Friday, May 28, 2010

Still in Chapter Eight

“Enough, Yorick. If you wish to weep at his grave I will not stop you, but nor will I join you. And that’s the end.”

wordcountometer = 28,690!

This chapter is getting to be longer than I'd anticipated, and I may break it into two chapters. We shall see.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chapter Eight Continues

Current working title for this chapter: "A Trunk Full of Adders." It seems very Neil Gaimanesque somehow. Or something.

I wrote more at lunch today, about 500 words which isn't much but it's forward progress and that's all that matters. A few hundred words each day is all it really takes, you know. I believe I'm past 27,000 words now, which is nice for me.

Anyway, the story is progressing nicely: someone is dead, someone is barking mad and possibly pregnant, and someone is spying on our hero. And now I'm off to a wedding.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chapter Eight, in Progress

Last night I wrote about 1200 more words, and finally there's another corpse. About time, I say. I am pleased with the scene and I feel the momentum of the narrative picking up for me again, which is nice. I think I'm getting past my mid-20K's slump.

wordcountometer = 26,650!

It is taking me longer to get to the end of this act than I thought it would, but since this is just a first draft, I'm not going to worry about pacing. Things seem to be moving, and I don't think there are any wasted scenes so perhaps I should just shut up and keep writing. Besides, there will be another corpse after the next sequence, and then a big surprise for the protagonist, so good stuff coming.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chapter Eight Underway

Yesterday, finally, I finished Chapter Seven. A corpse appeared at the last minute, and thank heavens for that, I say. Though he died off-screen, it sets the stage for some upcoming on-screen deaths. Alas, a couple of folks.

wordcountometer = 24,084!

I think that after this chapter, or perhaps after Chapter 9, I'll get to the Middle Section of the book, about which I have high hopes and grand plans and insufficient notes. Admittedly, right now I am sort of in that "I wonder just how much this book sucks" phase, but I know from experience that if I just push on, I'll get past the doldrums and find myself excited again. It always goes this way, or at least has done for my previous three novels. Once I hit about 30K, I should get a huge burst of energy. We'll see.

No excerpt, sorry to say. I haven't typed up my latest chapter into the Word(tm) document yet, so it's all handwritten but I think what I've got is pretty solid.

My task now is to decide the best of all possible orders for the next four (4) big plot points. The chronology doesn't really matter; I'm looking for dramatic effect more than a timeline. We'll see.

Also! The title I found for Chapter Seven is "If Atlas Volunteers." Which I think is pretty fine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chapter Seven, the author plows ahead

New scene written at lunch! About 1500 words though the transition into the scene is still a bit rough and I need to fix that. But still, it seems quite fine. A bit of it (but not, alas, all that much) is recycled from the previous version of the book, but substantial cuts were made and lots of new words written, and I just remembered that there's a note to myself in there to add in even more stuff, though likely only about 100 or 200 words, a glancing blow against a subplot. Still, I've been avoiding this scene for a couple of days because I thought it would be hard to write and it wasn't so that's that and now I can get on with the return of Rosenkrantz to Elsinore and the hijinks that ensue once he's back. And by "hijinks" I of course me "deaths." Yay, death! In a strictly fictional manner, I mean.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chapter Seven, Progressing Nicely

I'm about 1100 words into Chapter Seven. Provisional title is "A Third Set of Circumstance" but I am hoping for something better to come along.

wordcountometer = 22,349

Horatio has fallen asleep during his shift and had a bad dream, and is awakened from this dream by a messenger pounding on his door.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Six Questions for Me

Jim Harrington at his "Six Questions For" blog ( has posted an interview with me about my experience as one of the judges for the Literary Lab's "Genre Wars" writing contest last year. I come off sounding like a cranky old man. Which is what I am, mostly.

Jim has asked Six Questions of a lot of editors and publishers of literary journals (both print journals and online journals), and the answers he's gotten are generally helpful and informative, so go read through his archive. Go, read.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chapter Six Finished!

wordcountometer ~= 21,000! The king has forbidden Horatio to publish his narrative nonfiction book about science, Nunc Scio Mysterium. Plus, he has to work all night. Alas, poor Horatio. I am considering calling this chapter "The Least Dog In Denmark," for a variety of reasons, mostly that I like the sound of the phrase.

