Transparency. A look at my novels.

Perhaps transparency is the bane of romance, removing that intimacy of pursuit, of mystery, or suspense. But I want to be clear to you guys. I’m as normal as any one of you, only I’m climbing the coattails of a break and trying to ride high enough to feel the wind in my hair, spread my arms, and lose myself.

Today I want to let you in on my novels, to give you a glimpse of these stories I always talk about but never seem to indicate follow through.

To do that, I must start at the beginning.

Inspired by authors like Tom Clancy and John Grisham and Stephen King, among others, seventh-grade Karl, with the first hints of gel in his hair and a desperation to land himself a pair of contacts, was absolutely fascinated by the sense of epic storytelling found in these adventure stories he was reading, and decided to write his own.

A good hundred fifty pages in, I abandoned my first story, Not a Drop to Drink, after I lost the threads of the mystery, never really knowing what was going on behind the scenes when the action was over. I put the manuscript aside (but not without annoying my teachers about reading it to no end, first), but didn’t lose my dream of creating for others what had been created for me, worlds of friends and magic.

Toward the end of my sophomore year in high school, an english class with daily creative writing prompts (usually inspired by an image or a bit of song or a question), gave birth to an image, a gradual idea of epic scope that bubbled forth on a single handwritten page. Over the next few months, this image grew into a scenario, a theme, intertwined with daydreams and literary components, and the rest of the story was fleshed out in spurts for weeks on end (but with months in between), usually to hard rock music pounding out a scattered score.

High School Karl, check. Book finished, check. Pose with a copy of it for the internet? Okay.

The first draft of Hallowtide was finished the month before I began my freshman year at Colorado State University. Over the next three years, I’d polish the draft twice more before settling on something I was satisfied to publish. Summer of 2010 began the marketing stage, outlining agencies to query, letters and summaries and various materials that those important would want. I also loaned the story to a close friend, marking only the third to finish the story. Though moved, he pointed out a number of confusing places he wanted to see tweaked, and I decided to put the (at this point dragging) marketing on hold while I made the appropriate modifications.

But when going back to the story, the work again called my attention to what I saw as glaring disharmony in the writing. The story grew from a forced outline surrounding the idea of a boy traveling into Hell itself, and I’d never done a full rewrite, only various revisions, and so despite the work I’d put in on its modification, and my education in what good voice was in work, the novel never really held a strong base. Much of the plot was in large part forced to make sense, leaving gaping holes.

Though I’d patched those holes, many, and plugged up the writing itself, the whole looked more like an old wall, patched and mended and held up in places by the occasional support beam. It is an elegant wall, indeed, and speaks to a precision and beauty all its own, but what if, with my years of experience now, I rebuilt the wall anew, fresh, reflecting the same form as the first, the same brick, but with a deliberation and unity the first lacked?

So now, five years after the first draft, numerous short stories, poems, books, education, and other novel beginnings, Hallowtide screams for a full rewrite. And so, a few weeks ago, I brought the story back to the drawing board, back to the very beginning.

It’s a violent story, harrowing, horrific, and painful to read. And because of that, it must be perfect. A story will never be done, but what the writer settles on must be right, and I don’t feel that it is. I’ve finished enough before now that I think I know when a story is good enough, when it’s something I can be proud of. This isn’t there yet.

Yes, when I procrastinate, I photoshop covers for my stuff. Stephanie Meyer did it. Wait. Actually I'm not sure if that helps or hurts my case.

But for National Novel Writing Month in 2009, a story that had been itching within me finally found its way to the page. Four years into Hallowtide, I was burnt out and looking for something fresh. The story was at first called, When Something Extraordinary Happens, but later turned to A Matter of Seeing. And likely will change again. It’s a story about a ground-moving relationship’s stability and endurance in the face of the impossible and the irrational.

For this book, I approached the story in a different way, writing “Stephen King style,” which is to say, taking a situation and relying on the strength of the characters to drive the story along. Well they drove the story about 35,000 words (about a third of the way through the tale) before my need for direction took over and the story came to a halt, waiting for inspiration. That and it needed amounts of research I didn’t have time or access to. (Research scares me, damn you school system.) Now, the story waits for that touch of research and focus of mind to redraw the themes into a narrative, and push them to where they need to go. It still has a lot of work yet, but the story is too strong to be left forever.

Then in the summer of 2010, a third story, inspired by experiments in form, surfaced on the internet via a series of blog posts, and I wound up writing 50,000 words in just over two month’s time, chronicling  the story of a girl who moved to Colorado to start anew. I’ve never had a story come so elegantly and easily before this. The act of sitting to write every day forced from me something often unexpected and at times gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

While the posts work nicely as a whole, they form only the first of a three part full story that explores the cracks in our world, the darkness between them, and life after death. Poetic, complex, and deeply cyclical and thematic, it’s perhaps my proudest work to date and still lingers nearly forgotten in the dusty attic of a blogging site.

Those of you clever enough may have found it.

So now, with the pressure of Hallowtide’s full rewrite lingering over my head, I wonder if it might be easier to finish one of my other works in progress before rebeginning the old work.

If I do, I think it will be the experimental story, The Fourth Wall (the full story including the blog entries from the summer) that goes first. It’s speaking loudest, though Hallowtide too often digs its way into my thoughts, as I think it always will. (It’s the first of a trilogy, by the way, the latter books speaking with an equal urgency.)

But school is busy, and sucks my free time. My job takes me on lecture circuits and to the Stanley Hotel on weekends to lead the public ghost hunts. When I’m not working on a deadline, I’m trying to find my head again.

