Monthly Archives: December 2010

Putting it together

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….”


The ticking clock

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.


tick tock … tick tock …

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….


The next draft is done!


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.

Here’s hopin’.


No offense, Sam

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.



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