Playing Catch-Up

Alas, not all news is good news. I have fallen well behind my projected word count in the last week, thanks largely to our 4-year-old’s birthday party and the tremendous amount of planning that goes into even the smallest small-person affair!

But also, I have re-tasked myself to assist my wife with editing the second draft of her project, Black Sun. I found it impossible to maintain both efforts with the limited time I can squeeze into my schedule, so I decided to focus on the copy editing, and once that’s done, resume with my own novel.

Which will put me behind my self-imposed deadline, but the happiest part of this development is the word “self”. I’m not going to lose sleep over it, but I do feel a degree of pressure. This is a good thing. Without this pressure, I would stop drafting and find new reasons to re-task myself.

Writing while holding down a full-time job, a full-time family, and a hobby that demands no small measure of my free time truly forces me to carve my writing hours into my calendar with a sharpened Bowie knife. The balance I have found in the last few weeks has been to take an hour of each day, at the end of the day, and disappear into the basement. I put on the Dark Ambient station on Pandora, and churn out the words. Night after night, I’m finding this allows for a fair amount of continuity. However, I can manage approximately 1200 words per hour like this. Often I’ll find myself drawn into a narrative, and I’ll spend extra time to arrive in the neighborhood of 2000 words.

But to catch up to my original goal, I’ll need to bring in 1900 words per day. This means getting creative with my writing schedule. Weekends will need to devote more time, not less. Evenings may grow to an hour and a half. And though my deadline is completely arbitrary, I still want to make it, simply for the satisfaction of the accomplished goal.

Tally ho!

Recent Goals and Motivations

There hasn’t been much to report lately, as my head has been well and truly buried in word production. In the way of a progress report, The Curse Merchant just broke the 40K word count mark, which is the half-way point to my September 1st goal. The new math now states that I need to increase my per diem word count to around 1800 words to reach my goal of finishing the first draft by September.

Mind you, this deadline is entirely arbitrary, but without some kind of goal to strive towards, I tend not to produce. Since setting this goal (special thanks to Michael Shean for making me open my big fat mouth and creating that deadline to begin with), I have found very little internal resistance when it comes time to sit down and write.

Another big motivation has been my wife, Courtney Sloan, who has just completed the second revision of her latest novel, Black Sun. Her achievement and the infectious energy that comes along with it is pushing me to reach a benchmark of my own. Regrettably, drafting is the longest single step in the writing process, and so I must remain content with the small word count goals I have reached.

I am happy to say that so far I am quite pleased with The Curse Merchant. Though my outline is keeping it shepherded along the path, it is still finding ways to surprise me!

For now, my world is writing, and more writing, until the thing is finished. Good thing I have a goal in mind, and appreciable sources of motivation from friends and my family!

Momentum vs. Volume

I’m happy to report that I have rounded that initial hump with The Curse Merchant, and my sails are full of wind! Any time I begin drafting a new project, there is the get-to-know-you period where I have to find my characters voices (often different than I planned it in pre-writing), find the narrative style, and just plain get the words flowing.

I mentioned previously that I tend to require a great deal of silence and solitude during this lag period. But when I find my momentum, I find it easier to tune out surrounding noises and input. The words come, and I feel confident in them. I usually have to at least achieve the Inciting Event, that point at which the plot has begun in earnest, and the protagonist has been thrust into the ordeals I lay before him or her. Introduction of characters has been achieved, as well as the super-setting.

That done, it’s time to get to the business of the plot, which is where I find the joy in writing lies.

This morning, I took a look back on the last few projects, and I recalled how my output flowed. Omnipotence was slow and steady, perhaps one to two thousand words per day. My project previous to that was far more sporadic, relying on individual spurts of massive output between gulfs of desert. Perhaps this reflects a maturing of my writing discipline? I’d like to think so!

I far prefer the steady stream, honestly. I find I am kept within the world that way. Real life has less impact on the story itself. The pace of writing doesn’t feel as hard when it’s just a handful of pages per day. But in the long run, the manuscript is completed quicker than waiting for the muse to unload chapter after chapter. Because the muse? She is a strange creature, and often schedules long vacations without warning you.

