Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I'm up to 42K words on "Shadows over Summer House." The last three chapters have been somewhat domestic, if that is the word. Just people getting together, developing relationships.

I mean how much does it matter what happens to people if you don't get to know them? How much can you care about what happens to them?

I'm still trying to figure out that equation. With this book, I'm spending more time on narrative and relationships, less on action and plot. Probably a bad idea. But the thing is, I like it. I'm enjoying it. So I'm doing it.

I'll put it out in the world and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe people will actually like it as much as I do.

I'm trying to think of something more impactful I can place in the middle of these chapters. I may have come up with an answer last night before bed. The answer was pretty obvious when I asked myself the question.

A big problem I'm having with this book are the real-life scenarios. I have half the book concerning longshoremen and a heist, and half the book with a house renovation. Well, I know nothing about longshoremen or house renovations, besides what I see on TV. I'll have to do enough research to make those scenes plausible. I think "plausible" is the most realistic standard I can aspire to.

The most pleasant surprise that I'm actually not having much trouble delaying the Big Twist. I'm pretty sure now that I can hold off the reveal until much later in the book where it will have the most effect.

Essentially, the big reveal happens just as the climactic action takes place.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The sympathetic reader.

My wife is my sympathetic reader. She likes what I write, really truly likes it. She will point out if I've gone too far off track, but mostly she approves.

I don't know what writers do who don't have someone to read to as they're writing. Reading aloud to myself doesn't do it. Having an audience, even if it is one, is enough for me to catch mistakes, to get a sense of the flow.

I do a lot of automatic editing when I read to others. I have it written one way, and it comes out of my mouth another way, and I've yet to find an example of where the way I read it wasn't better than the way I wrote it. I try to catch those; I'll flat stop reading to correct it if I notice no one else is making notations.

What often happens when something isn't clear to others is that the explanation is better than what is actually written. I've often wanted to take down word for word what another writer has explained and hand it over to them and say, "Do that."

At the same time, though, I've decided not to read first drafts to writer's group. I don't want to be influenced until the basic story is down. After that, the more critique the better--as long as it is constructive and my writer's group is mostly constructive unless they get in a feeding frenzy. (Someone points something out and everyone piles on.)

Again though, even if the critique isn't valid, just the simple act of reading aloud to sympathetic readers is immensely helpful to me.

I think it's dangerous to never expose your writing to others. Yes, at first keep it to yourself, but before you let it loose into the world, get some second opinions. You don't have to take those opinions, but it might prepare you for what is likely to happen.

At writer's group there is often a consensus, and again, that consensus is usually correct. That doesn't mean the writer has to bend to their consensus, but it might usually be a good idea. Of course, you have to figure out whether the good is in sync or not. If you see the advice given to others as good, then take their critique of your stuff seriously. If you see them being off base, then take that into account too. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Damn, every book is different.

It's a cliche but true.

It's like I've never written a book before. The process comes out different, the writing seems different, the plot development and characters arrive differently.

I'll be damned if I can make sense of it.

"Shadows Over Summer House" in some ways is very leisurely. I'm not pushing it at all. I even went back and wrote the first 15 chapters from scratch. No hurry. Spending time with the characters, lots of little day to day detail, not worried about Michael Bay-ing it. Letting nothing happen if that's what needs to happen (or not happen.)

It's mostly a love story. Who knew I'd be inclined to write that? But it seems to be showing up more and more in my stories. Then again, I remember the first book where I felt like I was "getting" it: "Freedy Filkins," I had a nice little love story in it and it surprised me how easy and natural it was to write those scenes.

As I've mentioned, I feel like I've rediscovered the joys of narration. This happens and then this happens and yes, I'm telling you but isn't it nice to cover all this territory and not have to jam it into a scene?

This will be my third 1st person POV novel. But this is the first one that has felt totally comfortable. I've gathered so many characters around the protagonist that I don't feel like I have to go off with secondary and tertiary story lines like I usually do. 36K words in and I'm still developing the story, still new characters and situations.

I really want to develop these characters so I'm going to try to put some character interaction chapters where the "action" isn't forefront.

Just looking forward everyday to getting something down, and I want to make sure I don't take any missteps.

Oh, by the way, I wanted to talk about that.

There comes a time in every novel where I feel like I went off track, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

Some books I make it all the way through. "Rule of Vampire" for instance was perfect the way it was. I really like "The Last Fedora." "Tuskers IV" was exactly what I hoped for. Most often I can fix a book by dent of effort and rewriting. But I sometimes have elements that didn't quite work and there was no way of knowing in advance and no way to change it.

Well, with this rewrite I now feel like I've made it halfway without going off track, so I'd like to continue that if I could.

Every chapter needs to feel right before I proceed.

At the same time, I'm beginning to think that this book isn't going to be what people want. I mean, I want it, and Linda likes it, and I think if the right people found it they would like it. But I doubt it is the thriller that will open the doors.

