Friday, July 25, 2014

Those Mid-way Mid-draft Blues

Writing is such a weird business. You go days, weeks, months (sometimes years) thinking of nothing but the story you are working. Everything you read, watch, think is basically related to these characters and their world – even when it isn’t.


You crawl through the muck of that first draft. Dragging every godawful little word out one by one. Then finally you’ve got something coherent enough to be called “a first draft,” and off it goes to your editor. Who swallows bravely and tries to make sense of it before she bounces it back.


There is incredible jubilation after that first draft. Partly because nothing is more difficult than carving that “think” out of the concrete block your brain turns into. But then comes the second draft. That is when you feel the power and the glory (such as it is) of what it is to know your craft. The second draft is the fun draft. It is really, in my opinion, the only joyful part of the writing process. When you take that raw material, look at it with fresh eyes, and you suddenly understand what you were struggling to say.


The more time between drafts, the better, in my opinion, but modern publishing doesn’t really allow for this. If you steal yourself an extra week somewhere you are doing great (and giving production teams nightmares).


The first draft is just about…getting there. Arriving muddied and bloodied on the doorstep. The second draft is about writing. It’s about how you will shower, dress, and seduce the reader into losing her or himself in the story. It is about clarifying theme and refining characterization, it is about nitpicking every adjective (Dear God, how many times have I said dryly this time? – PLEASE tell me no one “swallowed hard,” etc.) It is the one stage in a long process where you feel like you maybe know what the hell you’re doing.


But then you hand that second draft off, and there is a real sense of letdown. Almost depression. Because no matter how hard you tried, the infinite possibilities for this story are gone. The story is what it is. It is now limited in what it can be and what it can achieve. And from this point on the changes are minor ones – you did not explain how Character A knew Character B was stealing eggs from the Farm at C. You repeated a phrase too many times. That kind of thing. The fate of the story is now determined. It is the kind of story it is, and you can already hear both the praise and the criticism.  


There is definitely relief – great relief. The book is done. If you were to die at this point, the book could still go forward. It no longer really even needs you. Anyone can do these edits.


And so there is a kind of letdown. We start every story with a sense of excitement and endless possibility. Whether you outline or not, every story begins with endless possibility. But by the end of the second draft, this story has narrowed to a particular set of events with a determined outcome. You know how it ends.


And that’s where I am this morning. I sent Fair Play off yesterday afternoon and today I feel…meh. I loved writing it. I loved researching Washington and the Puget Sound and the anti-war movement of the 1960s. I learned about Black Bull whisky and Montreal and organic farming. But now it is done and there is a definite letdown.


We talk about reader addiction, but I think there is writer addiction too. And that is never more clear than when the rewrite is handed off and that particular high is finished. Done. No amount of accepting commas and removing echoes can bring it back.


But there is always the next story…


And in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy seeing the cover reveal for Fair Play!


Friday, July 18, 2014

SUMMER - Five Things I Love

It's time for our quarterly Five Things I Love update. Of course, we do this daily at Goodreads and weekly on Facebook as well, so there is never a shortage of reminding ourselves that even on the most frustrating day you run into, there is still plenty to be glad about.

So what do I love about summer?

1 - Swimming. Usually every evening, sometimes in the mornings. I love the water. Love, love, love the water.

2 - Barbecue. We grill a lot of food during the warm months of the year. Mostly a lot of salmon and veggies, but also fish and shrimp for tacos. Delicious.

3 - Stars in the night sky. Granted, the stars are there all the time, but we're not outside at night so much in the winter, so we miss a lot. There is nothing like gazing up at the night sky to remind you of your place in the scheme of things. (Which is to say, less than the blink of the tiniest pinpoint of light.)

4 - Fried food. (Wait! How did fried food pop up again? It is everywhere lately!)  It is so bad. It is so good. It is so BAD.

5 - Getting smashed and waking up with a roiling stomach and pounding headache. HAHAHAHAHAHAAA. NO. Having mostly, finally learned not to give into moments that lead to mornings like that. Yes, in some ways I do love -- LOVE -- getting older.

So? What about you? Five things you love about the summer?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sneak Preview - FAIR PLAY

No cover art yet, but I'm currently working on the edits for Fair Play, and I thought maybe you'd enjoy a snippet for today's blog.

Elliot’s phone rang as he was climbing into his car.

For maybe the first time in his life, he was disappointed to see Tucker’s name flash up.


“Hey yourself. Where are you?” Tucker asked.

Bellevue.” Elliot stared out the windshield at the distant blue of Lake Washington. A very nice neighborhood with its lofty views and safe distance from downtown Bellevue. “Where are you?”

“I’m here. Home. I’m on Goose Island.”

“You’re early.”

“And you’re…where? You’re not here. Your dad’s not here. What’s going on?”

“It’s kind of a long story.” But Elliot condensed it into a couple of sentences that left Tucker sounding winded on the other end of the line.

“You think your dad went underground. And you’re…what? You’re trying to find him by talking to his former revolutionary pals?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“What the hell, Elliot.”

“What does that mean? What the hell?”

Tucker made a sound of disbelief. Not quite a laugh. And certainly without humor. “You know better than anyone how a civilian getting involved in an investigation can hinder --”

“I’m not just a civilian.”

“Yes, you are. Worse, you’re an emotionally involved civilian.”

It wasn’t easy, but he managed not to lose his temper. Or at least not let his anger show in his voice. “How do you think this should work? Someone tries to take out my dad and I sit around grading papers and painting miniatures?”

“How I think it should work is you take a step back. A big step. Like it or not, you are a civilian now. You’ve been out of the field nearly two years. You need to leave this to Seattle PD.”

“I’m not getting involved in the investigation. I just want to know where he is.”

“Bullshit. He told you to stay out of it. And the fact that you can’t stay out of it -- your inability to respect parameters -- is the reason he left.”

Elliot sat up so straight he almost hit the ceiling of the Nissan. “My inability to respect parameters? What are we actually talking about here?”

“We’re talking about the fact that your father is a grown man capable of making his own decisions. He wants you to stay out of this. You need to respect that.”

“My father is nearly seventy. Someone is trying to kill him. I get that you don’t always understand family relationships, Tucker, but even you ought to be able to follow that I can’t stand aside and not make any attempt to find him.” That time Elliot didn’t bother to hide his anger.

Tucker didn’t usually raise his voice. When he got mad, his voice went deeper, lower. The chassis was scraping the pavement as he growled, “You know, you can really be a condescending prick sometimes.”

“You know what, so can you. And you don’t even have the justification of caring about anybody.”

“I care about you, you asshole. Which is why I don’t want you getting any further involved. Your father made his choices. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”

Die by the s-s-sword?” Elliot was stuttering in his rage. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Not literally, obviously! I just mean --”

“I can’t wait to hear it. Actually, I can wait. I’ve got people to see. I’ll talk to you tonight. Unless you decide to stay at your own place again.”

“No way,” Tucker said. “I’ll be here. And you’re damn right we’re going to talk.”

They disconnected simultaneously and forcefully, in fact, had they been pressing something other than cell phone buttons, there probably would have been a detonation.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

4th of July is sort of a special holiday around Chez Lanyon. This is the first holiday the SO and I celebrated together as a couple. Following that first year, we've hosted a family BBQ every 4th for the last twelve years.

It's never anything fancy. Hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage (well, there was the crazy rib feast one year -- we ate ribs for a week!), corn on the cob...tons of food basically all finished off with root beer floats. In the beginning we could watch the fireworks right from our balcony, but now the trees around the house are so tall we can't really see much in the way of fireworks anymore. But that wall of trees is its own delight.

Do you have a summer holiday tradition?