Monday, February 08, 2010

The Writing Week (Vol. 3) part 110 - Lock Yourself Away to Write

Onyx and I were supposed to spend the weekend in Ohio helping out on Zombie's film set. Unfortunately, in order to get there, we were going to have to stop in Arlington, VA to borrow a car from my parents and then drive up through Maryland and Pennsylvania. That whole region was the epicenter of a major blizzard beginning exactly on the Friday we were to hit the road, so we had to cancel.

With my plans all screwed up, I had an important decision to make. Should I go ahead and have a four day weekend, or did it make more sense to save up my vacation days and go into the office? I had so successfully shifted my mind into "no work on Friday" mode, that by the end of the day Thursday, I knew I would likely not be productive for the final day of the work week. I was confident that I could be of some use on Monday, but Friday was likely to be a loss. On top of that, my producer got back to me on Wednesday with notes on the latest draft of my script, and my mind was all abuzz with new ideas. Thus, I decided to take Friday off and dedicate the weekend to my script.

Normally, I write for about an hour a day and consider that a success. However, I'm not one to enjoy "wasting" a long weekend, no matter how tired or lazy I might be feeling. So, on Friday, I holed up in my room and worked for about 3 hours, cracking the major issues that my producer had found with the script. Saturday saw another two hours of work, as did Sunday. I know that 7 hours in a weekend might not seem like a ton, but it did me a lot of good.

The top of the week found me pretty aggravated, to be honest. I received an email from my producer with her new thoughts on the script, and it indicated a lot more work to be done. I went to sleep that night pretty frustrated, frankly, and ready to be done with this phase of the script. After my call with my producer on Wednesday, however, I was happy to do more work on it. I saw where she was coming from with her feedback and, more importantly, how to go about solving it. Most crucially, though, I knew that she was right - the things she had brought up were important issues, but would not compromise the structure or scenes of the latest draft. I suppose it's a good thing (and I hope I'm not wrong in my evaluation of the script here) that the changes we needed to make could be done almost exclusively through dialogue. A few adjustments or tweaked lines here, and we would be able to convey the important info that was missing. 

Now all I have to do is implement those notes, get her the revised draft, and hope like mad that we can pass it on to the production company soon. Whatever the result, it was great to give myself one day (Friday) in which I dedicated myself to very little other than working on ironing out the problems in the script. If you have the opportunity to do so and are facing challenges in your story, I highly recommend locking yourself away to write. 

Novel Ideas: Your Novel's Revision Stage

Last time we chatted, I'd finished my first draft of SILENT CITY and was riding the wave of joy that comes with such an accomplishment. I was prepping for The League to look over the draft and taking a moment to bask in the glow that comes with finishing a project.

But then reality set in.

The book isn't done. Far from it. I realized a little while after writing the last post that finishing the first draft of a novel is only a part of the ongoing process of writing one. Next comes arguably the most challenging and perhaps longest step: Revisions.

My initial plan was simple: Submit the draft to The League, make the required changes and start querying agents. But nothing in life is that easy. The League was already well-stocked with stuff in the queue and, unlike my colleagues who mostly deal in 100-125 page screenplays, a 220-page novel is a more daunting task, and not something I can expect my fellow Leaguers to read through and properly digest in a few days. So, SILENT CITY will be analyzed at our next meeting, ideally sometime toward the end of this month. In the meantime, I was left with a shiny new draft and no one to read it.

This is where good friends become a great benefit. I sent a few polite emails to people I knew, both in and out of publishing but mainly people I knew were readers and most importantly, people who I trusted to be honest with me and cut the bullshit. Some of these people include novelists, editors, newspaper writers and copy editors, etc. Mainly, I wanted an honest opinion from a wide swath of people -- some well-versed in the crime fiction genre, others just coming to it as a new reader would, in addition to the comments I knew I was going to get from The League.

So far, I've built a pretty solid list. I've handed the first draft to a colleague of mine who has a ton of experience reading manuscripts in general and crime novels specifically. So, I'm waiting on his comments before I send the draft to a wider list, mainly because I expect his notes to be the most detailed and effective. I'm pretty sure that the second draft of SILENT CITY will be significantly different from the first, so I don't want to bog the rest of my list down with reading it twice. Also, I'm well aware this is the kind of favor you can't really call people on more than once every few years, so I have to make sure each "read" I'm getting doesn't just get done, but also gets done at the right time. For example, I have another close friend back home who's an ace copy editor and also a very smart reader, period. But having her read my first draft, especially when I know I'll be getting copious notes from someone else, doesn't work if what I'm looking for from her is more of a general "This didn't work for me/This was good" analysis, coupled with a very detailed copy edit. Maybe I'm being a tad OCD about it, but it makes sense to me on paper.

Now, while all this planning and list-building sounds good, it doesn't equate to much writing. So, I decided to start outlining the next novel while I waited for people to get back to me and between revisions (which have yet to begin). This was a fun exercise because it allowed me to work on something new while still keeping a hand in SILENT CITY. I've got a very basic breakdown of Pete's next adventure, which involves a change of scenery, a new villain and some other surprises I'm hesitant to get into just yet. I've read a few books as research and I'm excited to work on something new but also familiar, as it's a continuation of SILENT CITY.

More as it happens...