Saturday, April 22, 2017

Starting the re-write.

I'm about 5 days late on the re-write. Then again, I filled in the story with a bunch of material, wrote 4 new chapters, and more or less did a lot of things that could be considered part of the re-write. From 67,000 words I'm also now over 80,000 words, which was the goal. If I add the usual 10%, it's possible I could reach 90,000 words, which is even better.

I'm going to up the daily re-write goal to 25 pages, from 20 pages, but it will probably still take me a couple days into May.

So I need to go through and make the story flow, then send it off to get edited.

A couple of changes. I'm going to change several names to an Italian origin, since they are "made" members of the mob.

I'm also going to change the name of a prominent landscape feature from "Juniper Ridge" to "Deadfall Ridge."

The title of the book is currently, "Deadfall." But I'm thinking of calling it "Deadfall Ridge."

I'm changing the lava caves to old Chinese gold mines (which has the virtue of being based on the real fact that there were Chinese gold mines in the Strawberry Mountains.)

Other than that, I think it's good to go.

Just have to lock myself into my room and get it done. (This is not the sort of thing I can do on my walk, unfortunately. It's a game of concentration rather than creativity, remembering all the little details of the story. Instead of energizing me, it enervates me. So it's an entirely different process.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

For a few landscape descriptions, I drove 350 miles.

Drove to John Day on Wednesday. Motels were full, but dropped in on the Best Western.

"Any cancellations?"

"Why, yes...five minutes ago."

"What's going on?"

"It's the annual meeting of the Forest Service for the whole West."

I drove up Lone Pine Road as far into the mountains as I could get. Which was much farther than I expected.  Was finally stopped by the snow. Got out and walked and wrote descriptions.

The next day, I drove up Dog Creek Road, and got even farther. I'm driving my little Toyota Solara up these tight, winding, and very steep and rough roads, hearing the occasional bump under the car, and telling myself I'm crazy. But I got very close to the top and walked the rest of the way.

The configuration of the land is such that I think my story is plausible--with a little literary license.

I wrote 1300 words of description. A long walk to a shallow pond. But it was worth it--I also got a sense of the area. The only thing that doesn't work in my story is that there are no lava outcroppings and certainly no lava tube caves. So I've got to change that to basalt rocks, and just make up the caves; literary license again. Pretty much everything else in the book works.

But most of all, it is really beautiful land, awe-inspiring. Peaceful and enriching.

The traffic all the way through Prineville was terrible, but once past Ochoco Lake, it felt like I had the road to myself.

Bend, Redmond, and Prineville are in the middle of a maelstrom. Outside that, it feels like the old central and eastern Oregon I remember. 

I dream of a writing lodge in the Strawberry Mountains. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The book moves fast.

Didn't manage to write a chapter yesterday, but did do 1000 words of fill in.

Little by little, I'm adding all those things I've thought about doing. Yesterday, it was the "Beatles" hiker and a chat between Sherm and Hart at the end. And just a bunch of little things.

The book moves fast. Not a lot of fat. I'm trying to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I also tried to iron out a timeline and synchronize the two story lines. That required adding a day to Sherm's journey and cutting a day from Hart's. Fortunately, I was able to do that.

It's very possible I'll have 80,000 words before I even begin the re-write. Which means, I don't have to artificially inflate it. But that wasn't what I was planning. It was about adding telling details. So...85,000 words? Something like that.

I have two Sherm chapters to write, then I think I'm done. 

I'll have to compress the re-writing into 11 days instead of 15, so do more like 25 - 30 pages a day. I think I can do that.

Tomorrow I'm making a day trip to John Day to write a couple pages of scenery description. I also want to do a bio of every major character, describing them and their ticks, and then try to play that up in the story.

The framework is there, but there are probably tons of little inconsistencies that can only be smoothed by re-writing. I know it's beneficial to have some distance, but I also need to have the entire story in my head, which I have right now and might not in a month.

So...in a month, after I get it back from my personal editor, I'll have that distance. But right now, since I have it all in my head, I need to go through it again from the beginning.

That final, cold-blooded re-write is very hard, and I've never completely succeeded, but if I was ever going to do it, this might be the time. I may spend a month researching some of my favorite mystery writers, especially George Pellecanos, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, for how they handle the little bits of business.

I have way too many, "He looked at..."  "She turned..." "He smiled...raised his eyebrows...grunted...shrugged..."

Just really lame stuff which I need to get better at. It's weird since I'm so visual in most ways...just not in expressions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Filling in the holes.

I've added 3000 words simply by going back and filling in holes. When I write a book, I push forward, hardly ever going backward. In fact, it was Rule #1 when I returned to writing, which I'm only now beginning to loosen up.

In the course of writing, I discover things about the characters and plot that need to be fleshed out. Just the process of going back and doing that will probably add an extra 5000 words before I'm done.

I used to think of a finished first draft as a complete story, that just needed to be burnished. Now I think of it as a framework, where I go back and add things and cut things and move things (slightly, not too much). I'm not trying to make the writing polished, but trying to get the story fleshed out. This needs to be here, that needs to be there. Figuring out the timelines.

