Seriously-- a year?!?!?! A whole f**king YEAR since my last post?!?!?!?!
That's just taking the piss, that is.
Oh, and what a year it's been. Lot of personal stuff I won't go into here (odd of me, I know-- but I did have that year, remember...), but mostly it's been the year of the Book That Damn Near Broke Me.
Seriously, I think I came closer to quitting than ever before. Days would pass, sometimes as much as a week, where I would dutifully sit in front of my screen and stare. Just... stare.
Y'see, I had this bright idea: I was going to polish up all those rough drafts I've got sitting around and trot them out the door. I put in the months of writing them, it'd be nice if folks got to read them, right?
I picked out a tidy little thriller. Young woman comes home after a long absence, trouble ensues. Pretty straight ahead.
If I'd just hit the spellcheck and sent it on its way, life would have been different. But noooooo... I was missing stuff. All this great potential between her and the Sheriff, and her and the local crime boss, and I skated right past it. I skated past a lot of things.
I told myself, "I'll just flesh it out some."
Maybe 2000 words of that original draft survived. Once I started going deeper into my heroine's family, her history, and the way those bonds pull at us, my old plot didn't work. My ending didn't work. My beginning changed.
I had to rethink my dinosaur.
When I was a kid, T Rex stood upright. My wee plastic dinosaurs had him standing straight up, just like the skeletons in the museums. (Old picture of one up top) Oh, and he lumbered too. I remember that. Turns out, we all had it wrong. T Rex was a low--crouching, fast-moving nightmare.
Hopefully the new book will be too.
PRODIGAL will be available before Christmas. I hope. :)
At first I thought this would be an easy one, a finished manuscript that needed little more than a quick polish an off to the Beta readers. It's a tidy wee thriller about a young woman who returns to her hometown and starts asking questions about her brother's death. Think Walking Tall meets Pink's song Trouble.
Naturally, there was one small problem. A little thing, no more than a dangling thread at the edge of a garment, really.
The story read too fast. Not 'wow I finished it in a single night' fast, but 'who are these people and why are they doing this stuff' fast. In my haste to keep the action moving, I had neglected my sequels.
So I sat down every morning with my feathery quill, ruffled shirt and candle-drippy skull (so I'd know I was a *real* writer, see) and go through my manuscript. Correct a typo here, tighten some language there. And yes, broadening out those sequels so those characters could explain their who's and where's and why's...
That dangling thread metaphor a couple of paragraphs back? I bet you can see where I'm going this.
Yup. As I filled in the bits I had glossed over, that thread pulled further and further. I was writing about messed up families, about the ties that bind us to our pasts and histories, about the strange relationships between mothers and daughters. I had two mentor characters, one a hero who has to choose between her heart and doing the right thing, the other a black-hearted villain who did it all for love. And my poor protagonist, sucked into all these plots and feuds and jealousies and betrayals by the loss of a brother she barely knew, her last family.
Once I started pulling those threads, I felt like the biggest asshole to ever stare moodily from a garret window. Glossing over good meaty stuff like that should be criminal.
And of course, it wasn't long before the entire hem of my garment had dissolved. Stepping gently away from an overworked metaphor, my old ending no longer worked.
It was tidy. It was fun. It littered the bodies all over the stage.
But my old ending didn't do justice to these characters and what they were going through.
So, once more into the breach and all that. And this morning it hit me: the REAL central conflict of my story...
My heroine really was fine being a black sheep. She liked it. But family does hold its ties and obligations over us. Going home was the last thing she wanted to do, but it was what she had to do. And now that she's back, everyone wants her to further *their* agendas.
Basically, my story is one long Call to Action.
My earlier version had her answering that call at the Act I Climax, just like every other bloody Hero's Journey. Lot of good stories go that route, but it was making my heroine's choice seem shallow and facile.
But, who the hell writes about HALF the Hero's Journey? Okay, maybe the fiction team behind the Synoptic Gospels. (I mean, sure, maybe you could say Jesus answers the call before the start of that story, but I'd argue that he spends damn near every minute up until the Last Supper trying to find a less painful way to answer that call.) But those folks are NOT the writers to turn to for characterization...
