know the whole story until I’ve written it. So I forgive my narrator for being so wordy and unreliable. It’s okay, I tell myself. You’ve got a long trek ahead of you. A lot of ground to cover. A whole world, a whole battle and its aftermath to recreate.

    Watched one of this year’s anniversary battlewalks yesterday morning. About Evander Law’s brigade on the second day of the battle, July 2nd, 1863, whose men had already marched 24 miles to get to the battlefield and then were thrown against the Union left without time to rest or eat. Or even fill their canteens! On a blazing hot, humid day. Law’s men had traveled the farthest to get to the battlefield that day but were the first to step off. Against such formidable geographical obstacles as the Round Tops and Devil’s Den.

    Stories like this inspire me.

    What I’ve got to do seems like a cakewalk in comparison.

  • Larkk Aug 10, 2009 @ 7:55

    So interesting reading your post Holly! The cuts and changes that seem inevitable won’t be nearly as frustrating, now that I know that even real writers go through the same process.

    763 words, went to bed, got up again and started the scene over with 264 more. Trying to get the dialogue right is killing me.

  • Khena Aug 10, 2009 @ 7:46

    Just a tad over a thousand for me, which is below my goal, but suited me just fine. I finally finished the mangled chapters I skipped! The last scene was a little weak, but I loved the rest of what I wrote. Switching gears, or rather switching chapters so far ahead threw me a little, but I figured out where to go next. I also finalized the nine stones my MCs are searching for, and what powers or gifts they will have.
    So all in all I had a producitive weekend, dispite being busier than normal =)

  • Ieva Aug 10, 2009 @ 3:14

    1000+ words. I wouldn’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.

    I’m at 42K now, it seems that my first draft will be 80K (which is just fine because I’ll need to add words for descriptions and stuff; I think I’m a putter-inner type of writer), and I’m beginning to worry that I haven’t inched even a bit closer to my evil beings who are working their way through on the background. Just like you, Holly, I’m starting to ponder what exactly they powers are and how do they work, but I’m guessing I’ll have to allow my book to end before tweaking that because I’m clearly not able to figure “good” ideas from “bad” ones at this point.

    • Holly Lisle Aug 12, 2009 @ 23:25

      You’re following a solid process. Just stay with it. πŸ˜€

  • Brent B. Aug 10, 2009 @ 2:50

    For a while now I’ve been teetering with worry, afraid that if I didn’t slug my way forward on the old story, despite my muse yelling at me “run, Forrest, run”, I would end up feeling like I was, well, running away from my problems. But turns out my muse is way smarter than I am and I feel great. The old story took me in a zillion directions and finally dumped me on my a**, right at the doorstep of a spinning black hole. *whew. close call.*

    Good riddance.

    My new story’s rocking cooler. Even my quasi-writer butt can tell it’s got a much more promise. The language is a little crude as I’m still fleshing out the wording. “Cat-shifted to a world where two evolved and intelligent animal species wage war against one another, Randall and company just want to stay alive long enough to find a way home, until they start to evolve themselves, that is.”

    • Gabby Aug 10, 2009 @ 9:22

      Yeah- that sounds pretty cool, with lots of possibilities πŸ™‚ Good luck!

    • Holly Lisle Aug 12, 2009 @ 23:24

      I’m fascinated by the verb “Cat-shifted.” My mind offers up all sorts of suggestions for what you might mean by that.

      Nice.

  • Jamie D. Aug 10, 2009 @ 1:21

    Finally back to writing – 258 words tonight. I have to stop letting other things get in the way of my writing time.

    This post is really helpful to me. I basically wrote a whole new beginning to my draft, meaning several of the first few scenes I wrote will end up being cut later. I was kind of thinking maybe it was my amateur writing that caused it, so it was inspiring to hear that you did the same thing.

    Anyways, re-committing to 250 words per night all week.

  • laurel Aug 10, 2009 @ 1:10

    I’m writing an important scene, far beyond my comfort zone, discovering details and laws I did not know, until one of the water folk whispered them to me.

  • Clare K. R. Miller Aug 10, 2009 @ 0:23

    Wow, that’s pretty excellent! I’m glad I don’t have to deal with immortality in my novel… well, except for the fae, whose type of immortality is pretty well-documented.

    533 words for me today. Cricket has gotten herself (and her servant/bodyguard) to where they need to be, and is totally failing to think about Jack, which if Jack knew, he would be quite sad about.

  • Sarah Collins Aug 9, 2009 @ 23:45

    791 for me today.

    Sounds like you had a fabulously productive weekend! Nothing like an “a ha” moment to sooth over a few missing words – even a few thousand of ’em. =c)

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