Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 106, July 14, 2010

Here we are: After three-and-a-half months, 493 pages, almost 150,000 words, the first draft of my novel is done. Hallelujah. It was a long, hard ride but an extremely satisfying one. I read a newspaper story this morning about a guy who won an ultramarathon—135 miles—through Death Valley and other harsh places. Finishing this first draft feels about like that, only without the sore feet and the sunburn.

Knowing that I would be reporting my progress each day helped me to increase my productivity. I didn't want to report: "I slacked off today. Again." Not that I do too much of that stuff in any case but the blog was an added incentive to get to work each morning. I learned that when you love to do something you can set a pace that would leave you in a heap at the side of the road, if your heart weren't in it. (Sometimes using the subjunctive tense looks really funny.)

As to our heroes and villains: some got just what they deserved; most got varying degrees of pleasure or pain. Which is pretty much the way I see real life. In the story context, I think each resolution fits and will satisfy most readers.

Finally, for those who might care, when this novel is published I will identify it as being the subject of this blog.

Until we meet again, mes amis…

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 105, July 13, 2010

Almost there. Tomorrow should do it. More details soon.

Day 105 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 104, July 12, 2010

It's wrapping things up time. When you write stories that rely on both character and action, you have to complete each side of the equation. You can finish on either note, depending on what you want to leave with the reader. That's where things are now for me.

I wrote five-plus pages today.

The first scene involves the antagonist and protagonist coming to terms with each other, much to the disgust of the story's third principal character. Two late-to-the-game characters do a favor for the protagonist's spouse. And young romance is deferred by two characters with goals to achieve.

Day 104 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 103, July 11, 2010

Just a short post today and two pages of writing done. But the pages were very important ones. The protagonist's spouse confronts the sexual predator in her pitch black house—power is out all over town. The cops are on the way. Sirens can be heard approaching at speed. If the spouse hides for just a few minutes, she'll be safe. But for reasons of her own she forces the issue.

The end of the manuscript is not only in sight, it will be completed this week.

Day 103 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 102, July 10, 2010

The hardest part of writing any novel is coming up with a good ending, one that's consistent with the logic of the story but still surprising and even more important satisfying. I work very hard to meet those goals. That's why as I'm getting close to the end of a novel I go over and over each scene, doing my best to make sure it's consistent with everything that has come before, that each word is chosen with the greatest of care and with the hope that the reader will like the conclusion so much he or she can't wait for the next thing I write.

Today's first scene plays out the antagonists' main plan: to show how even the most reasonable of people can be manipulated into reverting to humanity's default mode—us versus them—in the most primitive of ways. The second scene shows how even brilliant young people can rejoice in their accomplishments while overlooking any moral questions about what they've done. The third scene shows how the high and mighty can be reminded of basic decency by someone of more humble standing.

I wrote four-plus pages today.

Day 102 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 101, July 9, 2010

I'm starting to get tired. Not tired of the story. I'm still enjoying that, but I'm getting physically and mentally tired. Keyboarding isn't strenuous exercise, but the cumulative effect of doing it day after day with maybe only one day off every three weeks adds up. And keeping all the details straight in a story that's approaching 500 pages can be a bit of a mental strain, too.

But to heck with whining. The finish line is in sight, even if you're Mr. Magoo.

I wrote five pages today. In the first scene, the chief antagonist comes face to face with her spiritual nemesis, as opposed to her legal nemesis, the protagonist. In scene two, we see that even in fiction, at least the kind I write, not all the bad guys get caught. Some of them are born survivors and they get away clean.

Day 101 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 100, July 8, 2010

This was a really productive day. I didn't get out of the house, but I got seven pages done. Among those pages were four scenes. As I mentioned before, the pace of the storytelling has picked up. The scenes are shorter and more plot-focused. The interplay between story lines is quicker. Scenes end with hooks, which is the writer's way of saying to the reader, "I dare you to try to put my book down now." If their hair isn't on fire, chances are they won't do it.

As far as this blog goes, though, I'm facing a bit of a dilemma. I want to continue to provide a general idea of what's going on but I don't want to reveal too much. Don't want to spoil the ending. If you're thinking, yeah, sure, the hero always rides off into the sunset, you haven't read all my books.

So being a bit more vague than usual, here are some of the things that happen. One supporting character carts away the body of another supporting character, hoping to profit by his action. Two latecomers to the story opt to step outside their duties to heed a higher calling. A major supporting character is tempted to blow up the antagonists' entire plan out of envy. The protagonist's wife learns from her father how to get away with murder.

Day 100! Day 100 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 99, July 7, 2010

Today I had a problem. I was insufficiently selfish. I accommodated myself to other people's needs and schedules. In one sense, this made me a good husband, father and son. In another, it shorted me on writing time. I wrote only two-plus pages. Aargh. Tomorrow, I resolve to be more selfish. Fair warning has been issued.

In today's only scene, the protagonist finally comes to see just what the antagonists have planned. He fears a possible loss of life. He quickly thinks of a way to head off the tragedy. But he's immediately thwarted when the antagonists take down the cell phone system and the electrical grid. Having no hope of solving the larger problem, he abandons his car, deciding his best chance of getting home quickly and making sure his wife is safe is to run through the dense fog.

Day 99 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 98, July 6, 2010

Being ninety-eight days into the writing of this blog, I don't remember if I've raised the subject of found characters before. I suspect I may have, but just in case I haven't, here's a brief recap. Most, if not all, of my major characters are planned. I work them out in advance of writing the first draft. For the really big characters, I write lengthy biographies, so I'll know who the heck they are when I'm putting words into their mouths. Found characters, on the other hand, just step onstage, say here I am, you need me.

A lot of times, found characters can become among the most memorable and even likable in a story. Other times, though, they are important only as players of small but critical roles.

In today's first scene, such a found character steps forward. In order to be more than a mere contrivance the character has to have some flesh on his bones and just a bit of history. This character has leadership thrust upon him, heading up those who would thwart the antagonists big plan. Whether he succeeds or fails will determine whether the antagonists succeed or fail. In today's second scene, we get a new insight into the character who enabled the sexual predator, just before he meets his fate.

I wrote four pages today.

Day 98 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 97, July 5, 2010

Other than the joy of doing the writing, the most gratifying part of committing fiction is getting positive feedback, i.e. money to continue writing and reader comments telling you how much someone has enjoyed what you've written. Getting fan mail is a heady experience. Humbling too in a way. Because it makes you realize how lucky you are to be the recipient of a given talent.

You often see athletes look upward to express thanks after making a big play. That never seems corny to me. It seems appropriate.

Anyway, I received a complimentary e-mail recently. Someone I've never met told me he liked my book The President's Henchman, and asked me if I have a sequel planned. I told him the sequel, The Hangman's Companion, has been written and will be coming out soon in e-book and trade paperback editions. He followed up by saying he was sorry to hear that my new book wouldn't be published in hardcover as he collects and reads only first printings of first edition hardcover books.

I like hardcover books. I've been published that way three times. I've read more hardcover books than I can remember and have hundreds of them on my bookshelves. But I've never collected any. I don't object to book collecting. For me, it would be more interesting than collecting most other things. And it can be a good investment.

But for me, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the story's the thing. The book is just an object. It might be an appealing object, though I don't think much of most book cover art. But if the story's not wonderful, who cares about anything else? I'd rather hear an interesting story over a beer in a bar than read something ho-hum that was beautifully packaged.

Books are good, stories are better.

Today, I wrote five pages.The action's coming faster now. Some scenes are shorter and interplay with other short scenes. The protagonist's spouse hears a disturbing sound just outside her window. The antagonist kicks off the climax of her scheme. The protagonist figures out where the antagonist has been hiding, only to receive a call from the antagonist telling him his wife is the target of the sexual predator. The protagonist calls home, reaches his wife, but the call is cut short. He has to race across town to reach her—only a dense fog is going to make getting anywhere quickly very difficult.

Day 97 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 96, July 4, 2010

Today was another holiday quota effort, three pages written. Would have done more but people have these ideas about Fourth of July barbecues, and if they're nice enough to offer you a meal the least you can do is show up and eat it. At least, that's what I did.

Today's scene brings disparate supporting characters together and will soon have them interact. It's one of those quirks-of-fate scenes. I don't know how you feel about them, but I like them—assuming they're well done. The sexual predator and his enabler are about to move in on the protagonist's wife. Thing is, two far more deadly predators are observing them and decide to take an interest.

Day 96 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 95, July 3, 2010

My wife has been with me through thick and thin and when she asks for a favor I do my best to provide what she wants. She asked me to write about whether I have doubts as I go through the lengthy process of writing a novel. She thought people would like to see me bare my soul or show vulnerability or something.

I might have doubts if I wrote serious literature. You know, the stuff where one character is more dysfunctional than the next and you wouldn't want any of them as a friend or a neighbor. Having doubts in that case would be in keeping with the work.

But I consider my writing to be intelligent entertainment, of one sort or another. So to address my wife's question: No, I don't have doubts. I've been through the drill enough times to know what works and what doesn't and I fix the things that don't work in my daily rewrites. If I somehow overlook something during the initial rewrite, I fix it when I do the overall reread of the first draft.

Note to any new writer who may read this: Screw doubt. It'll slow you down or stop you cold. Just keep writing. Most things can be fixed in rewrite. Keep writing.

