Category Archives: Trust

The Process, Part II

Before going on to chronicle the editing process, I want to mention that, to someone who reads this blog, it would appear that like Mark Twain, I write in spurts. This is not quite the case. Twain would abandon manuscripts for months before coming back to them. I might leave something for days or weeks, but it’s out of necessity. After all, I’m working a full time job and raising a family. I don’t want my kids to grow up and write spiteful biographies saying that I was talented but had no time for them.

Besides, when I’ve had the chance to write full time, I charged through projects in record time. The Boddekker’s Demons half of Ferman’s Devils was written in five months. So was Trust, but I was working full time then – my agent lit a fire under me to get the manuscript out because we thought it would be great marketing to have an election year thriller out in time for an actual election year (my wife was truly a Novel Widow during that period).

Once the first draft is done, I try to let it sit for a month without looking at it. During this time I do nothing, or I might actually start the next novel, writing a first chapter that might sit for weeks or sometimes years before I decided to write the rest. As a further inducement to leave the book alone, I sometimes find First Readers to take a look at it, hopefully to offer brutally frank opinions on what I’ve done.

When the month is over, it’s time to edit the manuscript for a second time.

That’s right. I said second. Over the years, I’ve developed a process that I call “pre-editing.” I’ve learned to identify things in my outline or in my head that can be deleted simply by not writing them. It might be something I might need to know, but the reader doesn’t.* It could be something that would slow down the flow of the book, something that no longer fits given the book’s current direction, or something that merely seemed like a good idea at the time, but no longer is.

“Pre-editing” also entails going back and making changes to the manuscript when a later plot point requires it. In Deadline I keep changing the age of Jill’s daughter to facilitate a paternal relationship with Max, the protagonist. So I go back in the manuscript and insert/delete where necessary (or, in Deadline’s case, get a red pen and scribble around what I’ve already written).

Last night’s work on And/News is a textbook case of pre-editing. I mentioned in yesterday’s scorecard entry that I went back and filled in some details throughout the chapter that I realized it needed. But that’s not the entire story.

I was working on a section where Richard and K confront a reluctant witness. Part of my notes – a good two paragraphs worth – called for a revelation about the relationship the witness had with his live-in girlfriend. The Weasel Effect was supposed to come into play as we found out that the witness successfully courted and bedded the girl under false circumstances, and by the time she realized he wasn’t all he claimed to be, it was too late for her to get out. She had no support system in place and could not easily leave him.

The notes on this could have easily taken a day’s worth of writing to get down. Fortunately, as I neared that part of the chapter, I saw that 1) this little bit of exposition wasn’t necessary for a character who was only going to appear in the book for one chapter, and 2) the direction I was writing in skewed away from that kind of a relationship with his live-in; it was more important that he be attached to her (albeit with a wandering eye). So I ignored my earlier directive and as a result, And/News is eight pages shorter.

(Again, Ferman’s Devils provides an interesting counterpoint to this process. One of the things I had put into the outline was the chapter where Bainbridge insinuates herself into Boddekker’s life and follows him to the Nursing Home where his 1960’s burnout grandmother lives. In the early writing stages, I was trying to keep the length down because my agent has a chronic phobia of manuscripts over 100,000 words in length. So I decided that, while the chapter was fun, I wasn’t going to write it. I made the transition that the chapter provided in a different way. When Bantam bought the book and split it in half, my editor encouraged me to add the chapter. It worked out well – readers got something really close to a director’s cut of the book, and the addition of the chapter made both books approximately the same length.)

Once the manuscript has sat for a month, it is time for a physical edit. I sit in my big La-Z-Boy recliner (dubbed “The Editing Chair”) with the binder in my lap and a red pen in my hand, and I proceed to go through the manuscript and bloody it up.

Since my first drafts are nothing more than a race to get everything onto paper before I forget it, there’s a lot of sloppiness present. And I also have comments from my wife in the manuscript. She’s got great editorial instincts, and she reads the book chapter-by-chapter as I finish each one and print it out. She’s my first First Reader, and it must be agonizing to her to wait months to get to the end of a book (she’s one of these three or four books a week types).

I look for clunky writing. I whack out things that don’t 1) move the story ahead or 2) develop someone’s character, or 3) – something new I’ve added to And/News – provide insight into one of the book’s themes.

