Saturday, September 06, 2008

How I'm Writing My Novel and Other Tales

The author bellied up to the bar in Nantucket last summer. We know that writers like to tipple a bit. Grapeshot is no exception. Wonder what that weird-looking pink drink is? Must be a summertime kind of quaff.
The new novel I’m writing, any new novel, is hard going. The bad guy’s voice is difficult. I knew I had to be in the bad guy's head to up the suspense and the tension. And he is very bad, but yanno, I didn’t want to make him a stereotype, and so I’ve been developing his quirks, as he tells them to me, and he isn’t talking to me nearly as much as I would like.

In addition, what he tells me is that he isn’t bad, and things just worked out the way they did. I thought, well, sure. I mean who actually thinks they are evil and rotten to themselves? Lots of neurotics, of course, but bad people would have all of these justifications. And he does.

Significant Other said he doesn’t sound awful. Well, no. Moreover, I’m introducing his life story, or as much as the reader needs to know, in little dribs and drabs. Is that good? All the writing advice says so. One doesn’t need this big back-story dump, yet everyone seems to expect it. Is there that much sloppy writing about or is there something else, a failure on my part?

I got a lot out of The Writer that the post woman delivered yesterday. Yes, we have a mail lady. What the hell do we call her? I don’t know. The Writer had three good articles about writing mysteries, which this book isn't--it's suspense, but nonetheless. Bill Tapply's article on dialogue was particularly good.

Back to the book, tentatively titled, In Flight. I am beginning to like my bad character, the villain. To himself he doesn’t seem that bad, and when I’m in his head, he isn’t. What a crazy thing writing is. I believe in my characters so much. They are as real as the mail woman. She takes her lunch hour in our environs every day, and reads a Chinese newspaper. The little details you remember.

The bad guy needs good, believable details. He has to be an imperfect perfect whole. I know what he wears and how he thinks and about his supermodel girlfriend, although we don’t even know she’s a supermodel yet. It’s fun feeding facts out in little bits and pieces.

I’m coming up on 100 pages, about one-quarter way through. The romance is developing, and I have to find a way to make it rocky from the beginning. After the romance becomes part of the plot, the danger and suspense will make things rocky. I need to get from point A to point B rather quickly with a few more scenes of set up that drive the plot forward. The first quarter of any book is meet the people and set up the story while giving and promising the reader a good thrill. It ain’t easy, but it’s fun.

My greatest current dilemma is not writing this book, but how to get the three existing books published. They all have a good story, with fun stuff, and lots of excitement but the literary agents aren’t seeing it that way. Of course, they haven’t read the books. And that’s my fault for not presenting them with enough juice and pizazz, so freaking exciting that you can’t help but insist on reading the manuscript.

Using technology as part of the plot seems to be a big stumbling block, and I have the feeling if I had cybersex or Internet stalking or some of those eeky tech things everyone knows about, the cliches, if you will, the agents would like the book than the more arcane things I write of.

I didn’t watch McCain’s speech. Just too disgusted. There seem to be so few logical thinkers among us. It’s freaking me out. Absolutely. The Age of Reason has come and gone. Yikes!

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