As far as whether the main story idea is any good, that's a subjective call. Some people will like it, others won't. That goes for any story. Neither approval nor disapproval is universal. A sign that the idea works for me is how much fun I have writing it. I'm having a lot of fun with this idea.

Still, being the Fourth of July weekend, I got by with doing just two pages today. Enough to keep me engaged in the story. In today's scene, a supporting character learns she's been ditched. She'll have to scramble to get back in the game, and in doing so she'll make things worse.

Day 95 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 94, July 2, 2010

I got off to a good start today and closed with a good finish. In between I did a lot of stuff that was ordinary but satisfying. Went to the gym to renew my daily battle against time and gravity. Went to lunch with my three favorite people. Came home and took a quick nap to get recharged. Finished with five-plus pages.

In today's first scene we see the place from which the antagonists will launch their climactic attack, and watch as one romantic fool (still a nice guy, though) seeks to foil the lead antagonist, for her own good, mind you. In the second scene, we learn that the chief protagonist has put a nice strategy into play to foil several adversaries, but even the best plans might be undone by circumstance. Even so, one bright idea can lead to another, and the protagonist is zeroing in on his opposite number.

Day 94 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 93, July 1, 2010

As predicted yesterday, I got back on track today, writing almost six pages. The writing felt good. There were only a couple of interruptions and they were too minor to disrupt the flow from my muse. I know I've said it before, but the end is getting close. I can tell by the fact that the can't-do-without scenes are popping up. This refers to scenes that I know a reader would say: You know what, there should have been a little scene toward the end that did this. I often feel the same way when I read another writer's book. There are little bridges and grace notes that aren't apparent when you do your initial outline but should become apparent when you've lived with the story for three months.

In today's first scene, the protagonist shows he's really a good guy by answering a reporter's question honestly despite possibly jeopardizing his future by doing so. He also establishes a contact for a move he'll soon want to make. In the second scene, the protagonist uses a supporting character to goad someone else into making a tactical mistake. This will lead to an epiphany that, ta-da, leads him to solve the mystery of what the antagonists have planned.

Day 93 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 92, June 30, 2010

Today, the weather was so nice it could have been packaged in San Diego and sent overnight express. Yes, that's my way of saying I didn't do my usual number of pages. Tomorrow's supposed to be really nice, too. But I know I'll do at least five pages and maybe more. Usually, I like to write first drafts of novels during the winter, when it's very easy to stay indoors. In fact, working on writing a novel for three-plus months is a good way to make the cold weather seem to go by quickly. But this project got off schedule.

That's life.

I wrote three pages today. The first scene was actually an addition to yesterday's last scene. Not a normal occurrence, but it happens. Now another character is putting his life in jeopardy. (Read yesterday's post if you want to know more.) In the other scene, a supporting character dupes the sexual predator into coming out of his hiding place. He has ill intent for the predator, but who gets the better of whom remains to be seen.

Day 92 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 91, June 29, 2010

Today marks the three-month point since I began writing the first draft manuscript of my new novel. In that time, I've written 431 pages or 130,579 words. This is a fair bit more than I anticipated when I set out. At that point, I expected the manuscript would come in between 350-400 pages.But these things, obviously, are hard to predict. Without the benefit of reading the entire manuscript, which I won't do until it's finished and I take two weeks off to decompress, I don't think I've done any padding. I'm working in a way that feels right to me, giving the characters the development they deserve but not letting any of them run away with the story.

Even so, things around the home front have reached the point where my wife and daughter ask every day: Are you going to finish soon? And I say: Yes, soon. Which is true. Soon being a relative thing. But I don't think I have more than a week to ten days to go. Really.

I wrote another five pages today. In the first scene, the protagonist, though he hasn't realized it yet, has discovered the means by which the antagonists intend to bring their plan to a conclusion. The question is, will the light dawn in time to prevent large scale mayhem? In the second scene, a major supporting character who has been recruited by the antagonists considers the real possibility he might die as a result of his choice.

Day 91 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 90, June 28,2010

If it isn't one thing, it's another. The mouse on my Mac decided to lose full functionality today. The scroll ball will no longer scroll up. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but I scroll up and down all the time. It's one way I make sure I haven't fallen into any verbal cul de sacs, i.e. overusing a particular word.Online help says maybe I can fix it by cleaning it. My extended warranty ran out—last week!—or I'd just replace the damn thing.

Anyway, I got another five pages done today. In scene one, the protagonist catches a break, maybe, by learning the cell phone number of the chief antagonist. If she has her phone on, he'll be able to locate her. Sadly, her phone is off, but he maintains hope that she'll turn it on before long. In the second scene, we learn where the chief antagonist is hiding. Pretty clever place, but surrounded by hostiles all the same. In scene three, we hear how people can justify almost anything, including setting up their own paramilitary force.

A potent brew is being mixed.

Day 90 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 89, June 27, 2010

As promised, I was back at it today, wrote six pages.Good pages, too. Advanced the story, maintained both the narrative and characters' voices. If I sound like I'm patting myself on the back, I am. For me, even a little—needed—time away from the story can make the resumption of writing a bit bumpy. But not today.

In today's first scene, two of the top three antagonists are working on putting on what they call their big show when they get a phone call. The caller informs them not only has the nature of their scheme been uncovered but an unforeseen opponent will be trying to stop them. This is called ratcheting up the tension. In the second scene, an act of treachery occurs between the sexual predator and his increasingly aggressive enabler. The predator fears the enabler is setting him up to take a fall for a crime the enabler is planning to commit. No honor among perverts.

Day 89 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 88, June 26, 2010

Today turned out to be an unplanned off day. That's okay. After writing 416 pages, I don't feel bad about cutting myself a little slack. A lot of mundane household chores got done, and I still went back and caught up with the last 20 pages of scene breaks—my after the fact outline—and polished the writing on those pages. So I wasn't a complete literary slacker.

Back at it bright and early tomorrow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 87, June 25, 2010

As a thriller comes to a close, the tension has to build. Otherwise there aren't any thrills. Readers will be disappointed and fling their printed books at hard surfaces. (This is one place where e-readers can't compete. You wouldn't want to fling your Kindle or iPad at a wall unless you have a lot of money and someone to clean up after you.) But when a writer wants to increase the tension he has to keep a few things in mind. He should pick up the pace of the story. Ideally, this will get the reader to zip through the text and turn the pages faster, too. Each scene should be of more consequence: life or death situations are always good but ones that have been done a million times should be avoided. From my point of view, the language used should become more spare and pointed.

But you can't—absolutely cannot—change your character's basic nature or voice. You can exaggerate both because extreme conditions can produce extreme reactions, but Nancy Pelosi will never become Liz Cheney or vice versa. Right? Right.

Today, I wrote five-plus pages. In the first scene, the previously passive sexual voyeur is finding increasing pleasure in taking a more active role. His counterpart, the doer not the watcher of the two, on the other hand, counsels caution and is rebuffed. So, true to his nature, he conceives a way of both getting his thrills and protecting himself the best he can. In scene two, a minor supporting character calls upon the lessons of a historic massacre to try to persuade a major supporting character to get out of Dodge. He fails, leaving the reader with a sense of foreboding. In scene three, two media figures bring a sense of anxious reality to an increasingly surreal gathering of ordinary men who could become very dangerous.

Day 87 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 86, June 24, 2010

I forgot to mention in the previous post that I've crossed page 400 and the manuscript as of today is nearing 125,000 words. Don't want to let things go too much farther. Publishers have concerns, legitimately, about the cost of paper and ink. It's incredible how fast things like that can add to your expenses. Also, fat books are harder to read while bathing. That thought makes me wonder: Do you think Kindles, iPads and other e-readers are waterproof? If not, there have probably been a costly number oopsy-splashies around the world.

On to today's report. I wrote six-plus pages. This is akin to making a good kick at the end of a marathon. In today's scenes the protagonist's wife decides it wouldn't be a bad idea to take steps to protect herself. The protagonist puts the word out to someone who might be in touch with the chief antagonist that it's not too late for her to call off the climax of her plan and make a clean getaway. And social cohesion breaks down to the point that people feel they have to resort to arming themselves for their own protection—and, no, I'm not talking about the Tea Party here.

Day 86 of writing my new novel is done.

Day 85, June 24, 2010

You've heard of baseball games getting rained out? Last night my blog got rained out. To be more precise, it got T-stormed out. I was writing later than usual. Took a break for dinner. By the time I intended to come back and post yesterday's blog, the storm had moved in, and it stayed until the time I was ready to conk out for the day. As mentioned previously in this blog, when there's heavy lightning in the area, I unplug my computer to keep it from getting fried.

Anyway, I wrote five pages yesterday. In scene one, the protagonist discovers the way the antagonists have been spying on him. Rather than dismantle it, he will try to use it to turn the tables. In scene two, there's a meeting of two disgruntled employees, one current, one former. They form an alliance. They should really know better than to trust one another, but they don't, and alliances of convenience can become anything but convenient in the end.

Day 85 of writing my new novel was done yesterday. (On to today's work.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 84, June 22, 2010

Things are coming together for the protagonist. He tracks down a person who gives him information that will lead to the discovery of how the antagonists seem to have an omniscient awareness of everything that's going on in his town. Meanwhile, the powers that be in that community form an alliance outside the bounds of customary law enforcement, i.e. they form a vigilante group, to protect their interests. The question is raised whether the forces of the law can bring the situation to an orderly conclusion before the hotheads wind up spilling any blood. Not a bad question to keep the reader engaged.

