|Notes from December 1998|
DEATH OVER EASY is on its maiden voyage in the Ocean of Hope.
Tiny tweaks will still happen, future edits will definitely happen, but I have said goodbye to the story in a way I hadn't before. When I finished the umpteenth first draft, I knew there were still areas of disconnect, vagueness, lack of payoff. I revised and then revised again, and I shortened it by 10,000 words, trying to adhere to recommended word counts. I already write very tight, it's my style. And then I gave my baby over to three very special, carefully selected readers who I felt would give me three different perspectives on my book and help me see where to revise.
When they did give me feedback, I went into a deep state of the grumbles. Man, it needed work. While everyone felt that the characters were vivid, some of the plot points were not. And all that cutting I had done had, in fact, made parts of the story confusing. The tale lacked a satisfying resolution of the key story areas. The beginning was choppy and overworked. Chase scenes were unrealistic.
I took my three printed copies back with all the sticky notes and the writing in the margins and the extra pieces of paper asking for clarifications of this or that, and I compiled them into six pages, single-spaced, called "changes to final." And then I put it aside for several months.
|Changes to final|
Somewhere near the end of May I knew it was time, and I tackled the book again, spending six weeks revising the entire thing. I woke up every weekday at 4:30 and just started working. When I got to the end, on June 21st, I had this very strange, calm feeling.
I read the book as a reader. Yeah, it needed a bit of finessing, so I finessed. But it was good. I got teary at the emotional parts and scared at the scary parts. Wow.
And then I started researching agents. I came up with a starter list of 20 agents and wrote a query letter for the first time in my life. You know something? Writing a query letter is harder than writing a book! I thought the first one I wrote was great until I showed it to a writer friend who tore it apart, and then I wrote letter B which is what I'm using now. It may change again. So far one agent has asked me to send him the book. I know this will be a long process, but what a happy little dance my heart did when I pushed "send" last night. Now I can write the next book.
The most amazing thing is the feeling that there's so much room inside my head now. The weight of this project that has taken me so many, many years is gone. I love my characters so much, and I see them smiling and nodding at me, kind of a "you did good" nod. Even Zahn is smiling at me, and he rarely smiles. Emma is feeling so proud. So proud. And I'm so proud of her. What I wouldn't give to sit down with her now and talk about everything and how it all changed at the end. I'm so curious to find out what will happen next.
Author Stephen Messer (Windblowne, The Death of Yorik Mortwell), talked about his method on this blog a while back when he was a guest at Three for Tea: "I immerse myself in anything that engages me with the invented world of my book – each one has its own soundtrack that I listen to while writing, as well as art which surrounds me in my study, and books and movies too. I even go so far as to make thematic screensavers for my writing laptop. I don’t exclude much. This could be seen as distracting, but for me it helps keep my mind fixed on the mood and feel of the story. It’s desirable to have outside stimulation that might encourage an unpredictable choice or a striking detail."
In that vein, I've been allowing my daydreaming mind to spread out in all directions by playing my Van Morrison CDs. Why Van Morrison? My character, Emma Rose, is named after a Van Morrison song, because her parents were and still are huge fans. Playing his music makes her come alive to me. I can see her in all sorts of snips of life―reading her pilot training manual at the racetrack between races, laughing at something Tony says, watching football with her Dad. There are so many locations and situations in which she may find herself as she moves through the next part of her life.
I love Emma and her instincts, but I worry about her limited understanding of herself. Growing up relying on luck and what is meant to be and finding security in betting correctly has allowed her to skate by the necessary task of knowing herself. She has run from that. And she regularly misinterprets others' feelings about her. There is something about real cause and effect that she is missing and that I have only begun to explore. Will Emma crack that open in the sequel?
Which, by the way, will be called DEATH UNDER THE RADAR.
Over the next few weeks, I'll post more exhibits from the writing of DEATH OVER EASY, and talk about it more. No spoilers, I promise.