Had this ever been done by anybody GOOD???
Oh yeah, Hamlet! That poor Emo's entire story is about the difficulty he has answering his call to action. If your dead father's ghost is crying murder and howling for vengeance, do you *really* need investigation and fake plays to figure out what you have to do? No. He knows from the start what he has to do, and what it will cost him.
And when he finally DOES take action, man do the bodies pile up quick!!!
I’d like to thank fellow author
Avery DeBow for tagging me to participate. Click the link to find out about her book, Resonance.
In this particular hop, I and my fellow
authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10
questions where you get to learn about our current work in
progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters
and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy
Please feel free to comment
and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!
1: What is the working title of your
BURIED. I'm planning to release it as a summer beach read.
2: Where did the idea come from for the
The opening scene came to me out of
whole cloth, just sort of landed in my lap. From there it was a
matter of figuring out what the heck was going on there.
Once I'm revising, it's easier to see
the certain sources (action movies, the strange relationship between
mothers and daughters, my grandfather's old place in rural Georgia),
but at the time it's all just getting to the next chapter...
3: What genre does your book come
Thriller/Suspense: Think a less-Floridian John D
McDonald with better-written women.
4: Which actors would you choose to
play your characters in a movie rendition?
For Kira, Either a young Isabelle
Adjani (maybe late 70's), or a current Leslie-Ann Brandt. Neither
looks how the character is written, but both crackle with that exotic
wild intensity. Of course, with my luck it'd turn out Taylor Swift
was looking to get into acting...
And for the Sheriff, Jody Foster.
Hands down, Jody Foster.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of
A young woman returns home after a
long absence and starts asking questions about her brother's death.
6: Is your book self-published,
published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I self publish. I had an agent for a
couple-three years, and some interest, but in the end I'm happier
this way. :)
7: How long did it take you to write
the first draft of your manuscript?
This one went quick, I seem to recall-
maybe three months? Rewrites, of course, took considerably longer....
8: What other books would you compare
this story to within your genre?
I'm sticking with John D MacDonald
with stronger women. MUCH stronger women...
9: Who or what inspired you to
write this book?
The Sheriff just kind of
wandered up one day, brought Kira with her, and the two of
them wanted me to write a story. They were standing in that parking lot, kind of freaking me out.
And they were pretty patient with me
when I got lost, never let me write them too far off-track.
10: What else about your book might
pique the reader’s interest?
Let's see... I've got a sleepy Southern
town with a tough-as-nails Sheriff, an oily and evil crime boss, a
team of professional killers and a hot chick who kicks major ass!
Sound like you? No?
Well, how bout it's also a thoughtful
meditation on the love and antagonism and tangled loyalties of family
and the way that no matter where you go you'll always feel the pull
A gun, any weapon really, is a force-multiplier. Pure and simple. Stick, knife, brass knuckles, assault rifle or fighter jet, the point is that your weapon does more damage in your hands than your hands do alone.
One thing about guns: any damn idiot with a trigger finger can do a lethal amount of damage.
This random, horrible, murderous urge is, I hate to say, universal and very human. I imagine it has to do with the effects of social pressures, rage and hopelessness on marginal, borderline personalities.We have seen it in modern China. We see it in the cafard of Polynesia, the mal de peleo of Puerto Rico, the Navajo iich'aa and the Philippine/Malaysian syndrome whose name our language adopted, running amok.
Some folks just melt down. And when that buzzing starts in their heads, they go on a killing rampage. The only thing that changes are the available weapons.
Which brings me back to guns. Some poor bastard loses the plot and takes after a bunch of kids with a knife, he gets tackled and subdued. Yes, seven deaths is seven too many, but he only got those because of the shock and delay onlookers experienced at the sudden attack. And that shock and delay WILL happen in that situation. (You concealed-carry advocates may be sitting there with Diehard scenarios running through your head, but even with extgensive and specialized training, violent surprise will cause you to lose a step.) Point is, grownups went, "Hey, that guys stabbing kids" and tackled his ass to the ground. Imagine if instead he'd opened up with a pistol or shotgun, or an assault rifle.