I wrote 5.5 pages today, and I'm a bit tired so I'll keep this post short.

Day 84 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 83, June 21, 2010

Doing a bit of rough calculation today, I estimated that I've spent approximately 400 hours so far on writing this first draft of my new novel. That would be 16.66 days writing around the clock or ten forty-hour weeks. Does anybody actually work forty hours per week anymore? Seems like a lot of people can't find full-time work and others get a fixed salary and are required to put in many more than forty hours per week.

Anyway, it's been a lot of time to work on one story, but I still feel good about it. My daughter asked me today, "Do you know where you're going?" Meaning do I know how the story ends. I told her I do, and the path to getting there is becoming clearer all the time. That's a very good sign. It's a big problem when you write almost 400 pages and you know neither what your ending will be nor how to reach it.

I wrote 4.5 pages today. In the first scene I wrote, I laid down a plot development courtesy of a secondary character that will pay dividends for the protagonist. In the second scene, the protagonist experiences two revelations after admitting he's the guy responsible for a screwup—rather than try to pass the buck to someone else.

Day 83 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 82, June 20, 2010

Today was a getting back to business day. That means I had to pick up the threads of the various story lines. That required going back and reading the last 30-40 pages I wrote. (Getting back to business is much easier to do when you're early in the story; you have far less material to remember. Now, being near the end, there's a heckuva lot of detail to keep in mind.) As I go through the pages I'm rereading, I inevitably find typos or come up with a new word or turn of phrase I like better than what was there before.

So after doing all that, I got three new pages written, a fair day's work when plunging back into the deep end. Momentum has been reestablished. I also clearly outlined what the first two scenes I'll write tomorrow will be. That means at some subconscious level I'm working on them right now.

In today's scene a supporting character's health takes a turn for the worse. Seen in isolation, the scene is almost trivial. Seen in context it's reminiscent of the "For Want of a Nail" proverb. Small actions can have large consequences.

Day 82 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 81, June 19, 2010

Today I wrote zero pages and I spent six hours collecting bruises. All in the name of writing. In my most recent novel, The President's Henchman, the protagonist, James J. McGill, becomes the first private eye to live in the White House by virtue of being married to the woman who becomes the first female president. Among McGill's talents is his mastery of a martial art called Dark Alley which was devised by his uncle. Dark Alley is described as organized street fighting: anything goes.

When I was looking for a self-defense course for my daughter before she went off to college, I happened to meet an interesting fellow by the name of Jim Sullivan. He taught what he called a practical self-defense course. You'd learn something in the very first lesson that could be of help to you the moment you walked out of the class. Through Jim, I came to hear of Kelly Worden, who if he doesn't know every martial art in the world certainly knows most of them. Not only knows them but has mastered them. He's taught close quarters combat techniques to U.S. special forces soldiers. He is the real life version of what I'm writing about with Jim McGill.

Yesterday, Kelly Worden came to town. I signed up for his two-day seminar, figuring anything I learned would only make my fictional hero more believable. Oh, man, did I get an education: instruction in tactical knife fighting, modern arnis, jeet kun do and other martial disciplines. Along the way, I picked up that assortment of bruises I mentioned.

So right now I'd like to offer an unsolicited testimonial. If there are any other writers out there who'd like to get an up close and personal introduction to just about any style of fighting imaginable—to help their literary efforts, mind you—take a look at See if he's coming to a town near you. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 80, June 18, 2010

Five pages written today, written in somewhat of a hurry, but still good stuff. Time at the keyboard had to accommodate other obligations. Stuff happens. You internalize everyday activities and then you can use them for verisimilitude in your writing. Life is recyclable.

In today's scene, a principal character comes to the unsettling realization that the leader of the antagonists has been operating under her very nose, but comes up with an idea to turn the tables. Meanwhile, the core of the antagonists displays the flexibility to change their tactics to their circumstances. Doubtless, new realities and reactions will be introduced as the story races to a conclusion. This is a good thing. Keeps the reader guessing—and reading.

Day 80 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 79, June 17, 2010

One of my favorite old time rock 'n' roll songs is the late, great Warren Zevon's "Poor,Poor Pitiful Me," as covered by Linda Ronstadt. The singer/narrator recounts a litany of woe in which even doing herself in is an effort that turns out to be futile. I'd recount the lyrics here except I wouldn't want to give any impressionable soul the wrong idea. One of the reasons I like the song, besides having a good beat you can dance to, is its value for self-mockery when I feel put upon.

The upper respiratory bug I mentioned yesterday is on its way out, but I'm still coughing a little and to complicate matters I had a dental checkup today. So I was lying supine in a dental chair for the better part of an hour, mouth wide open, trying not to cough while the hygienist scraped away the stuff I missed despite flossing twice a day. Not a big deal, but annoying enough to make the minutes drag like I was back in elementary school waiting for three o'clock.

So it was a good thing I got up reasonably early and got three-plus pages in, good stuff, too. In today's scene, I showed that just like evil, all that's necessary for stupidity to triumph is for good men to take a powder. You can't blame the characters in the scene for getting out of harm's way because there's just no talking sense to some people, but you sure wish the people who won't listen to sense were…maybe out of commission with a cold or tied up at the dentist's office. Something.

And like me they just didn't have it in them to get on with their plans later in the day.

Day 79 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 78, June 16, 2010

Fortunately for me, I rarely get sick. But last night my throat got scratchy, usually the first symptom of getting a cold for me. I don't suffer even minor infections passively. I counterattacked with Zicam lozenges and iced green tea. Felt a little low energy for a while. But I hewed to discipline and got an early start and wrote four pages. Pushed through a workout and a two-mile walk. Then took it easy for a while. Came back to the keyboard this evening and wrote two more pages.

All six pages were nice work. The two scenes I wrote advanced both the plot and the development of character. When you can get a two-fer in a scene you're doing well.

But I'm kinda running out of gas now. So that's it for this post.

Day 78 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 77, June 15, 2010

Today I got back into my customary pace; I wrote just over five pages. After the past two days of doing seven pages and three pages, doing five felt good. By now I've reached page 373 of the manuscript. I've structured the story, excluding prologue and epilogue, to be one week long, and I'm now into the final full day. It's clear to me at this point that the story will exceed the 400-page length I'd originally envisioned. Might be as long as 440 pages.

But that's okay. It's much better to be a little long, or even a lot long, than to be too short. It's easier to cut than to fill. When I wrote the first draft of my novel Digger, it was over 700 hundred pages. Working with an editor at Bantam, I cut more than 200 pages. Some things I hated to lose, but there was a lot that I cut which only made the story better, a faster more intense read.

So, I'm not concerned about exceeding my anticipated page count.

In today's scenes, the antagonists strike in the wee, dark hours of the morning to scare the hell out of as many people as they can, and they succeed in including the protagonist's wife among that number. So things are getting personal. The sexual predator is foiled by circumstance from striking out at another victim. Far from discouraging him, it only makes him more determined.

The tension keeps ratcheting up.

Day 77 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 76, June 14, 2010

Have you ever read a book the really grabbed you, one so compelling you just raced through it? But as you approached, say, the last 30-50 pages you slowed down to make the pleasure last longer? I know I have, and the same sort of thing can happen to me when I write a book. I can see the end in sight and my daily production drops to a slower pace.

But that's not what happened today. Today, I made up for a slow Saturday and a slow Sunday. I wrote seven-plus pages. The work just flowed so that was what I enjoyed. Find your happiness where ye may.

Today's three scenes all advanced their plot lines: the sexual predator focuses on a new target, but also contemplates striking out at someone outside of his usual parameters; a supporting character looking to move up in the world might be undone by mundane circumstances, and thereby endanger the life of another; the chief antagonist strikes a bargain with a major supporting character to reach her goal.

All of these storylines examine aspects of character in down-to-earth ways: How can you fulfill an important responsibility that calls for you to be in a specific place when your bladder is about to burst; how can you share a moment of glee with someone you've just thought you might have to do in; how can you trust someone you just met to help you fulfill your greatest ambition?

Asking questions like that and answering them is part of what makes writing so much fun.

Day 76 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 75, June 13, 2010

Some days can get away from you. But this one didn't, not entirely. I managed to write three pages today. I got up later than I intended. My energy level wasn't the best. The weather went from hot and sticky to serial thunderstorms. Had to shut down and unplug the computer twice, lost momentum. Bah, humbug.

Regarding the possibility of having my computer fried: There are standard warnings that this can happen in a thunderstorm, and it did in fact happen to a woman with whom my wife works. Actually melted her machine. Of course, this same person also had a tornado hit her home, so maybe she's just unlucky. But why take chances?

In the scene I wrote today, the protagonist makes another discovery about the leader of the antagonists. His perception of what's going on is changing by the hour. Making for a difficult situation for someone who's expected to save the day. I'm not sure I like the way the scene is written, but I'm not going back to check it until tomorrow.

Mama said there'd be days like this.

Day 75 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 74, June 12, 2010

If you want to be good at anything, you have to be dedicated. Do it day in and day out. It has to go beyond simple discipline, but it should be something less than mania. In between these poles is where you find the term love of the game. That's the way I feel about writing. And if you think all this is leading up to my telling you I didn't do any writing today, you're wrong.

I wrote 3.5 very nice pages.