One thing I do – in fact, I usually do this on the computer – is go on a hunt for the word “just.” It’s a rotten little rodent of a word that slips in when I’m not looking, and it can just ruin a sentence by qualifying it (that is, taking the air out of a turn of words by distancing the reader from the action).** This is a search and destroy mission, and very few survive. A few others are transformed into another word.

Once the book is carved up, I enter the changes into the manuscript document. These can range from deleting or changing one word on a page to reworking entire sections (which I have either handwritten, or else put down notes on what to do). I know it would be easier to edit onscreen, but I learned to edit physically, and it serves me well. Besides, there’s a “half-edit” when I put the changes into the computer. This is where I notice things I missed in the physical edit, or else I second-guess myself and either edit the edit or change it back to the way it was.

Then I print the new version of the book out, the Intermediate Draft, let my wife have a whack at it (all at once this time), and then I read it. By this point most of the large changes and alterations have already been made, so I’m checking to make sure everything flows. I still make changes and occasionally second- (or third-) guess myself at this stage. Then it’s back to the computer with this set of changes.

When it rolls out of the printer, it’s the Final Draft. The manuscript is ready to go.

I felt guilty about this process for a long time, especially after hearing how some authors produce draft after draft after draft until they have a perfect manuscript. I quit feeling that way once I had a revelation: I can’t do that because to me, the manuscript will never be perfect. Every time I pick up one of my published novels – even if it’s the first time I’m looking into an author’s copy – I see mistakes or things on every page that I would change if I could. So I have to force myself to a point where I let it go. If I didn’t, I would revise the thing forever and never send it out (I also have problems with my blog entries, which, while they’re more spontaneous, are also quite sloppy by my standards – it’s a real temptation to go in and use that REVISIONIST HISTORY button that most blog hosts feature). There comes a time when I must, as Sir Winston says, kill the monster and fling him before the public.

So that’s the process. I don’t know if it works for anyone outside of me, but work for me it does. I remember being at a Science Fiction convention with the lovely and gracious Lois McMaster Bujold. We were talking about how we wrote, and when I described how I did it (in much less detail than these last two days), poor Lois looked at me, aghast. “I could never work that way,” she said. I got the impression that she was the type who worked on a sentence or paragraph until it was perfect and then moved on. But I could be wrong.

Everyone is different. The best way to find out how you write novels is to start writing them. Pretty soon you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then you can spout of ad infinitum about how you work in your blog.

After all, getting there is half the fun.

(Hope this answered your questions.)

*For example, in The Company Man, I knew but never revealed that Howard Kessler and Jack Lime were once partners, starting their career in Astradyne together. And Kessler sold Lime out to advance in the company. Cool detail, but it would have slowed things down to tell it; the book, after all, was about Andy Birch.

**Yes, I know I used the word “just” in that sentence. Pun intended.


The Process, Part I

I have received a request to describe in detail the process I use to write one of my novels. While that’s supposed to be the function of this blog, I now realize that, while I’ve discussed different aspects of it here and on other parts of this site, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and written a comprehensive-yet-concise account of “how I do it” from beginning to end.

So I’m going to take a crack at it here.

To start off, I’m not sure where the decision to start writing a specific novel comes from. I started Desperate Measures after reading some really bad SF and deciding that yes, even I could write something that bad and get it published. The only thought I had in my head (besides the $2000 advance, which seemed like a fortune to a college student in 1978) was that I could do better than what I’d just read and thrown across the room. Most of my other novels were things that I had been thinking about on and off for quite some time.

I’ve just started blogging about the idea process with Choices. When someone asks me where I get my ideas, the first thing I say is everywhere. The evening news, a chance comment by a colleague, a plot point in someone else’s work that I particularly admired, my own feelings on a myriad of subjects – wherever. Then I say that an idea is usually something that grows, as opposed to popping into your head. Notions are what pop into your head, and it takes a number of notions to equal an idea. As to what number of notions it takes to equal an idea, I cannot say. It seems different every time.

There are also two kinds of ideas. The first are the “Gosh! Wow!” kind that, when you read them on the book cover, make you pick up the book. In Hollywood, they call these “High Concept” ideas:

• A young, idealistic lawyer discovers his practice is a front for the mob.

• A starship crewed by dolphins makes a discovery that could change the way the universe looks at intelligent life.

• Humans genetically engineered for a specific task learn they have become obsolete.

• A headstrong woman will stop at nothing to save the family plantation.

• A real street gang is featured in a television commercial and become more popular than the Beatles.

