Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drowning in Darkness

Moving from writing mode to revision mode is a big mental adjustment. I go from trying desperately to add to my word count to trying desperately to delete words. I cut nearly 6,000 words yesterday, and I'm about a third of the way through the book. Some of those words are about to go back in, though, because I've reached a scene that will now be combined with part of an earlier scene that I cut. I know of one more entire scene that will be deleted, and there may be parts of other scenes that go. Once I'm through with the hacking and slashing, it will be internal editing to cut out redundancies, unnecessary words and that sort of thing. There isn't a hard-and-fast word count goal, but shorter books are easier to sell these days, so if I go over 100,000, I'd better be absolutely certain that every single word in it is utterly necessary.

It was nice to see that I'm not alone in being somewhat dissatisfied with the current urban fantasy trend and its marketing/packaging. The covers really are getting ridiculous, and one particular publisher is particularly bad about seeming to have a template where it's the exact same cover, just changing some details in the background and the exact tattoos on the woman. The idea behind this cover "look" is that it's almost like a logo. You know at one glance exactly what kind of book this is, and if you like that sort of thing, you'll pick it up. The problem is that if you've ever bought something with that kind of cover that you didn't like, you'll start to assume, consciously or otherwise, that all those books that look like that will be like the one you didn't like, and you'll avoid them all. I'm afraid that's what's happened to me.

I love the idea of urban fantasy because I was getting a little tired of all the quasi-medieval secondary-world fantasies and I like the idea of the "real" world bumping into the magical world, and vice versa. But I came to it more from the Harry Potter side of things, where first he has abilities he doesn't understand, and then when he understands them, he doesn't really understand the magical world, and then when he's become part of the magical world, he's not allowed to bring that back with him into the real world. I liked the magical versions of modern technology -- the way of doing the same things, but using magic instead -- and the way the magical people were often as clueless about the real world as the non-magical people were about magic. I liked the idea of making the car fly or the special magical bus bouncing around the country. I liked that the magical people felt so real, that they had some of the same issues I had when I was that age, even if it was in a different setting. I liked the idea of doing magic while wearing jeans and sneakers instead of tights, doublet and boots.

And there was almost nothing like that available for adults. I had to write it for myself. When I started hearing the term "urban fantasy" tossed around, I was excited, but it turned out to not really be what I wanted it to be. It was fantasy in a modern urban setting, but almost entirely missing the elements that I wanted to see. It seemed to be coming more from a horror or paranormal romance place than from a fantasy place. Even so, there was some I enjoyed, but there was more that bugged me or bothered me. Some of it annoyed me enough that I instinctively flinch when I see that kind of cover. It takes a lot of "no, really, you'll like this" recommendations from people whose taste I trust for me to give something that looks like this a shot now.

One thing I wonder: Why are the people who have all these special powers so often in the underworld -- the dregs of society, in the slums and on the streets? If you've got special powers, wouldn't you have an advantage?

I suppose I'm just more of an optimist than a pessimist. I'm not into darkness or angst. I'm into overcoming darkness and fighting against it instead of wallowing in it. I'm into trying to be the best person you can be and making the best use of all the abilities you've been given instead of wasting your life being bitter while living in a cruddy apartment in a bad part of town and shutting people out of your life. Magic should be fun, exciting and, well, magical. It may have its darker side and it may have consequences, but that has more to do with learning to use it and developing your own moral compass to keep yourself on the right side of things.

And now to go hack thousands more words out of the work in progress.

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