But before I got around to that I felt like being a regular guy and did some Saturday morning summer chores just like most other people around the country. My wife and I took my father's dog for a walk in the park. Dad just turned 90 and though he can still push his lawn mower or snow blower around for an hour, he leaves the dog-walking to us. After that, I mowed the grass, front, back and side. Then I had a talk with my daughter who recently received notice that she's made the dean's list again, after receiving the 1,000th straight 'A' of her academic career, and I told her this was a pretty good sign she should be self-confident.

Then I got down to writing, and it went like silk. Today's scene was revelatory. Two of the antagonists, brilliant though they are, learn that their every move has been observed. More than that, they may be about to receive a big job offer. This is the kind of twist I love in a story. It was unexpected, but it makes sense, and it can thwart a criticism of the story that might have been made before the scene happened.

I might have written more pages, but I pitched in to help get some laundry done.

Day 74 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 73, June 11, 2010

Today was a good day. Not a whole lot of pages, only four. But four really good pages. They didn't flow smoothly off the keyboard. I had to put some effort into both the writing and the rewriting. But the end product was very satisfying and more important than that the scene advanced the story in terms of both character and plot.

Things are getting tense enough now to allow allusions to hell. The protagonist understands that his own situation is about to change profoundly, but he's still out looking for solutions to the problems that confront his town. But adversity, as it likes to do, only mounts. Two new dangerous characters appear—but this is allowed only because a precedent had been established earlier. You can't just spring things out of the blue without foreshadowing. That's bad writing. But the new threat sparks an insight; the protagonist begins to look at the situation in a whole new light. As a result, the way he approaches solving his problems will have to change.

Good, good day.

Day 73 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 72, June 10,2010

Ah, what a difference a day makes. My narrative voice is back, my muse is with me, and the work flowed. I wrote five-plus pages, expending only half the effort it took me to do three pages yesterday. But I was able to get to this happy situation only because I gutted through the work yesterday.

In today's scenes, the problem with the sexual predator becomes worse by a factor of two. An ambitious woman gets the feeling there may be a higher risk to achieving her goal than she ever imagined. And a secondary character decides it's time for him to leave, but wants to go out with a bang. Story lines are becoming much more tightly woven creating greater pressure on each strand.

Day 72 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 71, June 9, 2010

For me, the written word is the way I hear with my eyes. That might sound strange, but people often talk about an author having a "voice." As a reader, I find that to be almost literally true. When I'm caught up in a good story, the experience is very much like listening to someone tell me that story aloud.

When I write, I don't talk to myself, but I can still hear my words as they appear on the computer monitor. Today, I was having a hard time with both what I saw and what I heard. My voice was off key, my tone was flat. It wasn't much fun.

The only thing to do when that happens is to shrug it off. I imagine Sinatra, Elvis and even Meat Loaf all had days when their pipes weren't quite pitch perfect. When that happens, you just have to put it behind you.

Today's scenes were about characters getting jittery as the pressure on them builds. Perfectly okay for the characters. Not so good for the writer. I got three pages written today and on a day like this, that was enough.

Day 71 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 70, June 8, 2010

Some days come easier than others. When there's a thunder storm, and you're watching your dad's dog, and the dog's afraid of thunder, and the lightning starts flashing, and you decide it's a good idea to shut down and unplug your computer so it doesn't get fried, that kind of stuff can impede your productivity.

And when you write in fits and starts instead of nice big peaceful chunks of time, the quality can suffer.

But so what? If you're a writer, you write. And you don't worry too much about the writing because you're going to rewrite it anyway. And it's just the first draft. The whole thing is subject to revision, polishing, buffing, making it as close to perfect as you can.

All that being the case, I managed to write five-plus pages today, and with the rewrite I did, it turned out pretty well. In today's scene, the protagonist was sitting at his desk occupied with analysis and decision making. Doesn't sound too riveting, I know. But the character is at the center of the story and he has to figure things out as much as the reader does. I think he handles this task quite nicely.

I've always admired this type of scene when it's artfully done, and every writer from Arthur Conan Doyle to John D. MacDonald has done it. I'm happy to be following in a worthy tradition here.

Day 70 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 69, June 7, 2010

I'm back to writing at home following my research trip and a weekend off to celebrate a landmark birthday in my family. The time away was good but it's very reassuring to be back in familiar surroundings as I bring the first draft of my new novel to a close.

I got off to a good start today, writing five and a half pages. In today's scenes the leader of the antagonists has to go outside her group to recruit an outsider to help her forces pull off their final caper. Thing is, while the recruited character has the technical ability to step right in, will he be agreeable to what he's being asked to do? Also, he's an older guy used to running his own show. Will he be able to subordinate his ego to go along with the wishes of a younger woman? In today's second scene, the spouse of the protagonist loses her job. She didn't do anything wrong. It's a matter of sending a message to the protagonist. Get in line and do what you've been told, and fast, or you could be next.

Day 69 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Days 61-68, May 29-June 4, 2010

Being without a home Internet connection is so 20th century, and not even a 1990s dial-up connection either. It's also a reminder to me that I was born and raised in a technologically quaint time. Unlike some writers who persist in using a typewriter or even a pen to make words visible, I love using a computer that is hooked into a boundless source of information and communication.

Okay, be that as it may, the important thing is with a few interruptions I've been able to continue to crank out some pages most if not all days over the past two weeks. I did another 3.5 today and the grand total has reached 331 pages and 100,000+ plus words.

The story continues to pick up speed and energy. The protagonist is getting closer to pinning down at least the lead antagonist, but now he's having a big problem with someone who should be an ally. Newly discovered information has revealed that person might just be a bad guy, too. The social structure that forms the context of the story is also becoming more volatile.

This is one of those situations where things will never be the same again.

So part of the fun will be to guess and then find out what the new shapes of things will be.

Days 61-68 of writing my new novel are done.

(Daily posting should resume on June 7, 2010)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Days 58, 59, 60, May 26-28, 2010

Writing while away from home isn’t too hard, but posting a daily blog without an onsite Internet connection is proving far more difficult. First to the nuts and bolts: On Wednesday, I wrote five pages; on Thursday, oh my, I took the day off, today I made up for yesterday by writing seven-plus pages.

In Wednesday’s scene, the protagonist’s wife has unexpected trouble at work and learns her husband’s place in the world might also be uncertain, as he’s made some unannounced plans for their future. Given the uncertainty of her own situation, the wife is glad about that but she wonders what else he’s been keeping from her.

Today’s two scenes find the protagonist getting the goods not on the antagonists but on another major character. With the social order starting to fracture, all sorts of people are having their secrets revealed. Meanwhile, the antagonists have dug up a secret on their chief nemesis of the moment and use the man’s past to haunt him in a very chilling way.

Days 57-59 of writing my new novel are done.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 57, May 25, 2010

Being faithful to your blog is more difficult when traveling and not finding easy access to the Internet. Yesterday involved lots of driving to a remote place, waiting for people who were late in arriving, and doing more driving to end the day, all without intersecting with a WiFi spot.

So sorry.

I wrote 4.5 pages yesterday, wisely starting early before other adventures began. In yesterday’s scene, the protagonist is drawing the net closed around the sexual predator, closing in, but hasn’t caught him yet, leaving room for further developments. Obliging the reader to keep turning pages. That was the good news for the protagonist; the bad news is the leader of the antagonists, whose name he’s just learned has seemed to give him the slip…but she’s not far away.

I passed page 300 yesterday, about 75% done with the first draft. Maybe more.

Today, I wrote three pages so far. With luck, I might get a couple more done after this post goes up. In today’s scene, a supporting character discovers where the antagonists have been hiding out. Thing is, he doesn’t want to foil their plan, he wants to exploit their talents for his own purposes. The world is never as simple as black and white, and the character in this scene is evidence of that.

Day 57 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Days 55/56, May 22/23, 2010

Work gets interrupted again by travel. But I got 2.5 pages done this morning. Now up to 296 pages overall.

Today's scene describes a reinforcement of the social pecking order. Dissident elements have been whipped back into line. This is an important precursor for the finale when the antagonists will make people decide just how far they will go to preserve their privileged positions.

Day 55 of writing my new novel is done; day 56 will be spent mostly in travel. Back on Monday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 54, May 21. 2010

Pro forma post today. Have to hit the road soon to meet a plane. Wrote 3.5 pages.

In today's scene, the protagonist discovers the identity of the lead antagonist, and most likely the identities of two follower as well. Which is all to the good but he hasn't yet laid hands on any of them. Almost as perplexing, he doesn't really know what's motivating them…but hints have been provided, and he's a smart guy, so…

The reader will just have to keep turning the pages.

Day 54 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 53, May 20, 2010

When you write a story, at least in the mystery, suspense and thriller genres, you have to do basically two things: throw a rock in a pond and then follow the ripples. In many novels of these genres, a big rock is thrown right away. Then the ripples are followed until they butt up against the far shore at the end of the novel. There, I've made things simple, haven't I?

Simple unless you're the person doing the writing. Because over the course of 300-400 pages you will have to keep lots and lots of details straight in your mind. Or your story will become the equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine and not even members of your immediate family will tell you your novel is interesting.

Today, I followed ripples in two scenes, and to make sure I had my details straight, I went back into the manuscript and reread the story lines relevant to these ripples. In one scene, a major character unexpectedly happens upon one of the antagonists and makes an unsuccessful attempt to capture him. This was an action scene: big rock. So the ripples from this are already spreading. In another scene, a question asked earlier by the protagonist—smaller rock—produces new information that could be relevant to the pursuit of the sexual predator—smaller ripple.

