On Being Clever

August 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Put on your writing cap and get to work!I like clever books. When an author does something unusual with structure or plot, it makes for more interesting, enjoyable reading—as long as it doesn’t hinder the storytelling.

I know I praise Iain M. Banks’ books often (and no, this isn’t another review), but one of his Culture novels—The Use of Weapons—is one of the most clever books I’ve read. He tells the story from both ends of its timeline simultaneously, in alternating chapters, and he does it so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice it until I reached the end.  « Read the rest of this entry »

The Writer’s Face: 4 phases of drafts…

June 1, 2015 § 1 Comment


I am currently bouncing back and forth between Phases 3 and 4. What phase are you in?

Originally posted on Kawanee's Korner:

Yep I’ve made all these faces.. but not really in this order.. :D

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First Steps and Foundational Pieces

May 10, 2015 § Leave a comment


The photo that spawned this post. (Credit: ThatMakesAStatement)

I wrote this post by accident.

My friend George emailed me a few days ago to say (among other things) that a local theater was showing a production of Brecht and Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, an opera he considered to be “one of the foundational pieces” of his late adolescence.

I intended to reply, got distracted by something shiny, and rediscovered the email as I sat down to write a half hour ago.

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Here Come the Shears Again …

March 24, 2015 § 2 Comments

Live by the pen, die by the pen.Another day, another major cut to my novel.

I’ve been struggling with a scene in which the protagonists find a secret message on something they stole off a dead man. The whole chapter felt clumsy and dull, and I’ve spent way too much valuable time trying to fix it.

As often happens when I’m in a jam, I serendipitously stumbled across a blog post (which I now cannot find to share, argh) in which the author said, “When in doubt, cut the scene.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Checking In, or “Where in the World is Dave?”

February 28, 2015 § 1 Comment

Put on your writer cap.

Yes, I actually own this hat. It’s awesome.

So, um, it’s been awhile. Where the hell did I go?

In a nutshell, #amwriting.

And working the day job. And reading. And trying to survive the winter without succumbing to cabin fever.

When last I checked in, I’d just finished reading William Gibson’s The Peripheral. When I last posted an update on my novel, it was way back in October, when I talked about cutting 22,000 words from the manuscript.

Was it a mistake? Did I end up trashing the book, drinking an entire bottle of cheap whiskey, and giving up my hopes and dreams of ever becoming a published author?

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Writing about Reading: Why William Gibson’s brilliant novel The Peripheral is dangerous for writers

December 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

peripheralBy the end of the first page of William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral, I knew I was in trouble.

It’s not a bad book. That’s not the problem at all. It’s that it is such a damn good book, such a truly fantastic book, that my novel-in-progress looks pathetic by comparison.

Gibson is a genius for imagining the future. It’s not just the technological portrait he paints, but the way the characters talk, how they think, how they view the world around them. He doesn’t pander, doesn’t offer explanations. You’re in the deep end on page one, and brother, you’d better learn to swim fast.

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The Epiphany That Nearly Made Me Trash My Novel

October 27, 2014 § 6 Comments

trashThe novel hasn’t been going well, and this morning I had a realization in the shower that almost made me toss the entire thing.

The way I structured the first draft, the even-numbered chapters took place in the past and the odd-numbered ones were set in the present. (Keep in mind that this is a space opera, so technically all of it is set in the far future. Ha!)

Once I dove into the rewrite (a.k.a., the second draft), I started feeling like this structure didn’t work. So I reordered the chapters so that everything happened chronologically. But that also didn’t work, so I tried a frame structure: the first third in the present, then all the past at once, then back to the present for the final third. And that still didn’t work.

This morning in the shower, I realized why, and my heart sank. The hard truth is that all of the chapters set in the past need to be cut—nearly half the book. It’s back story. It’s boring. It needs to go.

Half. The. Book.*

I remember Paolo Bacigalupi tweeting about how he had to cut 40,000 words of his book in progress (which was the one he just released, I think—The Doubt Factory). At the time, I thought if I ever had to do that, I’d probably go a bit mad. Maybe more than a bit.

But now I’m looking at cutting about that much, and my first thought was that I should just chuck the entire thing in the bin and call it a day. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt a renewed energy for the book. I started to see how much more compelling the story will be without all that excess baggage. I’ve been dreading/avoiding working on it by telling myself I was too busy/tired/uninspired/whatever. Now I can’t wait to get started again. (And, of course, now I actually won’t have time to sit down to it for probably two days.)

The bonus is that one of the bits being cut—the prologue—is one of the puzzle pieces I had been seeking for the sequel. By saving that bit of character background for the next book, I suddenly have a much better idea of what it will be about, and it will tie back to the first book much better.

Long story short, the epiphany that nearly made me trash my novel ended up reenergizing me for this book and the next one. That’s just the way the novel-writing roller coaster goes, sometimes: big ups, followed by big downs.  Just throw your hands in the air, scream into the wind, and remember it’s all a ride. Have fun.

*EDIT: After pulling out the “past” chapters, my word count dropped from 76,000 to 54,000—only a 22,000 word loss. Which, yeah, is a LOT of words to lose, but it’s not quite half. And much of that will get recycled as I fill in the blanks where needed. The rest (and hopefully a bit more) will be made up by new POV characters and additional subplots. Ad astra!


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