Monday, February 4, 2013


A tiny little snippet of an idea came into my head in April of 2010: A girl wakes up alone in a hospital bed, and has no idea who she is.

I had no idea who she was either, so that page or so of a beginning went nowhere for more than two years. I liked it though, and mentally returned to it every once in a while, expanding things, wondering, inventing. Last fall I suddenly had enough idea to start writing.

And oh boy, did I write.

I think one day I wrote an entire chapter, or close enough. I made it to chapter 6 before running out of gas, but those 5+ chapters only took a few weeks to write, which is astounding for me. Lately, anyway.

The initial basic outline was that this girl wakes up in the hospital with amnesia. Her mother soon arrives to claim her and take her home, where soon some oddities come to light. Eventually the girl realizes that this woman is not her mother, but has more nefarious plans in store. Mwa ha ha.

That's how it started. Continuing it required some why and how. What turned out was that this girls' father was a scientist, working on some kind of device to control a person's memory. Evildoers tried to get their hands on it, the father was killed, and turned the device on his own daughter to erase her memory in an attempt to protect her. During the course of the story, her mother and brother eventually turn up, trying to rescue her. All is well in the end, etc.

So I started writing it last October or so, and almost immediately started making the mother more complex, more sympathetic. Not just a villain. This was great for characterization, because when she starts to like the girl too it made for some excellent drama.

Then I began to think, Hm, okay, maybe she's not the villain. Maybe she's just, oh, holding the girl in a safe location until her memory returns! Yeah! Hopefully returns, they think.

Great! Unfortunately, this pretty much killed the story dead in its tracks. Suddenly I had no antagonist, and no antagonist means there's nothing for the hero to strive against. Sure, there could be bad guys trying to do her harm, but I had already introduced other kids from her school; an allegedly deceased "father" she grieved for; and some faceless attackers for her to run from. In other words, the story was getting crowded without adding more black hat types.

I could go back and make the false mother the villain again, but then I wouldn't be able to use this really cool and dramatic reveal I'd worked up late in the book, and also I really liked this character. This happened years ago, with a minor character from the never finished Price of the Rug: I created a character whose purpose was to be killed to advance the plot, and instead I started to like her and spared her life.

In other words, I can't go back now and make the mother a villain. And so...I'm stuck again. I presume I'll figure something out, one of these days. I usually do. And in the meantime, I have 5+ decent chapters to work off of. I guess that having too many pots on the stove is better than having none at all...right?

"It's been such a long time..."

Wow, 3.5 years, more or less. Since then Obama has been elected again, and suddenly the Red Sox stink. The world has turned upside down. Black is white and right is left! Cats and dogs, living together!

Running Forward is finished, and now sits in my computer, getting dusty. I get bored with a project, and I move on. Well, eventually I move on.

A few years ago I moved on to Gone. Very quickly I churned out 4 chapters and then ground to a halt, mostly because I had no idea where the story was going or why, and also because the chapters weren't very good. Churning tends to do that.

In 2010 I began writing a synopsis. It got very detailed. Before that ran out of steam in August, I'd written almost 5500 words, which is a good sized chapter in my world. Anna was not 17 instead of 13, and I'd laid out enough detail and plans to wrote maybe a quarter of the book, if I ever got around to it.

I never did.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More stuff you don't want to hear at work

When someone comes up behind you and says, "My meat is screaming."

Monday, June 29, 2009

In which I suck

I'm not very good at keeping to a writing schedule, which may have something to do with the fact that I don't have one. A million years ago (i.e., like, 15 or so) back when I was still chugging away on Dark Side, I would write a little every night. But then, I wasn't married, and probably wasn't particularly employed either. Free time was plentiful.

It took me about 17 months to write this book, which, really: is not great. Being reasonably productive, I should have done it by the end of last year. I just read back and found that I'd finished chapter 12 probably last October, so the final 6 chapters took me 8 months, after writing the first 12 in only 9. Yeesh.

Next time...

The End?

I finished Running Forward last night, or whatever it ends up being called. And by "finished" I unfortunately do not mean "completed." I mean "figuratively typed the words 'The End.'" Actually completing it will take a bit longer. Here's some stuff I still have to do before I get to that point:

I need to re-write the first half of Chapter 1, more or less. There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't really find my voice until halfway through -- meaning, it took that long for Samantha's snarky, wise-ass personality to appear -- and it kind of drags compared with the rest of the story.