But all the consequences of all the acts are nearing the far shore.

I wrote six-plus pages today.

Day 53 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 52, May 19, 2010

I'll start today with some practical advice for the would-be fiction writer. Try to find a spouse with a great big trust fund. Wealth comes in handy when rejection slips outnumber advance checks. Which is to say most of the time for most writers. If you lose your heart to someone who doesn't belong to a Fortune 500 dynasty, at least look for someone who's in the arts. That way your spouse won't think you're any crazier than he or she is. Failing that, look for someone who's a good proofreader. Otherwise, your typos and grammatical errors might be some of the funnier parts of your material.

I'm lucky in many ways, but relevant to this blog and my work as a writer, I'm fortunate that my wife is an artist and a good proofreader. I'm unlucky in that she's out of town right now. So any glitches you might find over the next few days are what my wife sees every day.

In today's first scene, the protagonist is out searching the streets of the town where the story is set to see if he can find the sexual predator whose name and appearance he now knows. But the SOB is nowhere to be found because he knows he's being pursued. The predator may even have fled for parts unknown, but the protagonist can't afford to make that assumption lest he be mistaken and fail to prevent another attack.

In the second scene, a supporting character, the weak link in a criminal conspiracy, is about to be arrested when he foils—or at least delays—his incarceration by having a heart attack.

Today, I wrote five pages, edging up toward page 300 now.

Day 52 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 51, May 18, 2010

I think every writer gets his start as a reader. If you don't enjoy reading, how could you possibly come to be a writer? Anyway, one of the writers whose work I enjoy is the late Stieg Larsson. I'm hoping to borrow an English edition of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest to take with me on my upcoming research trip.The interesting thing about Larsson's stories to me is that I only knew clichés about Sweden: small relatively homogenous population, politically neutral, protested the Vietnam war, stuff like that.

I didn't know they had Nazis, biker gangs, corrupt business bigshots and lots of misogynistic men. The whole panorama of Swedish life as Larsson paints it is an eye opener. Familiar in some ways as a Western culture but full of surprises.

Makes me hope that the story I'm writing will be a fresh idea to a lot of people. Aside from the joy I take in doing my work, there's also the pleasure of hearing things like, "I read your book all the way from Honolulu to Chicago." Or, "Your book caused me to miss a meeting." Comments like that make a writer's day.

Throw in a reasonable chunk of money and who could ask for more.

Today, I wrote six pages. All the story lines are picking up speed. The protagonist picked up a clue on tracking down the sexual predator from an unexpected source.

Day 51 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 50, May 17, 2010

Fissures are starting to show in the community targeted by the antagonists. More than that, characters who are making divisive decisions begin to question whether they are doing so for their own reasons or if they are being manipulated by the antagonists. In either case, the result is the same: old structures are crumbling and it's not clear what will rise to replace them.

But what goes around comes around. The antagonists themselves are harassed by, of all things, a billionaire groupie who is just dying to meet them, and may be nearly as smart as they are. The protagonist, meanwhile, is making some discoveries that will be critical to ending the threat posed by the sexual predator.

The various story lines are rounding the clubhouse turn and about to begin the stretch run for the finish line.

Compensating somewhat for yesterday's small page total, I wrote almost seven pages today.

Day 50 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 49, May 16, 2010

I've mentioned before that the world can intrude on a writer. This is especially true when you work from home and people who aren't writers and don't understand the process of writing aren't hesitant to call you in the middle of your working day. Their unspoken attitude is: What's the big deal? You were cranking out words before I called, you can crank out some more when we hang up. They don't understand that writing is an intimate conversation between the writer and his muse—or his subconscious, if you prefer. When a third party calls, the conversation that has been going on is interrupted, and it's not always easy to resume.

But if you're not a hermit or a prima donna you make allowances.

Which is what I did today. I got my early writing in, 2.5 pages this morning, and then my wife and I did Sunday stuff. You don't need to know the details. We all have Sunday stuff. Just substitute yours for mine. I knew I could get back to the keyboard later. But a funny thing happened. I decided this Sunday, for only the second time in the past seven weeks, I'd let the writing go until tomorrow morning, not worry about any quota. Today I'm going to do some reading and even watch a couple hours of television.

So there.

Day 49 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 48, May 15, 2010

Today was a second straight day of interval running, which can be just as demanding as interval training. But when you've been writing for a while—years, actually—you make the most of whatever time you can find to write. Besides, you have to expect more outside demands on a Saturday.

I got a relatively early start for a weekend and that served me well as the first scene I wrote today was the conclusion of a three-part comic strip satirizing one of the major characters. When you insert a representation of another art form—the comic strip—in a novel and want it not only to work smoothly but also to make a major point about the novel's message, it can take a little time to get your head around that. Doing so takes patience, determination and a willingness to rewrite.

So I got the hard part done, and worked on and off the rest of the day. You've got to really love to write to complete a novel. If you don't, the distractions will overwhelm you. But if you do, you can say, "Screw the distractions," and sit down and do it at every opportunity.

In other scenes, it's beginning to look like the protagonist will catch the sexual predators but another major character will track down the antagonists, not to bring them to justice but to profit off them. And the fabric of society continues to fray under pressure from the antagonists.

I wrote six-plus pages today.

Day 48 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 47, May 14, 2010

We all have times during the day when we do our best work. I do my best writing in the morning, the closer to the time I wake up the better. That's when I'm most in touch with my subconscious and my muse. Ideas come easily and the writing flows. Pages add up with no great effort. If I get a good start and then have to take a break I can go back later and continue writing with no problem.

However, if I don't start writing until later in the day, after assorted distractions have had time to lodge in my mind, then things get a lot harder. Writing becomes work. Sentences are toil, paragraphs hard labor. Two or three pages wear me out. That's why I don't understand writers, or anyone else, who don't hit their stride until late at night.

Today, my work time was very disjointed, had to go back to it four separate times, but I got my early start and each time I returned to the keyboard I was able to pick up where I'd left off with no problem.

Today's writing dealt with the protagonist trying to resolve one of the novel's main subplots. A word about that: A subplot shouldn't exist simply to provide the reader with something else to carry him through the story. It should be integral to the story and by the conclusion should dovetail into the main storyline, making the ending all the more satisfying.

I wrote six-plus pages today.

Day 47 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 46, May 13, 2010

There are writers who prefer to write longhand and others who are devoted to their typewriters. I've used both methods but having switched to a computer and word-processing software long ago, I'd never want to go back to either. To me, the old ways are barely preferable to cutting words in stone. The work I did today was a good example of why I prefer modern technology. As I started work on today's first scene, I realized that it should come before yesterday's last scene. No problem making the fix. Just write the scene, cut it and paste it where it belongs. So simple. So maddening in the old days.

Today I wrote five-plus pages but divided them among four scenes. So there were shorter scenes, each of them ratcheting up a story line. I've reached, approximately, the last third of the story. At this point, I want the pace to accelerate. The schemes the antagonists have set in motion are causing divisions among the general populace of the town where the story is set. Up 'til now the results of their actions have been relatively benign, but when people are set at odds with one another any manner of unintended consequences might occur. Showing that happen will build tension and a sense of urgency, drawing the reader more deeply into the story as the finale draws near.

Day 46 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 45, May 12, 2010

I wrote two scenes today. One involves ghosts and guilt; the other involves a pissed-off character hungry for vengeance. The ghost scene happens not in any haunted house but in an outdoor public setting with commuter traffic passing by. You don't believe in ghosts? So how might you react when you see two of them on your way to work, and, no, it's not just you who sees them. So do all the other people passing by. Mass hysteria? Stay tuned. The second scene looks at how and where a community can start to fall apart. When somebody feels the need to lash out, the lashing becomes more important than hitting the right target, and it's all downhill from there.

Today, I wrote five-plus pages. Very lean and tight. Satisfying.

Day 45 of writing my new story is done.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 44, May 11, 2010

Today was pleasantly productive: seven-plus pages written. The story was flowing and my energy level was good. I know that most people, those who don't write fiction, wonder how much energy it takes to tap out words on a keyboard for fewer than eight hours, and I've touched on that before in this blog. But I'll give it another go. When I'm writing well, I'm feeling what the characters are feeling: happy, sad, angry, scared. Anyone who's had an intense argument will know you can feel emotionally drained in minutes.The same thing can happen with an exhilarating event; you get high as a kite for a matter of moments and then you're limp as an old dishrag. So imagine sharing the emotional experiences, the challenges, and the daily grind of a dozen or more characters.Then there are all the technical matters to keep consistent over the course of hundreds of pages so the plot doesn't develop gaping holes.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love what I do. And medical researchers say challenging your brain on a regular basis helps keep dementia at bay. So I look at writing a novel as practicing a good health habit.

In today's scenes, the protagonist is not allowed to enjoy a quiet evening with his spouse. The antagonists have struck again, and a tip is delivered revealing the identity of the sexual predator. Elsewhere, two of the antagonists are considering a lucrative offer to go straight, i.e. give up on what they've been plotting. But they have to confer with their leader and they don't know if she'll go for it. Besides, they have one exploit that's set to go first thing tomorrow morning and any change of plans will have to happen after that.

