AUTHOR'S NOTE - The Living Document

It never previously occurred to me that like subsequent editions of the George Lucas epic, a novel could be constantly retrodicting it's narrative.

I was talking to my friend Paul Ingraham, who runs the very informative Save Yourself website about his process. Paul is a former Registered Massage Therapist who now writes about pain management (and other stuff, but mostly pain Management) and his writing practices are pretty interesting, but they are his and I'm not going to get into the minutae at his semi-proprietary expense. But I need to give credit where credit is due and it was directly through my discussions with him that I realized that a novel could be written as a living document. His site (which once upon a time began as a blog) is constantly being updated with the most up to date information and evidence in the world of pain management. And he does it non-linearly. He will go back a month, a year or ten and update an article - even completely change his stance if the evidence is compelling and revolutionary enough. Funny how when I type it out it doesn't seem anywhere near as fantastic to me as it was a revelation in the moment we discussed it.

As I have noted more prominently elsewhere, I am essentially a discovery writer. In the case of this massive work I have had a growing story developing detail in my head for years, but when it comes down to it I'm not the sort to write an outline, or do character-sketches or any of the myriad things that many authors do to map out their story before they begin. 

I simply begin. Page one, paragraph one, word one. I only know where my final destination is at the outset and that destination often changes as I go. 
CASE IN POINT: When I began this post it was going to be about a number of the mechanics of how I expect this process is going to work. But by now, it is obvious to me that it is only about the aspect of the living document.
This process works quite well for me on screenplays and other work, but when it comes to writing a narrative that could easily stretch to a quarter or even a half million words... suddenly it becomes extremely daunting.

The rewrite is any author's best tool. This is doubly the case for a discovery writer. I am very accustomed to the reality that as I forge forward I am going to come up with an idea that either needs to be seeded earlier in the narrative; or renders a previously written section moot; or that requires a significant overhaul of a previous section. Most times I save those changes for once I am done the first draft. Usually they are so bloody obvious that I can't help but remember them, but sometimes I leave myself a little reminder. As such my first drafts are often a fairly comical mess. Few people other than me ever see them.

And here's where the departure comes in...

I really just want to try to write this story and "get it out there." I'd already thought about publishing it as a blog - but knowing it was a massive tale and that I couldn't even begin fairly publishing it until I was done at least the first book of the trilogy (and possibly more) was an obvious impediment.

But then through my talks with Paul an idea arose. Why can't fiction work the same way as his website? Is there any good reason outside of some practical housekeeping applications? The short answer is "No. Of course not!"

And thus, here is how this works...

I am writing this novel linearly. From Book One, Part One, Chapter One through to Book Three, Part (probably) Three, Chapter Whoknows. But rather than doing as I normally would and not worrying about going back and re-jigging anything that needs to change due to new ideas as I normally would, for this project I am worrying. That may mean that there are parts of the book that will be rewritten multiple times.

It also makes you - the reader an accomplice in my process. How you take part in that is up to you. There will be a future author's note called something like "you are the editor" - I'll discuss how you fit in in more detail there.

At any time anyone who starts at the beginning and works through the numbered and linked chapters in sequence will always get the most up to date version of the book.

If you started reading the day of the first post (and no-one did because I decided to get at least the first full chapter up before I told anyone about it) you can either read each new posted chapter as they come and simply "suck it up" as far as the innumerable contradictions, logical flaws and other inexpicables are concerned, or you can occassionally check out my updates. As of this writing I haven't quite decided how the listing of updates is going to manifest, but be assured that I have a few options in mind. Indeed before too long this section on me not knowing how updates will be handled will be updated and will be no more.

Some updates (such as the one I predicted just above) will be made, will be permanent, will be given a token acknowledgement and the originals will never bee seen again. For the most part these will be copy-edit type changes. Typos, grammar and incidental reworking of text - that sort of thing. Some updates will disappear and I'll save a copy elsewhere 'cause I may suspect they'll return for some reason. Others, when I think there may be some interest, will simply be shifted to an alternate post (probably labelled "PAST VERSION" or something similar) so that people who came to it late can (if they like) see what once was and get a sense of the process that people who have been reading along from the start have had. The past versions will not link into the story, but they will appear around the same place as the most up to date versions in the chronological archive.

Oh yeah... the chronological archive... 

Part of my hesitancy to publish this as a blog is the nature of each new post coming up in the sequence as they are published. Of course there is no reason that they have to. Posts can be re-dated as necessary. I don't know why I was feeling precious about that previously, but I'm not any more. So let it be known that the dates of publication really don't mean much. Generally speaking you can assume that any given chapter was indeed posted originally on the date and time tagged to the post. Most "author's notes" and  "insight" will probably be the same - unless clearly indicated. I can't imagine why I'd change the date on anything labelled as "news." All the other stuff... "past versions" and any other post types that I haven't imagined I'll use yet - who knows, the dates could be wildly out of sequence with reality.

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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.