The final draft, the editing and copy-editing is when I smooth all that out.

I'm probably going to make a day trip to John Day, to get some landscape description down. I was going to stay for a couple of days, but I don't think that's necessary.

I've written two of the Sherm chapters, and have two more I want to write. Only then can I sit down and do the re-write. So I may go past my May 1 deadline by a couple of days.

It's important I get this right. I have a big publisher willing to look at it, and that's an opening that doesn't come along very often (especially since I don't have an agent.) This editor actually sought me out originally, which I think is pretty rare. I figure the he'll probably give me more than once chance to produce a publishable thriller, but I shouldn't waste my opportunities. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Writing on my day off.

I'd planned to take a couple days break from writing after finishing the first draft of "Bigfoot Ranch."

When I started the book, I'd intended to have two narrators. The main character who would tell his story from a 1st person perspective, and another character--who would drop in every 8 chapters or so-- who would be 3rd person.

Aside from the 3rd person first chapter, the rest of the book was all written from Hart Davis's 1st person perspective. I decided to see if I could write the entire book without bringing in the first chapter 3rd person VP character, Sherm Olsen.

I thought I pulled it off, though I came up 13K words short of the 80K I think I need.

My goal in the rewrite was to add those 13K words, but it seemed kind of intimidating.

I went for my walk without my computer for once, because I had no intention of writing anything. I hadn't gone a hundred paces before Sherm Olsen popped up and said, "Hey, remember me?" and the chapter just started unspooling in my mind. (That is my creative process, a movie screen behind my eyelids.)

Suddenly I had four more chapters in mind.

I came home and wrote the first of the new Sherm Olsen chapters after dinner (not a time I usually write).

So apparently my first draft wasn't done after all. I've got three more Sherm chapters in mind. It will mean I have to compress my re-write into 12 days instead of 15 days, but since the rewrite was going to take more time because of the need for more words, that probably is a wash.

Oh, brain. Make up your mind.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My thriller "Deadfall" is finished.

I finished the first draft of "Deadfall" (or "Bigfoot Ranch" or "The Last Honest Man" or whatever I end up calling it).

It came to 66K words, which is 14K words short of the minimum length I need. But I usually add between 15% to 20% to a rewrite as I flesh the story out. I concentrate on getting down the story for the first draft, but it always needs a bit of filling out. Telling details. Character development, description.

The filling out improves the book, and also gives me an entry point for rewriting. For a long time, rewriting was a bit of mystery to me. It was always intimidating, partly because I just couldn't figure out how to do it. It was a little like taking apart a beautiful thing, my first creative impulse.

But by embellishing the book, I find I also automatically do the rewriting, so it's a bit of trick that works. 

I still have to write the short epilogue today, and I have several scenes I need to go back and add. Then on to the rewrite.

I find I can do about 20 pages of rewrites a day, usually about 5 pages at a time.  I have to take a break between sessions, because it is mentally exhausting to me. Much harder than writing the book in the first place. Nowhere near as fun, but the improvements are undeniable, so I force myself to do it.

If I didn't have to rewrite or edit or prepare books, God knows how many books I could write. Scary to contemplate...

The book turned out to be typically idiosyncratic and quirky...goofy even. I think I can get away with that when I write my usual fantastical stuff, I'm not sure it will work for a thriller, at least not a thriller I'm trying to sell to a publisher. The bulletproof Bigfoot costume made it all the way to the end of the book, torn and tattered and reeking but still there --almost like it was another character.

Not to seem all pure and all, I don't seem to be able to write anything but what the story demands. That is, I can see it going off course but rather than trying to readjust, I let the story be what it is.

With horror or fantasy, I can just always rely on the werewolves or the Bigfoot or the vampires to add some spice to the story.

Not that it's cheating. I enjoy the genre aspects.

"Thriller" is a genre, but no matter how crazy the plot, it is still somewhat more grounded in reality, and I'm uncertain about my abilities there. I love telling stories, but I've never thought they were "real."

I don't know. This whole writing thing is just something I do. I should probably just give up trying to figure it out, but...that is also something I do.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Time to be sappy.

I stopped in the middle of the trail and just let the endorphins wash over me for a few moments. The warm fuzzies. The overwhelming sense of gratitude for the gift of creativity.

The only thing I can liken it to is falling in love.

Every once in a while I get that high five sense of rightness, the moment when everything clicks and I know the story is complete, that it is right. That fist bump moment, the chop in the air "YES!"

I'm about five chapters from finishing "Bigfoot Ranch" and I've embraced it's goofiness. It isn't what I expected, I'm not sure it's what the publisher expects, but it is what it is supposed to be. I'd purposely held off thinking about the ending until that moment, but as I turned the corner to those last few chapters, I thought of something out of nowhere. Just a tiny little telling detail. Something that probably won't even seem important to anyone reading the book, but it's a detail from which all the rest flows. The little bit of business that unlocks the scene.

And I know I have a book, and all I need to do is sit down and write the ending.