Day 44 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 43, May 10, 2010

Recently, I wrote about the necessity of scrapping pages that veered from the intent of the story. Haven't changed my mind in the past 48 hours. But when you—or in this case I—happen to have a day when the writing just isn't as crisp as it usually is, it's best just to leave it overnight. Chances are you can come back the next day and upgrade both the art and the craft of the language. Sometimes both the muse and the writer can use a breather.

It can take a while to learn this, but once you do you're less likely to doubt that devoting your time to sitting down at the keyboard, or picking up a pen if you like to longhand it, was such a good idea.

Today was a time for moving the story along in small steps. A principal character unwittingly offers the antagonists a chance to sell out, i.e. an alternative, legal way to use their considerable skills. The truly creepy character, the sexual predator, realizes his doings have been uncovered and flees, misattributing his unmasking to the wrong person. The antagonists, not yet having received the opportunity to sell out, strike at the heart of the local power structure.

I wrote another five-plus pages today.

Day 43 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 42, May 9, 2010

Today marks a turning point in the story, a plot point as they say in the movie biz. A closely held secret becomes general knowledge through the old media format of a radio show: a character who wasn't meant to see a big secret, saw it and then blabbed to the public over radio waves. This means, with good reason, that many thousands of people are learning of something ill-defined but dangerous in their midst. The lack of specificity allows people to imagine all sorts of menacing possibilities, which is a lot scarier than having a single well-defined threat against which you can mobilize forces.

As this is going on, the protagonist is following his most promising lead only to find that person has left town. But he discovers the person he's after is using one of seven names, unless one of those names is only an alias. Still, it's a start, and our hero has resources at his command.

I wrote five-plus pages today.

Day 42 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 41, May 8, 2010

Today, as I've said a few times before, I wrote five pages. Except that I really wrote eight pages. Problem was, the first three I wrote I wound up ditching. Not that the writing wasn't any good. It was clean, fast, really moved. There were some funny lines in there, too. But it was off point. Didn't advance the story one bit. It was like a musician carrying a solo too far. At that point, it's an exercise in ego. Hey, look at what I can do.

Bore the reader, turn off an editor is what I can do—if I'm not careful. But I try my best to stay true to the story. So I scrapped half-a-day's work. Which really put me behind. So I stayed late at the keyboard and got five pages done. It's important to me now to keep the momentum going.

In today's writing, I showed why a character who's under considerable pressure and will be important to the story later on didn't just blow town. It's important that characters do what they do for reasons the reader can understand and believe. In another scene, the protagonist realizes the antagonists have gotten inside his head. Seemingly innocent sights take on sinister meanings for him. Putting him off balance is exactly what the antagonists want. So will he fall or find his balance? Keep reading, reader.

Day 41 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 40, May 7, 2010

Today's writing has the protagonist directly considering the primary antagonist as a suspect for the first time. The problem is, the only reason the antagonist had fallen under suspicion is that she's a new face in town. But she's also a figure of wealth and power, and if the protagonist is wrong about his suspicion, or simply can't prove that he's right, he's going to get his backside handed to him. And he knows it. So he takes the only measure he can to protect himself.

But that's not good enough to prevent two of the other antagonists from finding out one of their own is in the protagonist's sights. In fact, these two anticipated the protagonist's move. They counter it and move forward with their own plans.

I wrote five pages today.

Day 40 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 39, May 6, 2010

I wrote another six pages today, and the whole process is beginning to remind me of a 20K run I did in Chicago a long time ago. The course was laid out, in part, on an out-and-back path along Lake Michigan. So while the recreational runner types like me were still on our way out, the elite runners were already on their way back and, man, those guys were flying. I'd have been happy to be able to run one or two miles at that speed, much less 20K.

I remember thinking at the time some of those runners will have to dial it back. They can't all maintain that pace the whole way. Of course, I never found out because by the time I finished they'd all gone home, got married and started a family.

Anyway, I feel like I'm writing at an elite pace now and I want to keep it up for at least a couple more weeks. I think I can do it; I'm pretty sure I can, but we'll have to see. At the end of the month I know I'll have to set a lesser pace because I'll be going out of town to do research for a new novel, and writing on the road, for me, is never as productive as writing at home.

Today's scenes include the protagonist getting a taste of how miserable the antagonists can make things for him just by doing little things. And a principal character comes to understand just what it would take for her to become a killer by reaching the point where the death of another seems to be her best choice.

Day 39 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 38, May 5, 2010

Today was one of those days when the world intruded. Both business matters and personal matters took big chunks out of the day…and I still managed to write six-and-a half pages. Yeah, that's a little bit of boasting, but more important than that, it's a comment on how hard the story has grabbed me. I'm having a lot of fun writing it, and I've built up a good deal of momentum. I raced past the page 200 marker and stopped for the day at page 205.

If you've ever done any drift snorkeling, that's the way I felt today. If you haven't done any drift snorkeling, it works like this: A boat takes you out to point A on some nice, clear, warm stretch of water and picks you up at point B. You can't stay where you started because a current carries you along. When you swim with the current, it feels like you're jet propelled.

That's what today's writing felt like, whoosh!

On the more substantive side of things, the antagonists cause a headache for the protagonist, get him good and PO'd, too. A satirical comic strip is used by the antagonists to anger another character, and to subvert her reputation. And lastly, the lead antagonist hatches a plot to bring down someone who truly deserves it, the escalating sexual predator.

Day 38 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 37, May 4, 2010

Today started with the protagonist hearing from another oracle; there's no rule that says you can't have more than one. But you probably shouldn't have more than two or you might start veering toward satire. In this scene, the protagonist gets two clues that will figure into the ultimate outcome of the story, but at this point the clues are more perplexing than helpful. In today's second scene, another threat is received from the antagonists. At first glance, the purpose of this threat is thought to be mere aggravation, but then it's realized the purpose could be to confuse those whose job it is to counter the threat.

Put simply, today was a day of story machinations, gears within gears. Requiring the reader to keep paying attention.

Five-plus pages written was today's tally.

Day 37 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 36, May 3, 2010

Today I wrote another five pages filling out the backstory of three antagonists, who are obviously very important characters. This last section brings them up to the present day. More important, today's work gave me two important plot ideas on how to wrap up the story.

Plot, done right, is an organic by-product of character. Brave people do brave things. Cowardly people do not do brave things, no matter how much a good woman might love them or how profound an epiphany they might experience. If there's just one bit of advice any writer should pass along to others, and remember himself, it's: Can the clichés.

If you write character honestly, you'll write your characters' actions believably.

The better you know your characters, the more choices you'll have as to what they might do.

Day 36 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 35, May 2, 2010

Today's writing continued the subject I began yesterday: filling in the background of three antagonists. Yesterday, I commented on the placement of such material in the arc of the storyline. I believe it should fall somewhere in the middle of the story at a point dictated by the development of the plot. In other words, there should be story logic as to where this type of material is placed.

The question I faced today is how long should such biographical information continue? Yesterday, I wrote five-plus pages and today I did the same, and tomorrow I'll do probably a couple more. That's thirteen pages on one facet of the story. Far more than I'd devote to an average scene. But, to be fair, the material is divided into a number of scenes.

Still, how long can you let other characters cool their heels. The answer, I think, is for as long as the background stuff is interesting and contributing essential information to the story, i.e. furthering the reader's understanding of what's going on.

The popular lit superstar of the moment is the late, great Stieg Larsson. In his second Millennium novel, he has the reader cruising along with his fearless heroine Lisbeth Salander from the start of the book and well into it. Then he has Lisbeth take a powder for a very long time. Even the other characters in the story wonder what the heck has happened to her. Of course, there are different rules for every writer (as to what a publisher will accept), and were Larsson still alive, there would be precious few restrictions on him.

Thing is, though, he put Lisbeth on the shelf for a good chunk of his book and got it published before he was famous.

My takeaway from that is to keep the parts of your story that you like and take your chances.

Day 35 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 34, May 1, 2010

When I read a novel, I like to know a few things about the principal characters, say a character profile, not a Doris Kearns Goodwin biography. So I feel it's only fair that when I write I provide a decent amount of background on the central characters. Figures of mystery bore me. They also make me wonder about a writer's ability to create characters you might recognize if you bumped into them at the opening of a play or at your child's playground.

So if you're going to provide some biographical info, a/k/a backstory, on a character, when is a good time to do it? Not in the middle of an action sequence: We interrupt this fight to the death to bring you a Hallmark moment. Not good. It's also not wise to front-load a life story, at least in popular fiction, because you want the plot to carry the reader into at least the second chapter and probably farther. Withholding a character's personal details until the last moment smacks of a Morris the Explainer ending where somebody has to make clear what's been going on. Very clunky technique.

So what does that leave? Yes, the great middle. Ideally the point at which we get to know someone should be dictated by story logic. That is, some action should take place that makes the reader ask: Hey, why'd he, she, they do that? The biographical info that follows should answer the question. It's still Morris the Explainer, but he's a much more welcome guest if he arrives in the middle of the party rather than early or late.

That's the way I feel, anyhow. And that's what I did today, wrote five-plus pages filling in the blanks on who three of the story's antagonists are and why they act the way they do.

Day 34 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 33, April 30, 2010

I did something today I don't often do: I wrote a scene within a scene. It's something like a picture within a picture on a TV screen. You know, that feature that lets you watch two different channels at once. I usually like to keep things focused on one moment at a time, but today the story presented itself to me in a different way. So I went with it. I think writers have to trust their instincts, their inner voices. The worst that can happen is you have to go back and rewrite it. As I enjoy rewriting, that prospect doesn't bother me.