These ideas, which usually come to authors in a literal flash (those who study creativity call these breakthroughs “white moments”), are not enough to support the novel alone. You need the other kind of ideas to form the structure of the plot. These are the more mundane ones that nobody thinks twice about. It helps to view the white moment idea as the skeleton – all the others are muscle, skin and viscera, the unglamorous stuff that provides locomotion and nourishment.

So the formula so far looks like this. Where a notion is the basic molecular unit of a novel, X notions = 1 idea, and X ideas = The Concept, where The Concept = what makes up a novel (what outsiders call “the idea”).

After pondering different concepts for a time, it becomes evident to me that there’s one ion particular begging for attention. This is a critical part of the creative process, knowing when the idea is ready. In 1994 I had the notion what if a woman from a tabloid magazine got the goods on a Presidential candidate and nobody believed her because she worked for a tabloid? My agent got fired up about it, and at his behest, I dropped everything to write Trust. I even had to send my agent ten copies of the finished manuscript so he could do that multiple submission thing that only agents seem to do successfully.

Only he wasn’t successful. To a person, all of the rejecting editors said that Trust lacked a certain je ne sais quois that kept them from wanting to publish it.

What was it missing? Nobody ever said. I now suspect it was because I wrote Trust before it was fully developed. Instead of X ideas in the structure, it only had W or V or even S ideas.

So a novel tells me it is ready to write. What do I do next?

I sit down and start writing. Not an outline. Not conceptual notes. I start writing with chapter one.

At this point in the project, I have three things, and perhaps a fourth:

1) I know what the book is going to be about.

2) I know what the opening scene is.

3) I know what the closing scene of the book will be.

4) I might have a title.

That’s right, folks. That 500 pages in the middle of the manuscript is this great, uncharted void.

I’ve heard that many writers call their first pass through a novel their exploratory or discovery draft. It’s where they try to get a handle on their characters and the situation they’re in, find the voice for the project, and see if things are generally headed in the direction they wanted to go in.

One of my gifts as a writer is that it doesn’t take me an entire draft to do this. I manage to do it within the 200 pages or so. I would say that all the time I spent pondering the idea meant it was already worked out by a collaboration between my conscious and subconscious, but it’s not entirely the case. I do a lot of experimenting, especially in the first chapter, and as a result, it’s the most rewritten chapter in the book. Not only does it get worked over during the editing process – I do a lot of editing on the fly, going back into what was already written to insert characters, details, clues, etc., that I will need later (thank you, word processing – I don’t know how I’d do it if I was still on a typewriter – yet, I did two-and-a-half novels that way).

(An interesting exception to this rule is the first chapter of Ferman’s Devils. When I sat down to write it, I knew I wanted the book to start with Boddekker meeting the street gang, but I realized there was a lot of information that I needed before I could write that chapter. Remember when I said that the 500 pages in the middle was a great void? So I sat down and started writing the book at the chronological beginning of the story, where Boddekker finds his dream house in Princeton. Four chapters later, the meeting with the Devils was next. Since I now had it all together in my head, I went back to the beginning of the manuscript, made some space, and wrote chapter five as chapter one. In essence, what I had written before became a four chapter flashback.)

As I move from the first chapter into unknown territory, the creative gears kick in and start filling in the considerable blanks. For a while I keep the notes in my head, but at some point I break down and start writing down what’s supposed to happen next. To start with, I type everything in as random notes, but after a while, I put them into some kind of chronological order, then break it into chapters. This is the closest I come to outlining. I’ll deliberately scrimp a little on the details of this part of the story because I’ve already taken a detailed look at the stages my novel go through.

The one thing I should mention is that while I’m writing the novel at one end, another part of me is working out the rest of the book. There are peaks and ebbs in the ongoing outline process, but it’s something I continue to do right up until the day I write the climax and denouement of the novel. Thus, I actually spend almost as much time outlining the book as I do writing it – but instead of doing one and then the other, they run in parallel. You can see by skimming previous blog entries that there are some days when I spend more time on the outline than I do on the page count of the novel itself. I think if you were to ask my wife, she would tell you that I seem especially distracted during the writing of a novel. It’s because I’m mentally working out both the next day’s writing plus where the rest will end up going.

Finally, there comes a day when I write the words “The End” (actually, I prefer “-30-“), meaning that the rough draft is at last completed. It also means that the editing process is soon to begin…

…and I will discuss this tomorrow.