But it’s bullshit to say I don’t have time to write.

A serious writer will always find time.

And so I’m resolving to start writing again, if only for an hour a night, starting at midnight, with the music cranked, with no other priority but to keep the story coming.

If there’s no other reason to post this entry, it’s to say that, and to hold me to it.

I want these stories done. I want them out. And one day, soon, I want them in your hands.

So tell me forum, which should I start with?

Just don’t say the one from seventh grade.

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19 thoughts on “Transparency. A look at my novels.

  1. Debbie T says:

    Hey Karl, sounds to me like Hallowtide wants to be born. Being the creative sort myself, I’ve found that often I need to walk away from a project or painting long enough that I can return with “fresh eyes”. Then inspiration flows fast and furious. If it doesn’t, you need to move on to something else that gets those juices going.

    I love this quote:

    Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

  2. Aly says:

    Hallowtide. It has to be Hallowtide. You have put your heart, blood, sweat, tears, years of your LIFE into crafting that story. Don’t go the easy way Karl! Take the hard road. As the characters in your novel no doubt would. I too am a writer and my biggest block isn’t story lines, time to write or continuity. It’s fear of success. What if I actually got published? And people liked it? Loved it even? What then? It’s a little uncomfortable to think about… But let’s. 🙂

  3. karlpfeiffer says:

    I don’t think I’m afraid of publication… Having a published novel has always kind of been the dream, for better or for worse. It’s been the daydream, lol. And if I turn to another project, Hallowtide won’t be forgotten about, it will still be completed….

    Fresh eyes, lol. I’ve had five or six years of off and on writing on that behemoth, often with almost a year in between the work. My eyes know freshness on this thing, and that’s the problem. Hallowtide was a learning process. Hallowtide taught me how to write, but that’s a long process. And now I’m burnt out on it. But a writer should be as excited by his story as a reader, so I’m in a tricky place…

    Thanks for chiming in so far guys!

  4. Evie Warner says:

    I know everyon keeps saying Hallowtide…and they maybe write..(pun intended) but remember if your forcing it then your not going to like the result. If you take a step back, you might be able to come back to it with fresher eyes. Ultimately, you as the writer, should know yourself better than anyone. You half to ask yourself what would serve you better..taking a step back or tackling it head-on.

  5. karlpfeiffer says:

    I know – and I think I’ve got a very good handle on where I’m at.

    I guess I just wonder which project you guys are most interested in, is what I’m asking.

  6. Debbie T says:

    Well for me they all sound great, but then I’m a bit of a book ‘ho’. But your phrase “gut-wrenchingly beautiful” really caught my attention. Is that The Fourth Wall ?

  7. Susan says:

    I’d be interested in any of them but I’m leaning towards a newer one. As a writer, your heart is more into the one that you think about the most. If a new one is on your mind, then go with it first. Maybe Hallowtide isn’t meant to be revised at this time and there may be benefits to waiting.

  8. Steve Choy says:

    Karl – great learning more about what creatures dwell in that mind of yours.

    Genuine curiousity about your dark thoughts attracts me to most of your stories, especially Hallowtide, as you describe it.

    With A Matter of Seeing, I’m most interested in discovering the dynamic of this relationship and the threat it faces. Above most anything else, I enjoy reading, hearing and watching stories about human interaction and what we do when faced against amazing circumstances.

    I love your title The Fourth Wall. I think this story has tremendous potential to tell a very timely story. Given the setting, I think it also allows you to spread your wings and cover ground not already trampled on by other writers. You know this world, I’m sure.

    I suffer from the inability to lock down and complete any one of my handful of ideas/projects, which I suppose I should be thankful for having in the first place. In my experience, my writing always improves and my latest project is without a doubt better than the previous. That gives me hope because I feel like it only gets better from here.

    I think after reading the previous comments above, it’s safe to say your fans are willing to read anything you decide to put out. It’s great to have that pre-built support. So hurry up and get us something to devour, hungry beasts can turn ugly quick!

  9. Ellie says:

    This may sound daft, but from what I can see, you are looking for approval on your ideas before fully committing to continuing.

    My instinct is forget the reader right now, concentrate on which one brings you the most enjoyment/satisfaction to write.

    I do believe, the more you enjoy writing it, the more the reader will enjoy it.

    Yes we should consider the market etc etc, but as has already be said, if you force it, it will not work.

    • Debbie T says:

      Great observation Ellie. I repeat myself:

      Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

  10. karlpfeiffer says:

    You guys really think I don’t enjoy my writing and that I don’t do it because it makes me come alive?

    • karlpfeiffer says:

      I seriously kinda take offense to that.

    • Debbie T says:

      I didn’t mean that at all. I meant that you should continue working on which ever piece really floats your boat. Some people believe you should persist with struggling, to break through blocks or resistance and get over that hump, but in my book that’s trying too hard. When you love what you’re doing its hardly work at all, more play, and creativity flows. I tend to try to please others, to my own detriment, and have to constantly remind myself to create what brings me joy or feels right to me. People always end up loving the finished product because it comes from my heart. Now my day job is another story… I have to do what pleases others which really stifles my freedom and creativity. You have incredible talent and persistence at such a young age, you definitely have a great future. Keep following your heart!

  11. Ellie says:

    Oh no, i didn’t mean that at all…I just mean there are different levels of enjoyment, go with the one that gives the most satisfaction now.

    Sometimes the hardest ones to write are the most enjoyable, but only you know the answer!

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