Monthly Archives: December 2010
I have finished the read-through of the sequel to “Crashers.” I got up at 4:30 a.m. yesterday to slams through the end of Act II. I came home at lunch to sweep into Act III. I got home last night, changed to sweats, and drove it home.
Now to clean out the Augean stables….
Seriously, the job now is to begin inputting the edits I made. Page by page. I should be finished by Christmas. After that, the Princess Consort will do a read-through. Katy has amazing eyes (I mean that in every conceivable sense) and she catches stuff I never would.
To quote Stephen Sondheim: “Step by Step/Putting it Together….”
Lee Child, author of the “Reacher” thrillers, created a nice bit of business in his novel “61 Hours,” which I just finished.
He ended every chapter by writing something like, “It was 6 p.m. Tuesday. Fifty-six hours to go…” or “When the police cruiser dropped him off, it was midnight. Thirty-five hours to go….”
“To go” to what? We didn’t know. But it gave the narrative a nice “time bomb” element. The reader knows something big is going to happen, and the reader knows it’ll happen 61 hours after Chapter 1 begins. We just don’t know what “it” is.
It was a quick, elegant way to ratchet up the tension.
I’m doing tick-tock work on the manuscript.
You know how, twice a year, you get up and re-set your clocks? Either an hour forward or an hour backward, right? In a novel re-write, it’s the same thing. You slog slowly through the manuscript and look for places where the clocks are off. Where you’ve added or deleted a scene and, subsequently, your clocks or your calendars are off.
It says 9 p.m. on page 94 but 11:30 p.m. on page 96. What happened? Time travel? Nope. You deleted a scene in between. So now you gotta ask yourself: Do I change the 9 p.m. on page 94 (which means changes on pages 90, 84, 80… maybe more) or do you change the 11:30 p.m. on page 96 (which will mean changes to pages 102, 111, 114, etc.).
This is not the glamorous portion of being a novelist.
I helped my friend John The Physicist build a fence one time by digging post holes. This is a whole lot like that.
Tick tock. Tick tock….
I just printed out the edited version of the sequel. At 400-plus pages, it’s approximately the same size as “Crashers.”
Good lord but that was a tough slog.
My missions now are two-fold. First, check the calendars and clocks. When you add scenes or take away scenes, you create gaps in the timeline. It’s a weird anomaly but, in subsequent drafts, you can have a character start out for a drive at noon and arrive at her destination at 11 a.m., thanks to the elimination or addition of scenes.
As I went through the manuscript, I tried to underline every time and date reference. That will help me reconstruct my calendars and clocks.
The second mission is the slow, methodical read-through. I’ve been working on this thing in bits and bites. A scene here, a paragraph there. It’s a Frankensteinian model of writing, and what it wants now is the complete read-through. To see if the pieces stitch together or not.
I’ll spend the majority of the weekend doing that. If things seem to work – fingers crossed – I could have this manuscript off to St. Martin’s Press by the first week in January.
You sometimes have the strangest tasks ahead of you when you are a mystery writer.
The other weekend, mystery novelist Katy King (also known as the Princess Consort) and I went to a Portland coffee shop to work on our novels. She has a first draft of a mystery and I’m working on the sequel to “Crashers.”
We bought our drinks, found a table, set up our Macs. Then I opened my Steno pad, in which I had jotted the three things I needed to do that day: Clean up a scene; stitch together a bridge between an existing scene and a new one; and removing an unneeded character from the big, dramatic finale.
People entered and exited the coffee shop behind me. Katy leaned forward and said, “Sweetie? Your note pad?”
I glanced at her, eyebrows raised.
She looked at the other coffee shop patrons, then at me, then at my note pad.
Note No. 3 read: Kill the mayor.
“Oh,” I said, tucking the notepad back in my messenger bag. “Yeah. Good call.”
No one called the police, so we got through our scenes that day.