Saving Trust

For some odd reason, my daughter recently brought home a book from the library called I Watched a Wild Hog Eat My Baby. It’s a history of the tabloids by Bill Sloan, who spent a good deal of his career writing for them. I’m not a tab reader, but I’ve long been fascinated by them for reasons I can’t quite explain, so I started to read it.

It’s a fascinating book, much better than Grossed Out Surgeon Vomits Inside Patient, which as I recall was more an insider’s look at the mentality of the reporters.

What is really interesting about this book, however, is that it gave me an idea that possibly could salvage my dead manuscript Trust. The basic conceit of that project was that a woman who was a tabloid reporter stumbled onto a huge, earth-shattering story – but nobody believed her because of the reputation of the magazine she writes for.

The notion I have now would deal more with how the lines between truth and fiction get blurred in the venue of the tabloids. This might also give me a chance to play with something that I might have mentioned in the original draft in passing, but regret not doing more with – the idea of a reporter becoming obsessed with a story. Or, as one editor put it, “Do you have the story or does the story have you?”

(Incidentally, this is a real quote that I appropriated from someone – many moons ago I was watching a documentary about a reporter who was covering a snake handling church – and in the process, became hooked on the act of handling snakes. The line was spoken to him by an editor who, in his wisdom, was afraid that the reporter’s obsession was going out of control.)

I’ll have to think about that notion for a while, and let it simmer. I still don’t know if Trust is worth repairing, but with this in mind, it might be. With everything that’s already on my plate, I have a lot of time to think about it.

A brief report now from my July 4th weekend. I finally got to see Matrix Reloaded and was unimpressed. It joins the ranks of films like Good Will Hunting that I feel would benefit immensely from the removal of at least twenty minutes worth of footage (although in MR, this figure creeps over the 30 minute mark because of boring expository dialogue, gratuitous and useless fights, plus a hint of idiot plot).

It also reminded me of a syndrome rampant in Hollywood: a talented director comes along and impresses the suits with his work so much that they give him all the money he wants to make the film he always wanted to make – with disastrous results. Don’t believe me? Check out this shameful legacy:

Stephen Speilberg
Impressed people with: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Movie made with all that money: 1941

James Cameron
Impressed people with: Terminator, Aliens
Movie made with all that money: The Abyss

Francis Ford Coppola
Impressed people with: The Godfather I and II, Apocalypse Now
Movie made with all that money: One From the Heart

Michael Cimino
Impressed people with: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Deer Hunter
Movie made with all that money: Heaven’s Gate

You get the idea.

Also saw The Truth About Charlie with Mark Wahlberg, a remake of the excellent Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn vehicle, Charade. What a mess. None of the character, excitement or suspense of the original. It brought to mind Roger Ebert’s argument against ever remaking a movie (I’m paraphrasing here): If the movie was good, it shouldn’t be remade because it couldn’t be improved on. If the movie was bad, it shouldn’t be remade because there was a reason it was bad to begin with.

Now I need to see a good movie to wash these two out of my head. The original Charade, perhaps? I’ve heard that The Italian Job is a good one… although it is another remake… with Mark Wahlberg…

NP – Phishcast (Internet Radio)

Creative Procrastination

Let’s talk about creative procrastination. The fine art of putting something off while it simmers in your brain.

This is an essay I’ve been putting off writing for some time. Seriously. I wasn’t sure I’d studied it enough, but maybe it’s time to start working on it, before it reaches full ripeness. Besides, I received a request from Cynthia over at A Writer’s Diary to explore this notion in more detail.

A few days ago in her blog, Cindy made the following comment:

Jenny [author Jennifer Cruise] also talks about being productive. She says not every writer is a “put your butt in the chair and write” kind of person. She says she’s tried to do that and it doesn’t work. What works for her is waiting for her story to come together in her head. While waiting for the story, she stares out windows, apologizes to her editor, etc.

This also comforted me, because I do that, too. Well, I don’t have an editor to apologize to, and the view from my windows sort of sucks, so I just work on something else. Yesterday I sent a query to RWR and another one to Health magazine. And then I went to lunch with my sons.

Anyone who has spent any time here in the Foundry knows that I am a “park your butt in the chair and do it” kind of guy. I often tell writing students that the most important muscle in the writer’s body is the gluteus maximus, which belongs in a chair in front of a keyboard. This has less to do with “just doing it” than it does motivating yourself to sit down and do the work. In either way described, Jenny’s daydreaming or my slogging through, the motivation is there to put words on a page.

In any event, I was amused by Cindy’s entry, and I made this comment:

…technically you *are* a “park your butt in the chair and do it” sort of person. You’re just working on something else.

