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.