Archives for January 2004

Back on the chain gang…

Well, the vacation is over. Time to get back to work.

Over the past week or so, I’ve reread the better part of Night and Day, and as I mentioned last time I popped in here, I wasn’t all that excited about what I was reading. There are good parts, there are bad parts, there are painfully bloated parts….

Which is okay, actually, since it is the first draft, and one kind of expects the first draft to need some work. This one definitely does….” “As I think I mentioned, the writing is a little clunky, but what’s worse is the writing is deadly flat. Just lifeless. Not all of it, mind you, just enough of it to be pretty annoying.

I also realized that the chapters are just too long. In addition to a lot of movies and TV show box sets, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading these past few weeks. Going from some of the things I’ve been reading to my own stuff has been ugly. And one of the ugliest things has been comparing the “”got to read one more before bedtime”” chapters I’m reading with the monolithic slabs of text that are, sadly, my chapters.

I read once that you should try to keep your chapters mostly the same length. I don’t know if it’s true, but it works for me. Unfortunately, I decided that about 5000 words was a good length. And clearly it’s not. There’s just too much in each chapter, and I think it had some effect on the writing as well. Since I wanted to be close to that mark, I would wrap things up a little too quick at the end of the chapter, or I’d stretch things out. All to meet this artificial mark I’d set for myself.

So one of the first things I’m doing is cutting my chapters in half. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be much of a problem. Most of them could end halfway through, with the remainder of the chapter picking up in the next one. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m also perking up the writing – using less passive voice, more active voice. And as I mentioned in the past, I’m doing a total rewrite – for chapter one, certainly, and perhaps for the next few – until I get to an existing chapter and change it to be what I want, without having to mostly recreate it.

It means a bit more work – rewrites will probably take a little longer than I planned. But if I can get into the groove of making my writing sound like what I hear in my head, it’ll make Bleeding Sky a whole lot easier to write….

Typewriter Redux

In ye olde days of typewriters, much of the rewrite process involved retyping. You’d sit yourself down, write 80-90-100,000+ words – maybe 500 or so manuscript pages, sometimes more. And then, when you were done, you’d do your edits and changes with a pen (or a blue pencil, if you were a traditionalist), and then you?d roll a piece of paper into the platen and start typing the whole damn thing again. If a third draft was warranted, guess what . . . start typing, boyo.

Computers changed this, of course. And I assure you, the first novel I typed on a computer, back in 198*cough* was wonderful, not for the writing, but for the physical process of writing it – it was 500 or so pages, and I had to type 500 or so pages once. one time. Uno. I was reborn as a writer.

Of course, there are . . . well, situations where you have to make a retrograde motion?

Yesterday and today, I printed out the first four chapters of Night and Day. Thought I’d give it a read through during my smoke breaks, get a feel for how much rewrite work was ahead of me.

A lot. Chapter one, in particular, is pretty awful. The story is good, I know what I was doing and why, but it sucks. It’s really not very well written.

Clearly I was rusty as hell.  Let’s face it, I haven’t done anything approaching serious fiction writing in what, seven or eight years. The writing is clunky, not at all smooth, rhythmic, or graceful. The dialogue isn’t bad, but even it requires some work. There’re also problems with what I’m writing about the “world” and what ultimately comes to be revealed in subsequent chapters.

In past entries here I’ve discussed things like writing without an outline, writing as though there’s a fog somewhere over the hood of the story, a fog that gradually burns off as the story rolls along. Using that analogy, it’s clear that I couldn’t see the tip of my nose when I was writing Chapter One.

And Chapter Two isn’t that much better. It’s only in the middle of Chapter Four that the writing starts to tighten up, the story begins to sharpen, and the book starts to become whole.

Normally I do all of my rewrites/edits on paper, then fire up the chapter and make the changes. In my Pollyanna-ish daze, I was thinking that I would be able to dispose of the middle step and edit right on the screen. I may be able to do that in the last three-quarters of the manuscript. Not in the first quarter.

In fact, I may have to retype the whole damn first quarter. I?m not sure it makes sense to fire up the computer and attempt to fix it on screen, nor do I think I can do the necessary repairs with pen in hand on the printed page. I think I’ll just have to use the existing Chapters One-Two-Three and some of Four as a guide, plop them down next to the keyboard, follow the story line, toss the existing writing except for the occasional phrase here and there.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so they tell me.

Deep Space Nine Season 7 done. X-Files Season 8 done. Now for the Indiana Jones movies…

Can’t get there from here….

When you’re setting a story in a city like New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, or Sydney, it’s easy enough to keep track of where things are. You look at a map.

