The Red Heart of Jade, as I’ve said, was a difficult book to write. I think, ultimately, that I made the right creative choices, but the book went through many different versions before I settled on the story you’ll see in July. You hear people say that the second book is always the most difficult to write, but in my case, it was the fifth where I finally felt the jaws of death settling down on my head.
Still, I had fun. I got into the groove. After I found just the right beginning.
The first version kicked the story off in Dean’s apartment, showing him hung over and alone, with no company except his action figures, beer bottles, guns, and inflatable woman. Very funny. The problem was that the story took far too long to kick into gear. I wanted the real adventure to take place in Asia, and at the rate Dean was going, he was never going to get there. At all.
So. I changed things. Set the beginning in Taiwan, in Snake Alley. Hot, gritty, full of serpents and blood and crap. And it was great. For awhile. But it didn’t show enough of Dean, kicked the story into high gear far too quickly without any explanation or anything to place the reader into the world. And there was another reason for not using that beginning—it’s been several years since I was in Taiwan, and while the last time I was there Snake Alley most definitely retained the feeling of danger and grit and mystery, it’s been cleaned up since then. Sadly, I think. Dangerous markets are the best kind.
Anyway, I tend to think that the beginning of a story is the most important part. I won’t say that across the board, because there are many different ways to start and build and create, but in general, if you have a strong beginning, it will influence the rest of the story—and I say that as a writer and not a reader, because when I write a slow start, when the forces I’m trying to put into the story don’t come together in that first paragraph or page, I feel it in the rest of the story, in the work that I do. I start off sluggish, I write sluggish. I start off with mystery, the mystery will grow and become richer. I start off with action, and bam! pow! wham! The action will continue. I’m like a racehorse—get me in the starting gate or don’t get me at all.
By the way, the coolest documentary I’ve seen in a long time: Long Way Round, which follows the adventures of Ewan McGregor and his friend, Charley, as they ride their motorcycles around the world.
In the comments of PBW’s latest entry, Noel passed off a link to a Henry Rollins essay called Iron. It’s a beautiful read.
And for some fun, the Miss Potter movie blog!