Not that I wouldn’t welcome a spate of words, but if given the choice, give me momentum!

As of this weekend, The Curse Merchant has just over 10,000 words. Here’s to today’s 12,000!

Curse Merchant Excerpt

I thought I would cap off the week with a short excerpt from the second chapter of The Curse Merchant. This is first draft material, so there’s no guarantee this will actually make it to the final product, but it’s fun to capture moments of the process and see what has happened to it down the road.

***

I rubbed my temples and stepped into the Great Room, an open space vaulted by columns, decked in Persian rugs and worn furniture arranged in tight clusters of conversation. The occasional potted palm broke the space into islands of perceived privacy. I knew from experience that this privacy was an illusion, one I had capitalized on more than once.

It looked and felt like home, but was stranger. Darker, somehow. As I wandered to the long mahogany bar along the near wall, it occurred to me what was missing.

People.

I checked the date on my watch. It was the fourth, Saturday night. The place should have been packed. The only patrons I could see were a group of young lions in business suits huddled in a corner, two of Mama Clo’s girls draped across their wingbacks.

“Dorian Lake, my God in heaven,” a warm, husky voice called from the bar.

I turned to find Big Ben Setley gawking at me, a couple crystal highballs drip-drying in his hands. Ben was a short, wide man with a broad, continually sweaty forehead and a double chin. He had a ruddy tone to his face that gave him the look of a man who had been dying from the same heart attack for the past three years but no one had the heart to tell him. He may not have owned the club, but he was the man who kept it running.

“Evening, Ben.”

Ben stowed the glassware and dried his hands before shaking mine in a vice-like grip.

“Jesus, Dorian.” He stood wide-eyed for an uncomfortable moment, and I had to pull my hand away before he composed himself. “Thought you went back to New York.”

“No. I’ve been around. Catching up on sleep, washing my hair. You know.”

“Well it’s damn good to see you, son.” He gestured to the end stool. “Sit! What’ll you have? Want your Glenny?”

My scotch. My vintage seventy-eight Glenrothes. Just what my frayed nerves needed.

“Figured you would have sold it out from underneath me by now.”

Ben recoiled with a scowl.

“I’m offended.” He pulled a stepladder from the end of the bar and added, “I’d drink it before I sold it.”

He unlocked a tiny leaded glass door above the backbar, and produced my scotch, blowing a puff of dust off of it. As he busied himself with a controlled descent, I eyed one of the young lions approaching the bar with two empty martini glasses.

“Two more, Ben,” the blonde-haired executive purred.

Ben lifted a finger and nodded as he poured three fingers of my Glenrothes into a highball. He gave me a wink and slid it slowly across the bar.

“Saints preserve you, Ben,” I muttered as I lifted the highball to my nose and closed my eyes, transporting myself into the sheer sensation of a perfectly crafted spirit.

***

Current Project: The Curse Merchant

I thought I would take a moment to describe my current project.

The working title is The Curse Merchant. It will be my sixth novel-length project. I would classify it as a paranormal thriller, though it has strong mystery elements with a slight noir tone. Here’s the pitch:

“Dorian Lake, a facetious hex peddler in Baltimore, finds his feelings for his ex-girlfriend are rekindled when she asks for his help in buying back her soul from Osterhaus, an unscrupulous soul monger. As Dorian navigates the dangerous underworld of Netherworkers, he finds he may have become a pawn in a greater struggle between forces older than Mankind itself… and his own soul may soon be in jeopardy.”

The story is told from Dorian’s point of view, my second attempt at First Person narrative. Thus far, I have found it a challenge to maintain a clean flow while filtering it through the mouth of my protagonist. The good news is that I find him to be an utterly likable character, which makes it easier to write… and hopefully to read!

Thus far, the story is fully outlined, and I have completed the first chapter. I’ll post excerpts as the project progresses.