I want to add another chapter, probably right after Chapter 5. I need to establish more getting-to-know-you between Sam and Alex. I want to include another confrontation between Sam and Greg Bierko (and maybe Jaz as well), since Greg kind of vanishes for most of the story between Chapters 5 and 15, which isn't the proper way for an antagonist to act. And I want to add a scene where Sam visits the school's track circle, and maybe talks to her old coach about returning to the team once her knee has healed.

Sam's frame of mind is pretty well set by the end of the story, so now I have to do some backfilling to make it all match. That could be a little tricky: I know where she ends up, so I have to make her start off a lot worse than that, while also keeping to the correct state of emotional ennui I'd created at the beginning. It's also very possibly that I blew it a little at the end, piling on the bad a bit much. I tend to abuse my characters entertainingly, but I'm concerned this time I just forced it. We'll see.

Related to that, I've got to go over the whole thing a few times and smooth out the narration. I've been doing that anyway all along, so most of the story is currently up to snuff. Especially the parts I really like, which I've re-read many times.

I also may split the final chapter, 18, in half. Or not. I haven't decided. It isn't that it's too long; it's that too much stuff happens, and I'm concerned it rambles a little. That may be related to the smoothing that needs to be done, which is very fixable, but it's also related to my tendency -- oft mentioned here -- to blather on if I don't reign myself in. And it's also related to my having perhaps piled on the bad a little think towards the conclusion. Fortunately, the same solution will probably fix both problems.

I also may move some scenes around. I've already done a little of that, taking a brief conversation that takes place between Sam and her parents in Chapter 13, and moving it in a modified form to the end of Chapter 18 where it fits better in the narrative. I will do the same to a talk between Sam and Alex near the end of Chapter 5, but I'll have to wait for the New Chapter 6 to have a place to put it.

And...that's about it. It sounds like a lot -- even to me -- but it isn't really. Other than a chapter and a half of new stuff, it's just fixes and tweaks. That, I'm very good at. Unfortunately, I'm good at it because I do it a lot instead of, you know, actually writing new stuff.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chapter 14, finished at last

I never actually finished Chapter 14, for the usual reasons: I had written myself into a corner of blah, and couldn't figure out how to finish it off. I just bypassed it, churning out Chapters 15, 16, 17, and now most of 18 while I waited for inspiration to strike.


Ouch. Oh hey, thanks! So I started it up again last night, and completed it just now. I never finished because I was worried I was just having the characters talk to each other without advancing the story, but I think I've taken care of that now.

Now to complete Chapter 18, and the book. This one will take some thought, since there's a Big Revelation, and I want to get it right. I'm certain I'll be massaging the dialogue there many times before I'm satisfied.

I didn't end up outlining 18, and it's going pretty good all the same. I think because I've thought about it so much over the past year, that I know more or less exactly what's going to happen. The only thing I really have to do is figure out how it's going to happen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

17/18ths finished

I finished Chapter 17 last night just before 11. It's a little rough at the end -- the tone isn't quite what I'd been shooting for. It'll take some polishing, but I'm almost done!

I may have to sketch out chapter 18 too. I might as well; I've now done it for the 3 previous chapters, and it made writing them a little easier. I have ideas for big scenes in my head for 18 -- a few of which had been there for a year or more -- but I'll need to see if they all fill out the size the rest of the chapters seem to have been, which is about 9-10,000 words each.

And even then it won't be "finished," as in, ready to send of to a publisher. The first half of Chapter 1 is a little rough, since it took me that long to find my voice. I'll probably end up re-writing a lot of that, if not all of it.

And there are some scenes I want to add, scenes that flesh out the characters a little more. For example, there needs to be a little more of Sam and Alex getting to know each other right after they meet. I'm also going to write a scene where Sam walks the cross-country course behind the school, remembering what it was like before she got hurt. She'll probably have a talk with her old track coach too, about coming back to the team in the spring if she can.

And there needs to be more of Greg Bierko scattered through the story. He suddenly shows up at Jen's party as this menacing figure, but I don't think it's set up well enough, since the only time we meet him before that is the scene with Sam's detention in Chapter 4.

There also needs to be more of Emily in the story. She's basically the axis around which Sam's misery spins, and as it stands right now she shows up when it's convenient to advance the plot, but no more.

Other than that, it'll mostly just be tweaks and smoothing out the wording here and there. All I have to do is write about 9000 more words, and I can start.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

But of course it's never just the one thing

Of course, it's not just Gone percolating in my head. There's also this new idea named Ratline.

