Another Blast from the Past essay
Sometimes, vampires truly do suck…and not in the good way.
I mean, take writing them. You go along, line by line, chapter by chapter and then, all of a sudden, the sucker (pun intended) won’t do what you wanted them to do. That goes for all types of characters as well.
Now, I do realize that characters don’t really have a life of their own and that it’s mainly my subconscious trying to make me realize that I’m about to go down the wrong writing road (because if I really thought that Keira Kelly or Adam Walker or Tucker or any of my characters were whispering in my ear, that’s when they’d come to take me to the asylum to be a roomie for Renfield, and I’m so not going there).
What I’m really talking about is the little voice inside that nudges you when the book you’re working on is branching off into boring land, or maybe just repetition road. I know. I’ve just been there, done that.
About seven eighths of the way to a finished draft of Blood Bargain, I decided to make a huge concerted effort to finishing the the draft in a week. Not so bad, a couple of thousand words a night, every night for six nights. I could do this. Part of my angst involved my day job, a fairly demanding position which was about to become even more demanding after losing two of my peers due to life moves. I knew that in order to make sure Blood Bargain had even a remote chance of getting done and getting turned in, I’d have to knuckle down and write more than usual.
I went along, first night, about 1500 words, second night, 3000, third night, 1700. As I wrote, I polished, trimmed, sorted and re-sorted actions and sections to make more sense in the narrative flow. I cut out part of the prologue, move most of the rest of it to within the body of the book, making it more dynamic. (Thank goodness for Scrivener, which lets you do this with relative ease. I fought a long hard battle with Microsoft Word in the past, and it lost, but that’s a tale for another day). I expanded one scene, trimmed another, made sure that my timeline made sense. I was doing great. I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment, basking in the euphoria that happens when you’re in the writing zone and you know it.
The euphoria lasted three nights.
On night four, I got home loaded for bear and ready to attack. I just knew that I could do at least 2000 words, maybe even more. I sat down, opened up Scrivener and reviewed the last couple of chapters I’d written. In less than fifteen minutes, I realized that there was a totally extraneous chapter where nothing happened. I don’t know why it took so long to realize. This was a chapter that had been written eons ago, long before I’d actually gotten to this point in the overall narrative. It was one of those scenes that I’d conjured up so very clearly. In fact, I could visualize just about everything, including the lighting, the sounds, the smells. Oh yeah, baby, this was golden!
Only thing is, I also knew that I’d had trouble with this chapter for a long time, but kept thinking it was the lead in from the previous chapter that was the problem. A couple of my beta readers had even remarked on the abruptness of introducing this scene. I could fix that, no problem. Just make sure to write a scene before it that gets my characters here.
Except..not so much.
Turns out, it was a problem because simply, the scene existed. It wasn’t the writing. The words were good. The dialogue was good. It’s just that absolutely nothing happened. Without giving away the plot (a crucial part at this point), my protagonist, Keira, finds something out about Adam, who is her lover and the chief of the local vampire tribe. In the original version, Keira’s at her house, with her brother, telling him why she’s not at Adam’s, when they get a call and rush over to Adam’s ranch to find out that [insert spoiler here that I won’t give away]. It was about 2500 words of Keira saying & thinking: “I’m at my house, being all angsty and oh, is that the phone?”
What’s wrong with this picture? There was absolutely no reason for the entire scene at Keira’s house. None. Nada. Rien.
After going through the five stages of writing grief:
- Denial (No, I can’t cut it. It’s a good chapter)
- Anger (Damn it! I just wasted all that time!)
- Bargaining (Well, maybe if I just tweak it a little…)
- Depression (Sigh. That means I’m 2500 words further away from “the end”)
- Acceptance (Cut, paste into a separate file for posterity, rework the discovery of [insert spoiler here] where Keira is at Adam’s house),
I realized that the lessons I’ve learned from hanging out with writers over the years are very, very true and that ignoring them will just lead to bad writing.
(1) Writing is not for sissies.
(2) Show, not tell.
(3) Sometimes, you have to kill the puppies.*
(4) When in doubt, cut it out.
Oh yeah, and vampires really do suck…but mostly in very good ways.
* Killing the puppies = deleting a well-written scene because it doesn’t advance the plot.