Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

The Dogs Project: Rewrite and Final Report

by Daniel Abraham

What is the Dogs Project?

 Well, I had hoped I’d get that one last critique in, but it’s pretty clearly not going to happen.  I have to say how much I appreciate the comments I had from the folks who did chime in and that I totally undertand not having time to ge around to it from the one that didn’t.  Scheduling is always a trial.

The final draft is due in with Shawn in a couple weeks, so I’m in the process of making the final draft (and finishing up the script for Issue 13 of A Game of Thrones: The Comic Book and the first draft of The Expanse 3: Abaddon’s Gate . . . no rest for the wicked), and so I thought I’d tell y’all what I was thinking and then (finally) open the floor to comments that I can actually read.

So having been away from the story for a while and having four, I think, very good responses to the story, the question becomes what am I going to do about it.

So, in no particular order, here’s the to-do list I built going into the rewrite:

1) I’m changing Charlie’s name to something less related to Dickens.  I’m thinking Alex.  The Charles Dickens problem came up in more than one critique, so that makes it real.

2) Adam is getting recast as a woman, and I think changing her name to something relatively gender neutral.  This isn’t something that anyone talked about in the critiques, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I feel with the idea.  The grace of having unambiguous pronouns in the dialog was what finally won me over.

3) Adam’s exposition-in-dialog clearly doesn’t work.  That’s not a big deal.  All I have to do it cut out a bunch of it.  Fixing things with a knife is always easy.  And it gives me a place to put in some more of the emotion that Charlie’s story is missing.  I think Ian is right about him feeling numb, and I don’t think the tactic he suggested of having Charlie be *aware* that he’s numb is a cheat at all.  But I think it will work better if I have that *and* more genuine emotion.  Especially guilt about not having tried harder to make things work with Dickens.  So I can put some of that in the space I’m carving out of Adam’s on-the-nose dialog.

4) Charlie’s gone-away life.  Charlie came out of nothing, and that’s not working.  I’m adding in some things that tie him back into the life he used to have and doesn’t anymore:  some folks that he used to to the movies with that are checking in to see if he still wants to come along, an Internet dating service that he’s going to cancel his account from, a sister who lives elsewhere that will call him to check in.  Things like that.  I want to keep him isolated and alone, but I can do that by showing the connections that were there and that they aren’t working anymore.  At least that’s the plan.

5) The White Office.  What Charlie does isn’t important to the story in any way, but that he does something may actually give a lot of the heft that I see people missing.  I think he’s going to be the specs and materials guy at an architectural firm. The one whose job it is to go over manufacturer’s lists and specify what kind of paint/tile/insulation etc. for the general contractor.  My mother was an architect for something like thirty years, so I know enough about how her office worked to know that’s a real job.  And I can put in a few concrete, specific details about office life that will ground the story in reality a little better.

There are some things I’m not going to change, even though I think the criticism offered was legitimate.  The dog attack, for instance, I’m going to leave a little unrealistic because, of course, it’s not a dog attack.  That may make the story weaker for the folks who read it just on the surface level, but I think I get that back with the folks who grok it a little more.  And I don’t think having the attack be more like a real dog attack actually wins me anything but distance from the core of the story.  I’m also not bringing the original dogs back or finding them or resolving that in any way.  I’m leaving that open at the end as part of the horror.  It’s a little tricky having a story whose point is that it doesn’t resolve, and I imagine I’ll lose some readers on that basis too.  But I think it’s what the project calls for so . . . yeah. Doing that.

And that, more or less, is that.  The final result will be in UNFETTERED which has a huge list of first-rate writers in it and the proceeds of which will go to paying off Shawn’s medical debt from chemotherapy.

So that’s it.  The Dogs Project is essentially over.  I hope it was fun to watch, and I’ll be leaving all the bits and peices up if you want to come back to it later.

If there is a last thought I’d like to leave you with, it’s that at this point, I don’t have an opinion about this story anymore.  The experience I have of it is so intimate and technical and idiosyncratic to me that I can’t even say if I think it’s a good story or not.  I have written a lot of stories, and I’m always a terrible predictor of which ones will go over well and which ones won’t.  I think that’s probably true of most writers most of the time.  In the words of Umberto Eco, I no longer know what it is about.

No, okay.  One last little thing.  Rape.  Yeah.

So I know and love some folks who’ve been raped.  You do too, even if you don’t know which ones they are.  The stats are that about 15% of women and 3% of men have had someone try to rape them.  The consequences are unpleasant and long-lasting and real.  (Oh, and I know that 3% looks kind of small, but to put it in context, as I recall I graduated high school in a class of about six hundred.  Back of the napkin says half were women, and three precent of the three hundred guys means I would have picked up diplomas with nine or ten guys who’ve been victimized along with the 45 to 50 girls.)

If you’re of a mind, I’d encourage you to skip the latte a couple times this week and pass some money on to RAINN.

4 Responses »

  1. Hi Daniel,

    Just read your book Dragon’s Path – loved it.

    Wanted you to know that I appreciated it,muchly !!

    Keep on writing.



  2. Dear Daniel,

    thank you so much for sharing the development process of “The Dogs Project” with us. It gave me a really interesting insight into what the work of a professional writer looks like. I was particularly impressed by your ability to foresee word counts and also how you could tell pretty early in the story which changes might be necessary (like changing Adam’s gender). And while I knew that “proper” stories always have to be edited a lot before they are finished, I’m quite a bit surprised (and impressed, again) by how easy it seems to be for you to see the story from a distance and determine precisely what needs to be reworked, cut or added without any emotional attachment. So that’s a valuable lesson to any amateur writer (like me :-D) out there.
    Thanks again for that project, it was really interesting to follow!


  3. I chanced on this post after not hitting the Ron+ in the corner of my email for a while. I read every post until the story was done then my attention was drawn away. Glad to see this summary. I left the site after reading this post but had to come back and thank you. I was made uncomfortable a couple of times by your candor, So thanks? I now have the Grim Oaks Press site bookmarked.