Works In Progress

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Back from the Dead

Okay, I wasn't dead, but I did take a few days off at the conference.

Tonight I worked on the chapter where David Graham checks into his hotel. The chapter needs work - as do all of them. Like the others, this one suffers from a lack of motivation: Graham is just doing stuff. I've made a note to have Graham purposefully seek out the park where the revival meeting will be held as opposed to just stumbling upon it.

The chapter also marks the first instance of what seems to be the book's theme: the difference between the outward appearance and the true nature of things (you thought it was about revival? don't be silly; that's just there for the zombies). Graham expects Ma Carter's Boarding House to be a seedy dive; instead it's a bed & breakfast in an immaculate Victorian house.

I'm currently reading a book on revising fiction and it asks "Have you appropriately used contrast" and other writerly questions. Imagine my surprise when - lo and behold - I found Graham reviewing his expectations for the boarding house furnishings: "...and a dresser only wide enough to hold change, keys ... and a long black plastic comb with several missing teeth" followed two paragraphs later by a description of the actual boarding house: "An immaculate emerald lawn spread out in front of it, surrounded by a white picket fence."

The contrast between the seedy comb and the picket fence (and expectation v. reality) is the kind of thing the book was talking about ... and it was in my story without even trying.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Naming Names

I've finally (tentatively) settled on a name for the park where the Revival meeting will be held: Pennoyer Park (named after the governor of Oregon at the time Graphite was founded). I'm not entirely thrilled with it, but it's better than WHATEVER.

I've also named a former church: St. Bartholomew's (in the Gospel of John, the disciple Bartholomew is named Nathaniel, which is Philip's middle name). St. Bart's and another church in Graphite's history burned to the ground, this is foreshadowing.

And a mill: Peterson's. What did Peterson mill? I don't know, but there's a picture of it in Emil Kennedy's used bookstore.

The premise of the novel centers around Graphite being the 9th most-livable place in Oregon. In case you're wondering what the others in the top ten are, here's what I know:
    10. unknown
    8. Oregon City
    7. Coos Bay
    6. Roseburg
    5. unknown
    4. Hood River
    3. unknown
    2. unknown
    1. Astoria

This is of course ridiculous and completely made up. If you'd like your city's name added to the list, I'm not above accepting cash incentives....

I also found the first instance of Graphite being mysteriously re-named Granite. I'll have to keep an eye on that.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Rewriting from Word One

Well, I reread Chapter 1 last night and it looks like the opening will have to go:
David Graham pulled into one of the diagonal parking spaces in front of Emory’s Mercantile a little after three in the afternoon. He arrived one day ahead of the Preacher, three days ahead of the storm. In less than four days time he would wind up inside a body bag. Of course, he didn’t know that now. If he had, he probably would have stayed anyway, just for spite.
It worked for the rough draft, giving me a handy timetable, but a) it's from an omniscient viewpoint and 2) it leads to a static description of the Merc, which grinds the narrative to a halt.

Plan B has Graham driving all over town trying to find a copy of the local weekly newspaper. All the corner newsracks are empty (why? I'm sure there's a story in there) so he winds up at the Merc looking for one there. Now he has a purpose in the chapter and isn't just "being" there.

Another thing I want to do in the beginning is reference Ray Bradbury's "The Third Expedition" short story (or possibly the Mars is Heaven radio play, which seems to have a similar plotline) wherein Earth astronauts arrive on Mars to find a picturesque 1920's hamlet only to have things go terribly wrong when night falls. I think it'll give an ominous sense to the Rockwellian town of Graphite without having a 1-to-1 correlation.

The other not insignificant change I made last night was to change the name of the "generic" blue jeans on sale in the Merc from BAUGHMAN'S (which I made up as a space filler) to Hobson's (it was going to be "Hobson's Choice", but why be obvious?).

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Well, last night I finished my first read-through and tonight I took a red pen to the prologue.

I'm not tackling major revision issues this time through, just filling in the rough spots and fixing the typos and left-out words. Tonight I changed an "of" to "off", added an "of" and a "the" and made some minor grammar and syntax tweaks (eliminating a few needless words here, adding a clarifying phrase there).

The two most significant changes were determining one of the evil projects N'Vonecz headed up in the past and offering a suggestion of why there's a candle burning in the otherwise pitch-blackness of Hell.