When I was working on the Scavenger series all those years ago, the first book was set in New York City – a post-apocolyptic New York, to be sure, but one that was basically the same as it is now. My lead character ended up with a gang of survivors just south of Columbus Circle, on the south side of Central Park – some scenes took place near Grand Central Station, in some of the downtown clubs, at the Battery. I knew New York fairly well, having lived there, and I spent a week in the city researching a few things before I started writing. Geography was not a problem…

When I was working on Funhouse, much of it was set in the Miami area – I know Miami reasonably well, spent some time before I started writing driving around, actually shooting video of buildings, neighborhoods, etc. that caught my eye. Geography was again not a problem….

Now I’m working on Night and Day, which is set in a fictional city – I’d call it No Name City, but I think that was used in Paint Your Wagon – and though geography hasn’t been a particular problem yet, I can see that it might become one….” “So far, in the first book, I’ve laid out the general shape of the city, which is in many ways defined at this point by the five police destricts – Uptown, Central, Downtown, Eastside, and Westside. There’s a river on the west side of the city, as well as docks – the city was once a fairly busy port.

The office for Night and Day Investigations is in a building with a triangular front, called The Triangle Building (there are many such buildings in many cities, and all are invariably known as The Triangle Building)., overlooking Expedition Square. Third Street runs down one side of the triangle, Expedition Street down the other. The building is in the Downtown section of town.

There are other numbered streets, going to the east – to the west, a couple of numbered streets, and then named streets. Uptown has both numbered and named streets. The Westside has mostly named streets.

Confused yet? I am.

The problem is I have no reference points, just a vague idea of the city’s outline in my head. That was fine for Night and Day. I could keep track of what I needed to. But what happens when I get to Bleeding Sky? Or Bandit’s Moon? Or any books that might follow?

Madness. That’s what happens. The madness of leafing back through older books in the series, trying to figure out where things are, in an attempt to keep things consistant. Think it’s easy? If you’ll remember, a couple of days ago I had a character, albeit a minor, unseen one, change his first name midway through the book. If I can’t keep a bunch of character names straight, how the hell am I going to keep the geography of a whole city, that I’ve made up, straight?

So I bought myself a copy of The Campaign Cartographer, City Designer, and some modern symbols to place on the map, and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be laying out my city – not necessarily everything – but the general outlines, major streets, locations of things that I’ve used….

There’s going to be something of a learning curve involved to get up to speed with the software – I played with the demo a bit, and I’m sure it’s got to be easier than it seemed, if only by a little. But I’ve worked with CAD software in the past, and this shouldn’t be that different.

And when I’m done, I’ll have a nice printout of the map, that I can look at, orient myself to, and keep consistancy. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even stick the maps up here for you to download, so you, too, can follow along.

Finished the Le Femme Nikita first season box yesterday, and the Deep Space Nine seventh season box today – tomorrow, I’ll get into the eighth season of the X-Files, and hopefully get that done before the weekend is over. Then I can get back to regular movies, at least for a while….

A new year begins….

Happy 2004!

Well, another year begins, and it’s going to be a busy one for me. Rewrites on Night and Day, as well as writing Bleeding Sky and Bandit’s Moon, the tentative title for the third book in the series, plus the subsequent rewrites.

Call it 5-6 months of writing all told – I’m hoping that it won’t take 3 months per book (which is actually pretty quick), since I’ve done a fair amount of research – I’m sure things will continue to pop up that need some facts to back them up, but I’m hoping I can do Bleeding Sky in, say 2 months….

I’ve also been giving a little thought to the Poison Blood series, that is a prequel to Night and Day. I’ve got a ton of research done on that, and the more I work on the Night and Day series, the more it falls into place as a book instead of a collection of facts and ideas.

That’s gonna be a very-different bucket of worms – with the Night and Day series, I’m essentially writing a series of private investigator books – the world they take place in is unusual, but at their heart, they’re mysteries. It could be argued that I could set this in the future, under any repressive government – or in an alternate past, under Nazi occupation, for example.

To deflect that argument, I have to make sure that the setting is intrinsic to the story – that the story won’t work without the setting, that no other generic setting will do. That’s one of the things that I’m going to be paying special attention to in the rewriting process.

Poison Blood is definitely not a mystery series – it’s more horror, more adventure, without a whole lot of mystery. As I think I might have mentioned before, some of the characters from Night and Day will almost certainly make appearances in Poison Blood – not Charlie Welles, of course, but some of the tangental characters will be there, and you’ll see how the United States fell under vampire domination.

Right now, when I think “”writing””, I’m thinking 50% about Night and Day, maybe 30% about Bleeding Sky, 10% or so about Bandit’s Moon, and at least 10% about Poison Blood and the other books in that series. Of course, I really should be taking a break and not thinking about writing at all….

To that end, I continue watching movies and reading – one of Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro mysteries (with the rest, plus Mystic River coming from Amazon in the next week or so) is currently occupying my reading time – as for movies, I finished Wasabi last night, am almost done with the Le Femme Nikita Season 1 box (watching the last episode), and then I’ll probably finish off the Deep Space 9 Season 7 box, and the X-Files Season 8 box – if I can get that accomplished before I head back to work on Monday, I’ll be content….