Friday, January 10, 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

And so, it is finished, the (almost!) novel-length, New York-centric follow-up to my St. Pete zombie short, "Nearly Dead." Maybe except for the ending (which some will no doubt squawk about, but it's MY ending and I'm not changing it) I think it might be the best thing I've yet written. Or the worst. I can never tell. I'm my own worst critic.

Funny thing about this one, the damn thing just didn't want to end. One morning in early January I tweeted  (on what I call my "spam" twitter account, the one where I'm unafraid to unabashedly tweet links to my books and beg people to buy them) that I expected to be finished that day. I wasn't. I tweeted the same thing the next day. Still wasn't. The damn thing just didn't want to end. It was about five days and 12,000 words later before I got (mercifully) to the finish line.

But then, there were lots of loose ends to tie up, lots of character arcs that I thought deserved some semblance of conclusion. As I also tweeted, I think part of me just didn't want to say goodbye to these people just yet. Granted, they're not the sorts of people I know in real life, but I got to know them real well in the course of writing this book and came to like them. I hope I do at least some of them justice. Most importantly, of course, I hope you like them too.

Gonna spend the next few days sanding down the rough edges and then put it on pre-sale at iTunes. If all goes well, it will be available everywhere in early February. I'll post a full blown announcement when it becomes available, and beg you to buy it.

Another thing about this one, as noted in my last post, I'm fine writing shorts and even novellas, but get over 40,000 words and I become a wreck. And though I didn't think it would, this one does clock in over 40,000 words, and as expected, I became a wreck. It's the strangest thing.

Stephen King tells an anecdote about being in the presence of Thomas Harris ("The Silence of the Lambs") while he was writing, and King claims much of Harris's writing process consists of him (quite literally) writhing on the floor in agony. I'm not there yet. But I can absolutely understand it.

Speaking of Stephen King, one of the best books on writing is, of course, "On Writing," by Mr. King himself. Seriously, if you've ever given any thought at all to writing fiction (or are simply curious about the process) you must read this book. And as I go through and edit this one, sprucing up the language and whatnot, I can't help but recall much of his advice.

For example, though I've never been one to use lots of adverbs, in his book, King claims to be at war against them. In "On Writing" he says, "The adverb is not your friend" and then goes on to write this:

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions . . . and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

However, I can't help but notice when reading Stephen King . . . well, let's just look at Chapters 23 and 24 of "The Stand," shall we?

Lloyd responded smartly.
Lloyd said dramatically.
Devins exclaimed suddenly.
Lloyd said righteously.
Lloyd said sulkily.
Devins asked quietly.
Lloyd said unconvincingly.
Lloyd said bleakly.
Lloyd said defensively.
Mathers said sincerely. 

In fact (and open any one of King's books to almost any page and you'll see exactly what I mean) it is the rare instance in which King leaves the "said" alone entirely, letting the context of the scene and the character's words alone impart whatever emotion he's trying to get across.

I don't know why I mention it, except that as I edit the book, I'm always looking for opportunities to make things clearer and yes, to add words. So . . . don't be surprised to see more than my usual number of adverbs in this one. I'll try not to overdo it. But imitation IS the highest form of flattery, no?

Happy reading . . . and be on the lookout for the new one!

As always, thanks for reading.

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