Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like…

Jeff VanderMeer • December 14th, 2008 @ 9:02 pm • News, Uncategorized, Writing Tips

So here’s a photo of what I looked like after months and months of working on Finch, my new novel, and not leaving the house that much. Or shaving. Along with some of the books that I consulted while working on the novel (to greater and lesser extents). Compare/contrast that with how I looked at the beginning of the year:


(Found here)

Okay, so all joking aside…in two previous posts you’ve seen images of what the novel looked like at the beginning and during the middle stages.

Now let’s put it all together.

(1) Near the beginning, it looked like this, as it began to coalesce into some kind of orderly progression:

(2) About 1/3 of the way in, the novel looked mostly like this:

…although some of it looked like this:

(3) About 2/3 finished, the novel was mostly printed pages with dividers showing the general actions occurring on a particular day to make sure I hadn’t left any gaps in the narrative (the novel takes place over a week and is sectioned off accordingly), as well as tons of post-it notes reflecting ideas that had come to me during the writing process and hadn’t yet been assimilated into the main text:

(4) After making sure the novel had gone through a few revisions, I printed it out double-sided in a plain binder:

(5) Then I gave the novel to my wife Ann, who is my first reader, and she read it with appropriate pomp and circumstance, which looked like this:

After she read it, we went to a local pub and went over all of her marks on the manuscript. In addition, we talked about general plot points and about the characters. I asked her about a thousand questions, things like “Did X’s hatred of Y seem to strong?” or “Was it clear why Z did ______?” or “How was the pacing on that scene? I wanted it to open slow and then close suddenly like a trap.”

(6) Based on Ann’s comments and my own thoughts since I last saw the draft, I then made additional edits (for example, cutting extraneous description, adding better specific details, and rewriting entire scenes):

After making those changes, I sent an electronic copy to my editor, Victoria Blake, at Underland Press, with a cc to my agent, Howard Morhaim. It is out of my hands now. When I have Victoria’s comments and edits, I will do another run-through, which will either be a heavy or light revision depending on how close to the vision in my head the final draft. The novel will be, in essence, complete, except for copy editing and other tightening.

38 Responses to “Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like…”

  1. Andrew says:

    Looks like a lot of work, but fun.

  2. J.C. Hutchins says:

    This is a totally awesome peek behind the curtain, Jeff. Thanks for sharing! I’m now inspired to craft similar documentation for my current project.

    Best of luck with the rest of the process!

  3. Bill Ectric says:

    I feel like DeQuincey looking over Coleridge’s shoulder.
    This is cool as hell.

  4. z says:

    What’s in that pile? With recourse to the largest flickr version, it looks like (top to bottom):

    Violence, Slavoj Žižek
    Alchemy and Mysticism: Hermetic Museum, Alexander Roob
    Journal of International Affairs, Vol 53, No. 2: Shadow Economies
    What is a City?, Steinberg and Shields
    Complete Books of Charles Fort
    Shroom, Andy Letcher
    City of Saints and Madmen
    Shriek
    Pictorial Encyclopedia of Historic Architectural Plans, Details and Elements, Haneman.

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Z–Nice job. That’s exactly what those books are.

  6. Larry says:

    Hrmm…is that a Mrs. Butterworth converted into an AK-47 in that first photo?

    Cool look into the writing/revision process, and say, is that Žižek book worth reading? I’ve read his The Parallax View and while I ultimately liked it, there were sections that seemed to be too much Lacan worship and not enough exploration of the themes. But theoretical tomes on violence do interest me from a professional point of view.

    Curious to see how shadow economies will be dealt with in Finch as well.

  7. Sir Tessa says:

    (I can’t be the only person who sees no difference between the before and after pictures.)

  8. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Nice, Sir Tessa.

    Larry–It is Armenian brandy in an AK-47 bottle. I was wondering if anyone would ask about that.

    I found the Zizek a bit annoying at times, like his elbows were getting in the way of his legs. Like he was tied up in a sack. But it was still interesting.

  9. Larry says:

    Brandy…even better than syrup! Sounds as though the Žižek is par for the course for him, as the little I’ve read about others’ reactions to him are akin to yours and mine, it seems. Might look into it later, but not until I’ve re-read Foucault’s comments on Power.

  10. Bill Ectric says:

    I’ve heard good things about the Andy Letcher book.

  11. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    The Letcher is awesome. I was afraid it would be some hippy-ish freak-out about mushrooms from the inside looking out. But instead it’s a great history of magic mushrooms (which I’ve never tried), beautifully written and organized. Highly recommended. Although turns out there wasn’t much in it that hasn’t already gone into Ambergris in some way.

  12. Daryl says:

    Thanks for the run-down, Jeff. One question — in the picture of Ann reading the ms, is Circumstance the one on the left?

  13. Charles Tan says:

    Thank Finch for Ann! (She was guarding the manuscript from your evil cats!)

