How Do You Eat an Elephant?



I started writing Bento Box in July 2013, depending on your perspective. In April of 2013 I wrote a catchy short story that raised all kinds of fun questions, which I then decided to explore. I also decided I was going to experiment with plotter techniques; prewriting, outlines, figuring out the end before launching into the beginning. It wasn’t just a challenge, it was several challenges at once. I was so nervous about doing it right, that I paid my editor fifty bucks to edit my outline and see what she could add to it.

I don’t know if I could have said it clearly then, but now I see I was exhausted from the endless rewrites of my second story, Best Served Cold. For whatever reason, that story was simply not coming together coherently, and I had to put the concept to bed, if only to get a break from it.

I did end up ignoring my editor’s suggestions, mostly because it was obvious that she wasn’t a fan of the science fiction genre. I think she’s a fantastic person and she taught me a lot over the time we worked together with Best Served Cold. That aside, I haven’t found the genre that I’m going to settle down with yet, I’m still in the process of experimenting. And now I’ve learned, it’s important to get an editor who loves your genre as much as you do.

Two weeks ago I made it to a major milestone – the climax of the story. And let me tell you how surprised and excited I was that it went exactly as I’d outlined. Before you get too excited, that’s probably the only portion of the outline that survived contact with what actually got written, but working so hard and seeing all that work, 75 thousand words, culminate into the section I wanted it to be was very rewarding.

Previous success does not guarantee future success, however. The climax is not where you end the story. It’s where the crescendo happens, but not the denouement. So in I went again, realizing that while I had so very carefully decided where the story was going to climax, that I had no idea where it was actually going to end.

So I wrote stuff.

It was the last thing I wrote last night, so after I folded in for sleep, I didn’t think anything of it.


In the morning, I woke up to what I was convinced was an ending that sucked. It had all the tells of me being tired with a thing – flippant, sloppy, more like a sulk quit than a rage quit.

However, it was there. I could read it. I could see my hallmarks of badness. I could sift out the things that were good, lift them free, rinse them off, and start fresh with them. Before, “The End” was just a nebulous tag that I slapped on to the butt of the Heroes Win! Now, I had something to work with, even if it was to destroy it utterly and start again. I saw what didn’t work, and I could now avoid those pitfalls and use the pieces of my destroyed work to build up.

Which is of course, not what I want to be doing. I don’t want to be grown up about it. I want to fall on my couch face first like my six-year-old did when I told him his homework was only going to get harder as he got older. There’s nothing easy about writing a goddamn book. Anyone who writes to make it sound like it is easy to write a book is selling you something and wants your money. It is tough as hell to write a whole books worth of interesting characters, situations, and ideas. A novel is a lot like an iceberg. You see about 10% of what the writer’s written to make the story happen.

And only about 10% of their insanity, as well.