In today's first scene, a principal character sets herself up for what she'll consider a big betrayal and being a vengeful person she will inevitably try to strike back for this. In a second scene, two other principal characters learn that a nemesis likely has killed a police detective in his younger days, marking him as a very dangerous guy, but also suggesting a way he might be dealt with. Finally, the protagonist and his spouse celebrate a very special event, highlighting the bond between them, making it clear how one will feel when the other is placed in jeopardy.

I wrote 6.5 pages today.

Day 33 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 32, April 29, 2010

I started writing my new novel and this blog one month ago. In that time, I've written 170.5 pages and 51,750 words. More important than the numbers, I like what I've written. The story will be a grabber for a lot of people; the characters are interesting and the writing flows. All of which is pretty good for a first draft.

Keeping the momentum going in the first three months of May will be very important because in the fourth week of May things are bound to slow down. Home from college comes the next generation of the family's writing tree, a true scholar of the English language. An additional person under the roof is another distraction, albeit a pleasant one. In addition to that the family will be decamping to Florida for ten days where yours truly will be doing some research for a future novel. If you think it's hard to keep one complex story in mind—and you should—it's much harder to keep two stories in mind. You have to compartmentalize. Occasionally, there's seepage and you have to say wait a minute, where does that idea go?

That's why it's obligatory that I keep writing this story without cease, though at a slower rate of 2-3 pages per day.

Today's first scene was one character examining her place in the world and deciding where she wants to go in the future. Taking a look at someone's dreams always raises the question of whether they will be dashed or realized. It's a good kind of a let's-take-a-breather scene between action beats or scenes that ratchet up the tension. A subsequent scene gets back to tightening the screw with the revelation that one principal character who claims that a fire was the result of arson is responsible for the blaze herself.

Today, I wrote five-plus pages.

Day 32 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 31, April 28, 2010

Today's writing involved one of the fiction writer's favored characters: the oracle. In Joseph Wambaugh's work there was a veteran police sergeant at the Hollywood station who was straightforwardly called The Oracle. In John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series the role of the oracle was played by McGee's best friend, the world renowned economist, Meyer. The protagonist in my story has as his oracle a "cousin by adoption," who's an MIT grad and an entrepreneur who's started a material sciences company. She possesses the kind of specialized skills to help the protagonist solve a needle-in-a-haystack problem.

The advantage of having a soothsayer who's close personally to your protagonist is you not only get the objective information out to the reader, you also get to reveal more of your leading character's personal side, making him more accessible and engaging to the reader.

In a second scene, two antagonists—whom I hope are quite engaging—discover the identity of a real creep; see previous post regarding the attempted sexual assault. Their problem is, how do they let the cops know who the bad guy is without taking the chance they'll give themselves away? And in the final scene written today, a supporting character who is a video game maven sees the future of his business being played out in the real world.

I wrote just over six pages today.

Day 31 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 30, April 27, 2010

Very quick post today, which was truly crazy, late, with intrusions. Did two scenes, a police follow-up on an assault which will really ratchet up the tension for a scene to come in the climax sequence, and a scene that will lead to the discovery of the true nature of a character that will also figure in the climax.

Six pages written today.

Day 30 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 29, April 26, 2010

In the past, I've been criticized on occasion for not making my villains three dimensional. My reaction has been: That's the problem with villains, they're not fully formed people. They lack empathy. They're indifferent to the suffering of other people. At their worst, they're piles of poop in search of swarms of flies. I show them without redeeming qualities because they have none.

Nonetheless, they do have internal lives, even if they're creepy and malformed. So today's writing looks at what's going on in the head of a character who set out to reach some noble goals but got way too caught up in building and maintaining a personal base of power. This reflects one of my core beliefs: Institutions that are established for the best of reasons ultimately, and usually quickly, come to exist primarily to serve themselves.

That point of view might be seen as cynical; I welcome rebuttals to offer exceptions to the rule.

Today's examination of personal corruption covered six pages.

Day 29 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 28, April 25, 2010

I've been working on my new novel, and writing this blog, for four weeks now. Out of the past twenty-eight days, I've written pages on twenty-seven of them. That's a sign, as I see it, that I'm doing what I love. Which is the only reason to become a fiction writer in the first place.

I moved two story lines forward today. In the first one, I'm pushing the possibility that one character is a very creepy guy, but at the same time I'm creating some ambiguity about that possibility. This is known as keeping the reader guessing. Always a good way to get the reader to turn the pages. In the other story line, I've added another character to the pursuit of the story's antagonists. This introduces an element of competition. Who, if anyone, will nab the antagonists? This is another way to pique the reader's interest.

I wrote just short of five pages today, a little less than my daily goal, but, heck, it's Sunday.

Day 28 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 27, April 24, 2010

Today's post was delayed by a tornado warning. The radar picture on my TV showed a bright red band of storms heading right for the town where I live. In case no one ever told you, it's not a good idea to be at the keyboard of a computer that's plugged in to your house's electrical system when there's lightning in the nearby sky. Your machine and you both might get fried.

Dangerous, inclement or even murky weather can, of course, play a major role in any story. I don't think I'll be giving away too much to say one of the three types of weather I just mentioned will play a significant part in the climax of my novel. The thing about severe weather is, you don't want it to appear out of the clear blue, so to speak. You have to build up to it.

In that way, it's like any other story development: It should build, not just appear. If something dramatic happens without any prelude, that's clunky writing. People appreciate foreshadowing. It shows skill. In one of the story lines on which I worked today, there was a dramatic scene, a near miss of a sexual assault. This had been preceded by two other scenes in which this threat had been growing…and if it leads to something still more threatening a third precedent will have been established.

In another story line, it looks like the antagonists might have achieved their goal, but any savvy reader knows they have to suffer a setback or the story is over, and the story is far from over.

I wrote five pages today.

Day 27 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 26, April 23, 2010

Yesterday, the antagonists mocked one of the principal characters; today they attacked the very heart of her power and forced her to yield, at least for the moment. But by doing so they angered the character's main ally to the point where he would consider murder as a means of retribution. The struggle is ratcheting up nicely.

The actions that might mean life or death to those most immediately involved also have consequences for innocent third parties in the wider world, and today we see two examples of this. This ripples-in-a-pond aspect broadens the story and makes it easier for more readers to relate to what's going on.

I wrote six point five pages, making it another productive day. The fun quotient is still high, too.

Day 26 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 25, April 22, 2010

Today's writing involved doing something I've never done before while writing a novel: including another art form within the body of the narrative. One of the things the story's antagonists do is to mock one of the principal characters by lampooning her in a comic strip that is distributed over the Internet by a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. In order to make clear how ridicule takes place, I have to describe in a panel-by-panel sequence what happens in the comic strip. Using only words to recreate a principally visual means of telling a funny story was a bit of a challenge. But I think I pulled it off. I made myself laugh anyway.

In any case, I kept the story moving forward. I foreshadowed the emotional jeopardy the protagonist will face. I introduced a new potential villain—or maybe a red herring—in one of the storylines. And as mentioned above I showed that the antagonists are highly creative, which makes them all the more dangerous.

I wrote a bit more than seven pages today.

Day 25 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 24, April 21, 2010

Today was one of those days where life intruded, outside obligations pushed their way inside my writer's cocoon. Some things just can't be put off. So the trick is to deal with them as calmly and efficiently as possible. You get ruffled, the muse is likely to say adios. Stay cool, she'll be patient, too. Get back to the story with you.

Novels can be divided in different ways: chapters, sections, books, characters. I'm dividing my novel into days. For this story, it helps to organize the plot for me and for the reader. Today, a Wednesday in real life, I also moved into the Wednesday of the story. Going strictly by the calendar this should be the midpoint of the story, but it's not. I like to ratchet up the action at the end of my stories, pack a lot in, leave the reader breathless, satisfied or both when he or she finishes. So I'm approaching one-third done, not one half.

In today's writing, I hint at the power the antagonists possess. They could screw things up big time for a lot of people. But they're showing restraint for the moment. Inevitably, that restraint will have to be loosened. The story is after all a psychological thriller. I've got to have the tension build.

Despite the interruptions, I managed to write five pages.

Day 24 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 23, April 20, 2010

Today was a nurturing day. Story lines were developed, seeds of new developments were planted and a new supporting character was introduced. Both reader reviews and media reviews have noted that I like to tell multi-layered stories, and I do. They hold my interest as a writer and they seem to please most readers, too. In order to structure a complex story, you've got to have big parts and little parts and fit them all together just so. That's what today was all about.

I got into today's writing, as I get into every day's writing, by reading what I'd written the day before. This does two things for me. It allows me to polish yesterday's writing, and there's always something that can be improved, and it gives me a running start into today's work, reestablishes my connection to my muse. Feel free to try this at home the next time you write a novel.

I completed six pages today.

Day 23 of writing my new novel is done

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 22, April 19, 2010

I wrote five pages today and most of them are devoted to a minor character. Why would I do that? Two reasons. First, by writing the story of this minor character I provide an indirect look at the family atmosphere in which the protagonist was raised. This is more subtle than approaching his upbringing head-on. Second, it provides me, as a writer, the opportunity to fit a neat little short story within the narrative of the novel. Looking at this short story, I could see it being a major story line in another novel or even a novella in its own right.