  14. Will says:

    Roob’s Alchemy & Mysticism is a stellar book. I used it a lot when I was working on urban horror and fantasy stuff and have been eyeballing it more than a little lately for a new project. Great stuff.

    I dig me the city-theory books, too. How is What Is A City?

    You know what’ll look good in that stack? This novel, Finch, I’ve been hearing about.

  15. specmysticon says:

    Those cats…hypnotic…glowing…eyes…must buy…novel…finch…must point others…to this post…Charles Tan…right…we…not…listen…

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Jeff, your bunny self is just so unbelievably cute…not that your post-novel alcohol-gun toting self isn’t unbelievably cute too, but it’s something about those little paws of yours in the first pic that make me keep saying “awwwwww!!!”. Glad you survived the ordeal :) I look forward to reading Finch! Love sis

  17. Battling the Hateball during the Xmas season says:

    [...] lifted this off of Jeff Vandermeer’s page Ecstatic Days: Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like…. He’s got some good stuff on his pages, so it’s well worth browsing through. This [...]

  18. Colleen Lindsay says:

    I dunno. I think you still kinda look like a fluffy bunny, only taller. :-)

    Welcome back!

  19. Joe says:

    Not included the secret missing step where Jeff inscribes a summoning circle on the garage floor and surrounded by purple candles and with a sacrifice of fresh herring summons the Great Squid God Onglurplugle who will give him five special words of power to insert secretly into the text. Onglurplugle likes Jeff because he remembers to bring crackers to put the herring on at sacrifice time.

  20. neilw says:

    Jeezum, Jeff. In that pic you like you’ve turned into some kind of postapocalyptic survivalist.

    “Books? You want BOOKS?! Over my dead body, stranger.”

    But I like Ann’s Robes of Editorship. And the Guardian Familiars, protecting her from authorial intervention until the ritual is complete look especially fierce.

    Welcome back to the land of the living.

  21. Jessica Reisman says:

    The pictures of your process make me want to read the book. Also, I like Ann’s attendants while reading.

  22. Paul Jessup says:

    I have that EXACT same copy of Alchemy and Mysticism (can’t remember the full cover name- the illustrated guide to alchemy and mysticism, I think) and it is an AWESOME book. I’ve re read it countless times, since it is filled with amazing, surreal, messed up ideas. Perfect for books.

  23. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Hey, all. Thanks for the comments. Reading over this post again I think I finally realize the darn novel is actually done.

    Yeah, a survivalist with economy of detail: alcohol and gun in one package.

    Colleen–ha!!

    Daryl–circumstance is definitely the one on the right. The one on the left has always been pomp-y.

    Jeff

  24. Rob Davies says:

    I’m always amazed when I see how much some people write longhand. I have the penmanship of a drunk, limbless infant and can never decipher what I wrote later on. I would be mute without a keyboard. I’m really looking forward to Finch.

  25. Zephid Bebex says:

    Surprisingly,
    1) the hairiest early version you is actually the cuter you.
    2) you lose hair when you decide not to shave.
    3) you start off as Bugs but morph into Elmer Fudd (complete with gun)

  26. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Hee. All of this be true.

  27. Josh Byrnes says:

    This is an extremely inspirational post. Or at least, I find it to be.

  28. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Thanks, Josh.

    Will–the city book is good, if not great. A lot of it deal with cities from the perspective of New Orleans after Katrina.

    Jeff

  29. Donnie says:

    When can we read it? I read somewhere it won’t be published till the end of next year!

  30. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Donnie: Yes, it’ll be published in late October 2009. There should be more info here: http://www.underlandpress.com.

    It has to go through the editing process, copy-editing, typesetting, etc. And catalogs for booksellers now require sometimes as much as a nine-month lead time.

    Jeff

  31. Generous Jeff Invites Us Into His Creative World « Bill Ectric’s Place says:

    [...] Generous Jeff Invites Us Into His Creative World Jump to Comments After a couple of joking “before & after” pictures, Jeff VanderMeer presents some interesting and educational steps in the completion of his latest novel, Finch.  Check it out, this is really cool. [...]

  32. Liz Hand says:

    I still think you need to eat the magic meshrooms.

  33. Linkdump for December 18th at found_drama says:

    [...] Finch: What a Novel and Novelist Look Like… at Ecstatic Days [...]

  34. Sean O'Connell says:

    Have you really written the first draft with handwriting and how did you decipher your script afterwards?

  35. chat says:

    I still think you need to eat the magic meshrooms. veryy nice!

  36. robot says:

    Compassionate for the vast study, but I’m rattling uxorious the new Zune, and comedian this, as vessel as the fantabulous reviews many new eff written, module improve you determine if it’s the moral select for you.

  37. sinema says:

    Samsung overtook Apple to become the world’s biggest shipper of smartphones between July and September.

  38. Defibrillator External says:

    If you are going for finest contents like myself, simply pay a quick visit this website everyday since
    it gives feature contents, thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>