It's about a girl and her mother in 1945, who have flown to Germany to meet up with the father/husband. They have always assumed is a mere diplomat, but he actually spent the war working for the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA.

While in Germany, she befriends a local girl and her family who are trying to emigrate, meets a young soldier she starts to like, sees the horrors of the war from the other side, and ends up stumbling onto a plot to smuggle Nazis out of Germany -- the Ratline. A plot her father may be opposing, or may actually be a part of.

That's all there is right now of that one, but it's got a lot of potential. It won't go away, for one thing, which is always a good sign.

So you say you want an evolution

I've been thinking about Gone lately, although for once not to the detriment of Running Forward, or whatever it ends up being called.

Originally, the plot went something like this: my protagonist wakes up one day to find out that everyone over the age of 18 has simply vanished from the world. The only humans left are her, her friends, her sister -- everyone her own age and younger.

The vague, foggy idea in my head was already turning this into a series of books, even before I'd written the first word. The books would cover Anna and the other survivors reacting to the loss of their parents and everything they'd known, then struggling to survive, and finally trying to figure out what had happened.

Tied into that were clues scattered here and there: all the adults she knew were acting weird the day before and the night before the vanishings; visions either her or her sister are having, of their parents, still alive and trying to communicate with them; and suggestions that some of the adults had known what was coming, and were leaving messages to try to help.

Which of course led to -- who did this? Aliens? Supernatural beings? Some diabolical, near omnipotent government experiment? And answering that question -- or more to the point, completely failing to answer that question to my own satisfaction -- has me wondering if the plot should be simpler in scope, but remain a tale of survival.

The alternate plot would only be that the adults had vanished, perhaps due to some catastrophic cosmic event. Perhaps there would be prior clues about lights in the sky, news reports about something glimpsed on radar; some kind of foreshadowing.

I like that too. And, I have to admit, it would allow me to indulge (or as much as the constraints of writing to a teen audience would allow) my penchant to abuse my characters in grisly ways. Not that the aliens-or-whatever plot wouldn't.

I like it, but I like the other one a little bit more. And that's really annoying me, becuase as much as I can come up with nefarious, semi-plausible explanations for what happened, I still can't come up with an explanation for why it happened. What would be the point of engineering a calamity like that? How would it benefit a group or a being or a group of beings?

(Of course, trying to concoct a plausible explanation for why someone would do it, while just blithely accepting that they could, might just be me overthinking this a little.)

Anyway, if I can answer that one, I'll be onto something. Fortunately, in the meantime I can keep stretching out the plot in my mind like taffy, and it will end up working no matter which way the setup finally points.

However, in the meantime I need to finish...whatever it's called. Progress on that one is...progressing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Derek Jeter...Iron Man?

Over the weekend -- during at-bat in which he struck out against the Red Sox -- Derek Jeter passed Mickey Mantle to become the New York Yankees' all-time leader in at-bats. Here's the top 10:
1. Derek Jeter 8106
2. Mickey Mantle 8102
3. Lou Gehrig 8001
4. Bernie Williams 7869
5. Yogi Berra 7546
6. Babe Ruth 7216
7. Don Mattingly 7003
8. Joe DiMaggio 6821
9. Roy White 6650
10. Willie Randolph 6303
I'm not sure why I was surprised to learn that -- Jeter's been playing since a mid-season call up in 1995 -- but surprised I was. Since then he's been a reliable fixture at short in the Bronx, never player fewer than 148 games in an injury-free year. (In 2003 he was injured, and only played 119 games.)

He's only #4 on the Yankee's all-time PA list, because he doesn't walk anywhere near as much as the 3 guys in front of him: Mantle, Gehrig, and Ruth. Not a disgraceful bunch to be trailing, you'd have to admit.

Jeter hasn't won an MVP -- and at this point in his clearly declining career, isn't likely to -- but he did get completely hosed in 1999. That year Jeter led the universe with a 103.9 VORP, and was 4th with 8.8 WARP. In one of the stupidest results ever, Ivan Rodriguez won, with his 57.9 VORP and 8.4 WARP. Even this Sox fan can see Jeter got screwed.

It's easy to hate the Yankees -- or at least it was, before they got old and hurt; now it's just habit -- but it's not possibly to do anything except root for Jeter. I hope he plays forever, ends up owning most of the Yankee career records, and gets a good head start on his induction speech for the Hall of Fame.