Actually, I think we all do our share of staring out the window or at a fish tank. I’ve long wanted to do a piece on creative procrastination because, in theory, the longer you let a book sit and ponder it, the better it gets. So do you wait forever or decide you’ve had enough and write? It’s a good question. Every one of my books would have been better if I’d waited. But if I’d waited I wouldn’t have written them and wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

Enough. I’m scaring myself.

Apparently this scared Cindy, too, because in today’s entry she asked for clarification:

I’m intrigued by something Joe said in his comment the other day. That his books would have all been better had he waited to start writing them. Joe, when you have time, could you explain why? How? In what ways?

(I know, she was intrigued, not scared. Forgive me for attempting a witty segue.)

Here is my explanatory:

For some time I’ve been aware of the way that ideas continue to grow for a writing project that has been delayed. This is only reasonable, I suppose. If the project-in-progress is important to a writer, their subconscious is going to keep bringing it up as a festering reminder for the writer to park their g.m. in a chair and keep working on it.

Some of these ideas are deliberate and would have come anyway during the writing sessions. But other times, things happen in the outside world that translate into material for the project you’re working on. And it turns into material you never would have had if you hadn’t been delayed – or procrastinating. I remember things happening and thinking that I could use them in the book I was working on – and was behind schedule on. I recall how stunned I was when I realized that if I had been on schedule, this marvelous notion that I’d just been gifted would never have been in the book. Or if the book had been finished, I never would have thought to incorporate one into the other.

The first time that happened, it was an eerie feeling: if I hadn’t been delayed in working on this project, I never would have had this bit to use.

Maybe this is serendipitous, maybe it is the subconscious making lemonade out of lemons, or maybe it’s a gift from God. Indeed, maybe some things need to percolate a little bit more, need a little more time to develop than perhaps we’re willing to give them.

Several years ago, when Bill Clinton was in his first term, I came up with a dandy notion for a political thriller; a tabloid reporter gets the goods on a presidential candidate that would stop his campaign in its tracks… but nobody believes her because she works for a tabloid magazine. I thought it would be great to have the book out in time for the 1996 campaign cycle. My agent liked the idea and agreed about the timing, so I dropped everything to write Trust.

I did it fast. The first draft was done in five months, the fastest I had ever cranked out a 100,000 word manuscript. And I was working full time then, too (that may have been when my wife coined the phrase ‘novel widow’). Editing took another couple of months, then one more round with my agent’s comments. Then I put together 10 copies of the manuscript, and it was off to be shopped around.

You will note that my bibliography does not include a novel called Trust. It wasn’t for lack of trying on my agent’s part. The interesting thing was, as the rejections began to pile up, they all had a familiar ring to them. “This is an exciting novel with a fascinating premise, but it lacks something that I just can’t seem to put my finger on.”

What was the je ne sais quois that Trust lacked? I know not what. But I have a theory.

I think it didn’t have enough time to percolate. I think now that perhaps I wrote it a little too fast, and that as a result of my race to get it out in time for Campaign ’96, it lacked all of those little bits and pieces that come from pondering… those little bits and pieces that make up a good novel by Joe Clifford Faust.

(Interestingly enough, I would later crank out the Boddekker’s Demons half of Pembroke Hall in five months also, as a full time – read ‘laid off from my day job’ – writer. The difference between the two books, one published and the other un-, I think is the fact that BD had been pondered for a couple of years by the time I wrote it. Plenty of percolation time to get all the ducks in a row.)

Will Trust ever become a viable project again? I doubt it. I could fix the results of the hurried write, but the plot line is damaged goods now; after a presidency that involved a semen-stained dress, a bombed aspirin factory, and carte blanche for a sworn enemy to go nuclear, the problems of the suspicious candidate in Trust seem rather tame. Although in the best spirit of Good Authors Never Throw Anything Away, the plucky heroine will appear in another project.

Back to the point now, with a disclaimer. I realize that everyone out there has their own way of writing, and part of the process, especially among first novelists, is discovering how you work. So what I say here works for Joe Clifford Faust, but may not for you.

However, I think there is some truth to the fact that ideas need some time to properly develop and become fleshed out. Some people might do this by taking the book through interminable numbers of revisions and drafts. Others by staring out a window or looking at the fish tank… or (perhaps subconsciously) letting Real Life get in the way of that 7-pages-a-day-five-days-a-week writing schedule. I suppose that all writing time – even when you’re not wiggling your fingers on the keyboard – is golden, because unbeknownst to you, you have some gray cells inside of your head that really are working out the book for you.