Obviously, the US has a LOT of guns- 89-90,000 per 100,000 people. My new home New Zealand has 22,000 per 100,000 still one of the highest on the planet. Thing is, while we certainly have our share of amok here, we don't get school shootings. We don't get workplace shootings. Even our own Aramoana Massacre only claimed four lives.
Why? Kiwis certainly aren't nicer than Americans, or less prone to violence. Every darkness that dwells in the human heart dwells in us, and we certainly have our fair share of guns.
So what then?
Near as I can figure, it's that here they have gun control. Real, live gun control. Nothing illegal at all about owning a gun, or a lot of guns if you like. But you do have to be licensed. Not a criminal. Not mentally ill. You MUST have effective safeguards, gun safes, etc. The more guns you have, the more secure your home had better be.
And the cops actually come out to your house and CHECK! They visit, to make sure you haven't gone mental. To check out that gun safe/cabinet/etc. and see who has access and are they licensed too. They will check your alarms and such, because they don't want guns in the hands of criminals, naturally.
And you know what? Cops here don't carry either. If guns are called for, there's something called the Armed Offenders Squad, specialists like a SWAT team who take care of any shooting needs doing.
We/re not perfect here. We're human. We don't get it right all the time. Bad things happen, and will happen in the future.
But by limiting the ACCESS of the mentally ill and unstable to deadly weapons that require little more than to point and click to unleash hell, we do live better, happier, safer and more secure lives.
How many more dead does my birth country need before it finally takes action??
One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes is something along the lines of 'you never really learn to write novels- you only learn how to write the novel you've just written'. (Except, of course, probably better phrased than that, since he is, after all, Neil Gaiman...)
Certainly true in my case. Over the course of a dozen-ish novels (including the graphic novels) I have plotted and pantsed. I've thrown my carefully crafted plots out halfway through. I've outlined a scene or two ahead so that I'd have an idea where the words were headed. I wrote my first graphic novel from an outline on a single page of notebook paper, from an idea I got while face-painting children at a public pool.
I've pounded out pages on a 1920's Remington typewriter, tippity-tap-tap-tapped them on a variety of laptops, once even forged my way through some ugly writer's block by slowing down enough to use a 19th century dip pen. A. Dip. Pen.
No two novel-writings have been alike. Maybe I'm still finding my particular groove. Maybe I'll never have just the one method.
All I know for sure is, I've never had anything quite like this.
I've been working on Paris Blues (not it's real name, I'm sure, but we gotta call 'em something) for some months now. I started as usual, vague idea of a plot arch, tapping at the laptop (well, HP mini notebook these days- easier to cart around) and well aware that my plots rarely go where I think they will. I was happy to roll along for the ride.
Things got weird. For reasons I can't remember anymore, about 10,000 words in I found myself scribbling away in a blank notebook with a fountain pen. No complaints out of me: I find the shush of nib on paper, the glistening trail of ink to be the most sensual writing experience possible. And as sometimes happens, slowing down my hand speeds up my words.
I was prepared for characters who seemed important in the beginning to fade as I went on. I was just as prepared to find new characters walking on with plenty to say, knowing they'd mean a pretty big rewrite at the beginning to fold them in. I was even ready to find that my gangster story was more of a murder mystery. Maybe. Or not. All part of the fun.
What I wasn't ready for was the story to come at me out of order. I love Stephen King's analogy of writing a story as pulling at a buried thread. Well, this here thread seems to be one big tangle. I can see (kinda, sorta) where it's all going. Going-ish. Okay, so there's a sense of it all hanging together, but I keep getting scenes that DO NOT fit chronologically.
On the one hand, I could leave them as they came, be the next Vonnegut, maybe win some kind of literary prize. More likely, I'm going to end up opening a second draft as I transcribe them into the laptop and start monkeying with things until the whole shebang makes sense.
No Whitebread or Booker for me, but hopefully a story that's fun to read and hard to put down...