In my rough draft I used BIAFRA as a placeholder for the project. I wasn't really sure what Biafra was, only that it brought to mind images of starving children with bloated stomachs. So I googled it tonight and read the Wikipedia entry on the civil war and humanitarian aid crisis. The suggestion in the prologue is that the disaster caused by NV and his team of 23 demons was enormous for a squad that size, but now every-other demon in Hell is trying to take credit for being there, which would severely reduce the ratio of demons to damage (statisticians, of course, are evil). A million dead is too much for 24 and could withstand a lot of coattail-riding.

So I googled other disasters: Bhopal (3,800 dead), Jonestown (900+ dead), Chernobyl (31 dead, 135,000 displaced). Right now I'm going with Bhopal. Jonestown is running a close second; Jim Jones is just too deja-vuey for my storyline, though. I have no doubt that should the novel be published the identity of NV's "control character" will be spoiled, but I don't have to necessarily make it obvious from page 1.

Turns out the purpose of the candle is to give the demons huddled around it their sanity so they can converse and provide the impetus for the story. Who knew? Otherwise it seems they'd be gibbering and wailing like the multitude of demons "off stage."

I also changed one demon's estimation of the Biafra/Bhopal disaster from "a thing of beauty" to "seriously wicked" - since both are true from their perspective I went with the one that would generate less hate mail. (I've considered naming someone in the book Pat Flobbertson to generate controversy, but there's ticking off Brother Pat and there's ticking off real people.) Plus, it makes it sound like the demon's from Boston (also evil).

I need to make sure there's one of those "all events depicted in this novel are fictitious" statements at the beginning of the book. I wouldn't want Union-Carbide trying to pawn their disaster off on the Devil.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Panic Sets In

Last night I was reading the "Thursday: Hymnsing" section of my novel. I had just finished the part where Maya (ex-deadgirl) and her mom are bookin' it out of town to get to the hospital in Pendleton. Geri is certain that her psycho ex- is following, but they leave the valley without incident.

Then I turned the page to the next chapter and there was David Graham walking up the steps to Rev. Gantt's office trailer.

Wait, hold it a sec ... where was the chase out of town from the crazy ex's perspective? Did I forget to copy it from Mac to PC? Did I neglect to print it out? Did I only dream of having written it?

So I checked the master file on the PC: no chapter. I checked the individual daily text files on the Mac: no chapter.

Aaaarrrrghhh!!! I know I typed it, I know I typed it.

Wait ... maybe I added the passage at the end of one of the days and forgot to separate it back out. Nope, not at the end.

Beginning? Didn't make sense that'd I'd do that, but by the end of November I was fresh out of sense.

There. Beginning of the second section in the Hymnsing. The chase out of town. Told as a flashback.

Suddenly I remembered why I wrote it that way - it occurs simultaneously with Graham visiting Gantt and I didn't want to start a chapter with "Meanwhile...". Apparently I did have a bit of sense at the end of November after all.

I just haven't restocked the shelves since then.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Huh? So That's What I Was Doing In November

I started reading my rough draft last night and for the first time it really began to sink in that I wrote a book.

Granted, I knew I had a big pile of paper (250 pages) stacked up, but, for all I knew, they could have said "All work and no play makes Chris something something" (Go crazy? Don't mind if I do!) over and over again.

About half an hour in I had a small pile of pages stacking up on my left side, but the pile on the right didn't seem any shorter. Two hours later I was about halfway through the book (and halfway through the pile).

General reactions:
  • There was some stuff that I didn't recall writing, but mostly a lot of typos and sentences where I'd leave off a eensy-weensy word like "not" or "never" and the meaning of the sentence would be reversed.

  • Some sentences made no sense; I still know what I was trying to say, but it was apparent that I came nowhere close to saying it.

  • Some chapters had intriguing ideas mentioned at the beginning that went nowhere as I rushed to get the story in.

  • One chapter had POV all over the map (omniscient instead of the third-person limited I used everywhere else) that could be fixed if I give my dead/then-not highschooler an out-of-body experience, but a) that's kind of cliche and b) it would mean she doesn't get to go to the creepy red waiting room.

  • Far too much dialogue, not nearly enough narrative.

  • Needs more action, more sense of impending doom, more suspense.

  • But, for the most part, I'm liking what I see.