In Chapter Seven, Horatio will have a chat with the Queen of Denmark while he's taking a smoke break outside. And later, you know, someone will get dead. Yay! About damned time.

To Know They're Dead, First We Had To Know They Were Alive

I'm reading David Benioff's novel "City of Thieves," which is a pretty good romp through St. Petersburg during the Nazi siege of that city in WWII. The protagonist is well done, the city is vividly portrayed, and Benioff has set up a good story question that I can't wait to see answered. So that's all good. But.

Last night I read a passage wherein the protagonist discovered that his home--a multistory apartment building called the Kirov--had been flattened by German bombs. It is assumed that most of the occupants were killed. Benioff's narrator pauses to list and describe the more colorful and likeable characters who have probably died, and I am sure that this passage is supposed to evoke some sort of emotion from the reader. I am sure that we are supposed to be moved by the loss of these people. And in a general way, I was, sure. But not much.

No matter how much detail Benioff supplied, these deaths were pretty much meaningless. Why? Because we find out all the neat stuff about these possibly sympathetic and interesting folks only after they're dead, when they won't ever be mentioned again. They were, therefore, never alive for us, so how can we mourn their death now that they're gone?

I kill off a good number of characters in my own novels, and I learned a long time ago that in order for a death to have any meaning to a reader, there must be a lot of meaning in the scenes where these characters are still alive. Possibly they have to be even more alive than the characters you don't kill off. So watch yourself if you do away with any of your characters. Make me love them before you drop a piano on them, or I won't love them at all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inspiration Keeps Its Own Schedule

Last night, at about 11:35, I was lying in bed reading the critical commentary about Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" in Perrine's Story And Structure (5th ed.)* when I realized two important things that I need to do when I get around to revising "Cocke & Bull" later this year. I leapt from bed, threw on my robe and scuttled down the hall to the Designated Writing Room where I dug out the printed ms for "Cocke & Bull" and made a bunch of hasty notes--possibly they are all illegible; I have not checked--on the title page. There's a chapter in the middle that seems out of place and I realized that I could set it up by foreshadowing in Act One with similar scenes and suddenly I knew why the chapter was part of the book (I'd been hazy about that for months; I just knew it fit somehow, that's all). I also realized that there is not enough humor in the book, especially not enough centered around the protagonist, so I'm going to fix that as well.

Notes scribbled, I went back to the bedroom, finished reading the commentary about the O'Connor story, and went to bed. That's all.

Anyway, my muse apparently phones me from several time zones away these days. WTF, muse? But at least the muse still has my number, so I won't complain much.

* don't even start with me about my choice of relaxing reading material at bedtime

Additional trivia: Still in Chapter Six, wordcount = 20,494!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chapter Six: an eel reference

The conversation quickly turned to the king’s mission.

“Now you are safe in my keep here,” the king said to Gertrude. “I am at last free to ride forth with my men and slay all those on Zealand who sought to ally themselves with Fortinbras.”

“Will it be a lengthy war?” Gertrude picked at a stuffed capon, pushing it around her plate without eating a bite. “Will it be a dangerous employment, my lord?”

“Who can say, my lady?” The king chewed a mouthful of venison and glanced up at the ceiling. “Are there no eels tonight?”

“None,” the queen said.

“But I like eels.”

“Is this dinner not in my honor, my lord?”

“All this food,” the king said, gesturing at the many dishes spread before us. “All of this and no eels for the king.”

“I will send for the cooks,” Yorick offered.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Still in Chapter Six

wordcount = 19,350! Almost to that important milestone of 20K. Chapter Six is provisionally called "Hamlet and Hamlet." It makes sense in context, trust me. I think I've got about 2,000 more words in this chapter, and then pretty much all of the major players will have been introduced and we can get on with the killing. That will come as a great relief to me. Anyway, I've been ever so productive today, writing wise, and while I could push on and finish the chapter, I'm starting to fade and I know that I'll just rush if I write more this afternoon, so I'm calling it and seeing about running to the store because we have precious little in the way of food. Okay, that's not true. We have leftover roast chicken with potatoes and carrots and onion from last night and we have asparagus but we've got no wine and no bread and that, you know, is something up with which I simply will not put.

Also, I might split Chapter Six into two chapters. It's getting pretty long now. We'll see. That's one of those decisions I will happily put off until revisions.