Friday, March 28, 2014

State of the Apocalypse, Stardate Three Twenty-Seven Fourteen

WARNING: Potential SPOILERS as I’m posting photos of the galleys of my latest novel. Don’t look too closely; it should be all right....

It’s been over a month for this, since before the end of February. Over a month’s worth of climbing half-blind into bed with the curtains closed against the emergent dawn, thinking, “Okay, we didn’t make it tonight. But we’ve gotten so far. I’ll bet we finish this tomorrow while the sun is still up.

It’s been like a really hateful, art-house-ugly version of Groundhog Day here. Every day the same. Every day I think I’m almost done.

All right, then. Enough. What I’ve been doing all this time hasn’t been working so I’ve got to change it up. I wrote eight pages in one night—a new personal best—and had to throw out six. And I still wasn’t close to winding it up. I’d finished the final Boss Fight. I’m right there in the final chapter, winding up. But I’ve had a breakthrough in the last 48 hours or so.

My Big Idea was to print every one last of these 282 pages...

...expand the venue from my office to my wife’s drafting table...

...split the galleys into their three individual acts....

One major problem I’m having is evident in this photo. Act III, beginning with Chapter 21 on the right, is almost as long as Act II in the middle. Act II should be nearly twice as long as Acts I and III.

  ...then bust out the ruler, the reading glasses, the Sharpies, the sticky-notes. 

Get squinty with it. If nothing else, our smart quotes will be oriented correctly.

It’s not all that terribly backwards, now that I think about it. If those last chapters seem to have gone off the rails it’s because I’ve been writing this thing for so long I’ve forgotten most of  what I’ve written.

I’ve seen this happen in other zombie novels—and in at least one of the more popular and acclaimed series, at that—in which a character shows up that screams “I’m gonna be trouble down the road! Watch!” and you never see that character or plot thread again. 

I hesitate to get too judgmental about this because it’s so easy to do. I’ve done this on multiple occasions over the course of my first three books. On the other hand (and I know you’ve felt this way, too), if these people simply took time out to read their own stuff once in a while they’d catch things like this.

Instead of waiting until I finish the entire book before proofing I’m taking on reading the narrative from page 1 to the end, one line at a time. I’ve already caught two such instances of Random Characters Who Promise To Be Trouble But Never Appear Again To Carry Out Their Threat.
It’s a lot like tightening boot laces, pulling up the slack one loop at a time. Except I have a lot of loops, and I’m cutting the excess string as I go, so it’s a really stupid metaphor. Never mind.

Progress is being made. Grace Among the Dead starts in deepest darkness, gets darker, and then some really weird stuff happens. It’s chock-full of zombie fighting action, lovingly depicted. My general rule is I can cut anything but a zombie fight. If I write anything more, it’s going to be a zombie fight. Zombies are my cowbell.

That’s right. This ain’t no Talking Dead TV show. Derek Grace swings his panga along the edges of the encroaching hordes while my heroine and fictional love of my life, Agnes Joan McIntire, is more like Red Sonja with PTSD and mad driving skills than that flaky Lori chick.

Violence, darkness, and loss. Romance and redemption. So many zombies, methane bombs, alpha eaters, and Original Flavor. 

Stay tuned, while I train myself how to do this all over again. I have a feeling letting the blog slide was a creative mistake. That part of the brain atrophied and took the rest with it.

Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

This is the area behind my desk (photographed at an angle from the side of said desk) where, when a particularly fine song comes on my shuffle, I’ll jam along. Then I’ll write whatever flashes of insight come to me on the wipe board at upper right. Yes, I am using the music stand as a hat rack.

A close-up on the wipe board. The sticky notes are reminders of character details I need to insert and technical matters I need to research. The numbers at bottom are the page numbers for the chapters in Act III, which, at 102 pages, is in need of a serious trim.

If you’ve gotten this far, I have to plug my first book, the first in the Dead Silencer trilogy, Bleeding Kansas, starring the antihero zombie fans (at least some of the ones who write reviews) love to hate, Derek Samuel Grace. 

This is right at the start of the Dark Resurrection and everyone is being an asshole, so bear with our man as he begins his Antihero’s Journey. I will reward your patience with gunfire, explosions, spontaneous dismemberments in anger, and Rebecca, Queen of Hell. Then there’s this thing that happens with a fire truck and some duct tape. 

It’s dead, it’s all messed up, like these things are supposed to be.