But it doesn't matter. It's the book before me and I'm very into it, and that's what counts.

There's another book after this one, and then another, if I'm lucky. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Boring update.

Finally finished the last rewrite chapter. It took me 4 days! It was very hard to write a chapter that I thought had come out all right in the first place. But again, it turned out well.

Final wordage, 36K, which in addition to the original 24K would have made a decent first draft.

So I'm halfway through and from today on, everything will be fresh material. I can't imagine that I'll want to double up on the writing again. There was a good reason to redo the first part, but hopefully I won't go as far astray with the rest of the book.

The weather has been a little cold for sitting and writing on my walks. Not so much the temperature as the wind chill. There always seems to be a pretty heavy wind. I write a little in the car when I arrive at the trailheads, and then a little when I get back. But sitting and freezing and imagining is problematic.

Still, it seems to be the only way to get myself going. I created this process and now I have to live with it. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Strange and tardy ambitions.

When I was a teenager, like all teenagers, I wanted to learn to play the guitar, I wanted to learn a foreign language, I wanted to draw, I wanted to write books, and I had a vague idea of owning a bookstore.

Well, I did the writing and I owned the bookstore.

But here at the ripe old age of 65 I suddenly want to learn German again. I want to play the guitar and sing, if only to myself, and I want to learn to draw, if only crudely.

Just for my own amusement.

Semi-retired is interesting. Suddenly, I'm listening to full albums, albums from my ambitious youth when I thought all things possible. (Right now, listening to Joan Baez in Concert, 1962--when songs like Kumbaya were new and you could sing them without irony...)

I don't feel old at all. I feel like a teenager. I feel like I have time to explore.

When I came back to writing I exploded all over the page. Somewhat to my own surprise. Good lord, what is this?

From the age of 18 to 28 I was struggling just to survive my depression and aftermath. It was bad, I can never forget that. I've been so damn lucky to emerge from that, to thrive even, and the depression has never come back.

It was wonderful to own my own business, but it was hugely stressful and time-consuming. Decades passed in an instant, me going to work everyday, doing the job, just doing the heavy lifting it took to survive the ups and downs.

The store finally became self-sustaining, with the help of a good manager and employees, and so I indulged my passion--my obsession--with writing. Six years later I'm starting to tail off. I'm still writing, but the urgency isn't there.

German? Well, I've been watching German movies and shows on Netflix and there is this constant feeling that I've ALMOST got it. I took a couple of years of German in high school but I remember only a few words and phrases--as least consciously.

Someday I hope that Linda and I can go to Europe and wouldn't it be nice to at least understand a bit of the language? Ein Bisschen?

The drawing. Well, that goes along with my writing. I constantly have ideas that I wish I could cartoon out. Surely, I can learn enough basics to do that?

Guitar? Hell, I'm not talking about much more than learning a few chords and songs in my voice range, which is admittedly limited.

Maybe none of this will happen, but it's interesting that I even have the ambition.

Time is precious and it is taken up by the need to make a living.

Such is life, I guess.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Small encouragements.

Sometimes even small encouragements can keep you going.

Got an email from someone who noticed Tuskers III in the University of Arizona bookstore and thought it was the kind of thing he might like, and did I have any other audio books besides Tuskers I?

So, the fact that it was actually at the bookstore is encouraging, as well as his interest being strong enough to inquire.

I knew that the Tuskers books and Snaked were available for bookstore distribution, but how do you know where they show up? So any reports from the wild are appreciated. (Interesting that it is AZ, because that's where most of the books take place.)

And then I had a friend who pretty much raved about Snaked, about how much she liked it, and I think she was sincere and she obviously had read it. She gave me a nice review.

Anyway, maybe because they come out of nowhere, such small encouragements can keep one going.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Hanging out with my characters longer.

One chapter left to rewrite.

Interesting journey. I'm going to go ahead and write the rest of the book before I try to consolidate the two versions, so I won't really know how well it works until that happens, but my sense is that I've added some depth and texture that wouldn't otherwise be there.

And it certainly helps that the new version is sequentially and tonally correct.

It ended up at 32K words, which replaced 24K words, so already I've done some fleshing out. I figure I'm about halfway through a first draft. Basically, I write sparsely in my first draft, getting the plot down as fast as I can and then going back later and adding description and detail.

This way, I'm doing both.

The unexpected bonus is that I'm spending twice as much time covering the same timespan; that is, I'm hanging out with the characters longer. I don't know if that has had a material effect on my story, but I do like the characters and it can't hurt to get to know them better.

The question I always have to ask myself when I finish a book is--did I work hard enough on it? All things being equal, the one thing I have some real control over is how much time I take to do it. So spending twice as much time is certainly being diligent, and doing it this way keeps the story fresh.