It was pointed out to me today, by she who points out many things, a/k/a my wife, that I haven't mentioned yet how long I work on average to come up with my daily page quota. I usually work between four to six hours per day, so the average would be five. You might think that doesn't sound like much. But ask yourself: When was the last time you spent five hours telling a story straight out of your head, making up every word as you go along? Then ask yourself when you last spent 35 hours a week doing that. Probably, you haven't. It's not easy, but with practice it is possible, and after you get good at it, it's a lot of fun.

Day 22 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 21, April 18, 2010

Three scenes, five-and-a-half pages done today. Not bad for a Sunday. The story at this point begins to take on an organic feeling. Each of the several story lines starts sending out shoots. The trick is to know which ones to let develop and which one to snip. All of today's developments feel like keepers, but I won't know for sure until the first draft is completed and I can read through the whole story.

Day 21 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 20, April 17, 2010

Today's two scenes provide a study in contrast. In one, a principal character is presented with 11,000 possible suspects for an offense (which has not yet risen to the level of a crime but certainly contains the implicit threat of one) and in the other scene a specific suspect for the same offense is presented to another principal character.

These divergent views force the reader to consider which of the two scenarios is more likely right. One, of course, is a red herring. But forcing the reader to make a choice engages him or her further and keeps the pages turning.

Speaking of pages, I managed only four today. Lots of distractions, so four wasn't a bad number.

Day 20 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 19, April 16, 2010

Another two scenes and five pages written today, putting the total number of pages at 102. Anticipating a first draft of approximately 400 pages, that means I've completed about 25% of the manuscript in less than three weeks. For some people that might not be an exceptional pace, but for me it's a smoking fast pace.

Beyond the numbers, I'm happy with the writing. Both the exposition and the dialogue are flowing. When I reread the day's work, I can hear the characters' voices in my head. Maybe I should emphasize this. Reading a good story should be as much an auditory experience as a visual one. Your eyes, of course, are what you use to read—unless you're using the Braille system—but between your optic nerves and your brain an audio conversion should occur. The words should come off the page in a voice as clear as someone telling a story around a campfire.

On a nitty-gritty level, plot seeds that were sown earlier are beginning to sprout; a closely held secret is about to become public knowledge. In the ongoing game of cat and mouse, an element of seduction has been introduced. Not in a sexual sense, but in the way one person can admire someone else for what she's accomplished. Problem is, those good feelings might keep another character from doing his job.

Day 19 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 18, April 15, 2010

There's a game of cat and mouse going on in this story, only the mice are taking the action to the cats. Which isn't to say that they're provoking confrontations they can't win. Rather they're misleading the cats about who they really are, and gleaning important information from their formidable foes. There's a natural subversive humor to this situation, but there's also a building sense of tension: Will the cats finally wise up and make quick meals of the mice? The reader will be obliged to turn the page if he or she wants to find out.

Which is ever the task of a good writer. Cat and mouse was one of the scenes I did today.

The other was about a principal character, someone who's driven to succeed but up to this point has not strayed too far over the line dividing right from wrong. She now loses all sense of moral restraint. Even so, this character hasn't lost her wits. She delegates future dirty work to a subordinate, one more than willing to take on the task. Again, the tension—and the momentum—increase.

Five more pages today, closing in on the first one hundred.

Day 18 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 17, April 14, 2010

Today there was no struggle at all to write. My muse was back and speaking generously to me. Seven pages added to the manuscript. Good pages. Well written right out of the box.

Part of this productive streak was one of my favorite parts of writing a novel: the found character. Contrary to characters with extensive bios, found characters simply step onstage and say, "Listen, this is why I'm here and this is what I have to say." Found characters are always among the most interesting in a developing novel.

Lets the writer know he or she is still plugged deeply into a vein of creativity.

The plot lines in today's work continue to develop and interweave smoothly.

Day 17 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 16, April 13, 2010

Today was a day to get back at it, the writing that is. It never fails to amaze me how quickly—in this case one day—a talent I've spent decades honing can start to rust. When I sat down to work this morning the words didn't flow, they moved like sludge and threatened to lock up entirely. But with experience and age and grit come determination. I plowed through the inertia, the overly critical thinking, the temptation to get up and do something else and kept at it.

Persistence is critical to any writer who isn't a savant. If you don't have it, if you're not willing to develop it, you should hang it up.

Anyway, I got six pages in and after a bit of rewriting, and there's always rewriting, it came out pretty well. Today's work dealt with the aftermath of the big plot point scene I mentioned two days ago. Principal characters are starting to move in new directions, new suspicions are being raised and one principal character might have wandered into a dangerous new relationship.

The story moves on and…

Day 16 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 15, April 12, 2010

Today was a housekeeping day for the novel. As I mentioned previously, I did a detailed, forward-looking outline for the novel before I began writing. I also mentioned that in the interests of spontaneity and creativity, I feel free to stray from the outline. After 14 days of writing, I knew I needed to do a backward-looking outline that I call the scene breaks so I can tell at a glance where I've been. In the scene breaks, I include the scene's sequential number, 1,2,3…a succinct description of what happens in the scene, the page numbers the scene covers, e.g. 1-4, and the names of the characters who appear or are heard from, via phone, email, etc., in the scene.

Doing this helps me keep storylines straight and maintain a good rhythm between the storylines. I really should add scenes to the scene break list after each day's writing and probably will from here forward, but when I'm starting out it requires most of my energy and discipline just to do the writing.

Day 15 of writing, and doing housekeeping on, my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 14, April 11, 2010

Today I wrote the first of my novel's major plot points. For those who don't know, a plot point is an event that redirects the action of a story. In the case of my novel, a threat was presented. But there was the question whether the threat was real or simply an attempt to create anxiety. In today's scene, one of the characters who questioned the threat has now decided to claim it is real for reasons of her own and to conceal her own actions.

This development will change the way other characters proceed, how they will act now that they think the threat is real and highly dangerous.

The plot point was also an action scene; lives hung in the balance. And since character is revealed by what people do rather than what they say, we learned more about two principal characters: Both are female, both are fearless, one may even be foolhardy.

The reader isn't the only one who learns more about the characters from these situations. So do I. Even though I wrote extensive bios for the main characters, when I put them in play, I have to be honest about how they react to a situation. Chances are I'll learn something I never suspected about them.

Only three pages written today. But very important ones.

Day 14 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 13, April 10, 2010

This was a day for advancing storylines. Four separate threads of the story moved forward. Creating the idea for a storyline is the art of storytelling. Making a number of storylines weave smoothly past each other, building momentum and suspense, never knotting up and coming to a screeching halt is the craft of storytelling. Gotta have both if you're going to keep people reading and leave them with a smile on their face.

I'll have more about how I manage my craft in a future post. For now, it's a beautiful Saturday, I've done my five pages, and this will be a short post.

Day 13 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 12, April 9, 2010

Today was a challenge but great fun. As seems to be the case of late, there were a few interruptions in my writing schedule, and for me continuity is very important to a productive day. But I kept at it and the muse was with me.

If you've ever read a book that's pretty good throughout but has scenes that absolutely rivet you, you have a sense of what I enjoyed today. It's like that but much better. Because the scene is pouring out of your head. As I've told many people, when I'm doing my best work, I'm just taking dictation from my muse.

A soundless voice whispers the story to me and I delight in hearing it; I rejoice in putting the words up on the computer screen in front of me. It's enough to make me giddy. Today, I had a primary character, a person of great intellect and accomplishment, confront the reality that she may be contending with someone even smarter than her, someone, at the very least, who knows her darkest secrets and is able to hint at them to her.


Back on a more pragmatic plane, I got my quota in, and then some, again today.

Day 12 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 11, April 8, 2010

Today was a day to get inside the heads of three characters, learn what they were thinking, what they'd done earlier in their lives—material taken from the extensive bios written earlier—and what they hoped to do or preserve in the future. In terms of pacing, some people, readers or editors, might think that three "passive" scenes in a row are two too many, maybe even three too many for those who like their characters thin and their action relentless. I'm not among either of those two groups.

I like to know the characters about whom I'm reading, so I like to provide details, small and large, about the characters I'm writing. In this case, I felt linking relatively quiet—despite the description of two homicides—scenes provides a nice breather, a lull before a critical action scene that I know will be coming up shortly.

As a writer, you have to write the first draft the way you feel is best. When you go back and read the draft later with a semi-dispassionate eye, you can make changes. But if you write a first draft with someone else's expectations—or worse, a formula—in mind, you're sunk.

I got my five pages in again today. The pace has slowed a bit since week one, but I feel good about the writing.

Day 11 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 10, April 7, 2010

I've always wondered about writers who drank or did drugs as aids to their writing. Dylan Thomas and Hunter S. Thompson come to mind as two examples. If I had the slightest buzz from anything, I wouldn't be able to write at all.

But that's not to say I don't have my weaknesses, my moments of misjudgment. This week, I started an extreme exercise class, and this morning I learned what an hour of plyometrics can do to a middle-aged body. Exhaust it is what. Which in turn leads to a sluggish state of mind, especially when the class started at 5:45 a.m. and I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before.

Okay, enough whining and moaning. Through sheer stubbornness and frequent breaks, I got through another day's work. Five pages. Some interesting background details on two characters, one primary, one secondary. The purposes of these scenes were twofold: to give the reader an understanding of who the characters are—the dirt on them—and to show that their future actions will be consistent with their personalities.

Day 10 of writing my new novel is done.