In retrospect, I think it’s interesting that all the novels I have published up to this point with the exception of Desperate Measures (actually the first novel I wrote; it just took a while to get whipped into publishable shape… more time to percolate, perhaps?), have been “old” ideas. In several cases, I had actually gone so far as to write a first chapter or some material that turned into an embryonic scene, and shelved it… then came back to it when I could hear the pages calling my name.

On the other side of the coin, some things can percolate for too long. After enough time, a project percolates into sludge. The subconscious takes it off the stove, puts it in a Tupperware, and sticks it in the freezer under the perch your uncle brought back from Lake Erie three years ago.

I found out early in my writing career – I think I may have been in high school or college – that I tended to lose interest in writing something once I had completed the instructor-required outline. One of the reasons for writing is so I can find out how things are going to turn out. But if I find that out early on (as in the case when outlining first), I lose interest in the piece. The mystery is gone. So I don’t outline, not until I’m deep into a book (usually past the 200 manuscript page mark), and then only because things have percolated so much that I need to be writing it all down so I don’t forget.

That’s me, but I think the principle holds true for other writers. I know of more than one writer or would-be who has researched or outlined a book project to death. Notebooks were filled with characters and events and back-story. What was there was sometimes brilliant… but there was no interest left for the person to write the book. Perhaps the thrill was gone.

So how do you tell when it’s time to get off the pot and write?

Good question. Would my published novels have been better if I had thought about them a little bit more? Sure. Was there something that might have happened to me that would have made a wonderful moment in the book if I had just waited a little longer? Undoubtedly. I know this for a fact because when I open any of my books, I see things on every page that I would change if I could. This happens even when I hold my newly-published book for the first time.

There’s a nice paradox there. See, writing is one of those things you get better at the more that you do it. One reason I can’t look at my own books when they’re in print is because I continued to write during the submission and publication process, so I’m a better writer by a year or more.

So what you’re faced with is a) not writing the book until you’re convinced that the idea is at its peak for maximum effect, versus b) going ahead to complete the book, and improving your skills by the very act of writing.

Wait for the idea or work for the talent to convey the idea? It’s a tightrope I think we all walk, even though many of us might not be aware of it.

How to walk it successfully?

I don’t know. At least, I don’t know what to tell you. I have some kind of internal mechanism that tells me what book to write next; it usually speaks to me when I’m in the home stretch of the current project (which means I’m expecting to hear it again any time now). It’s a good thing that it speaks, too, because if it didn’t my notions would get procrastinated right into that freezer.

You have to develop a sense of when the idea is ready to write. Not ripe enough, and you lose that je ne sais quois that editors look for. If it’s too ripe, a lackluster writing experience is in the offing. In each idea there must be a point of optimal ripeness, when you pluck it from the tree to begin work; the idea finishes ripening as you work on it, and reaches its peak as you hit yours. Hit that balance, and you have created something rare and unique.

How to find that for yourself? Hey, that’s what we’re all looking for. That’s why we do it.

NP – Michael Hoenig – Departure from the Northern Wasteland

Burning with Optimism’s Flame

These “morning after” entries could get to be a habit.

I realized last night while brushing my teeth that if I keep going at this rate, I could have the first draft of And/News finished before Christmas. If I’m writing seven pages a day, five days a week, that’s 35 pages a week. The chapters are running about 30 pages each, so that’s a chapter a week.

I figure the book will run 18 chapters (no, I don’t have this documented yet; that’s what My Writer’s Instinct tells me).

That would make my last day on the rough draft Friday, December 13th.

No, actually, my last day of writing would probably be Saturday, December 7th.

See, what usually happens with my books, is that by the time I get to the climactic last chapter(s) of a book, the finale is all written in my head. All I have to do is get it onto the screen. So what follows is this writing marathon when I forsake all else and spend hours… hours… at the Mac. My wife now knows to expect these, and I warn her when they are coming. She knows to stay well away from me on Last Chapter Day.

My record for LCD is 80 pages, when I wrote the climax and denoument of a failed thriller called Trust. Too bad it’ll never be seen. That was a lot of work.

Well, we’ll see how close I actually come to making this. Best laid plans have a way of going awry. I say that from experience, too.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should brush my teeth before making my nightly writing report.

NP – WHLO-AM, The Bill Hall Show