“CKR” Diary Post No. 3
September 1, 2006
I picked up a copy of Lewis Black's book, NOTHING'S SACRED, last night and the giggles started with the first sentence. If you're a writer and you happen to be at a bookstore, pick up the paperback and skim the "Introduction to the Introduction"--here's part of it:
"...for those of you out there who are thinking of writing a book...don't./You'd be better off chopping off your hands and learning a new skill./...you try to think about other things, but all you see in front of you are empty pages as far as the eye can see. It's like every day is Sunday, and it's seven o'clock, and you have just finished dinner, and your mother is screaming from the other room: 'HAVE YOU DONE YOUR HOMEWORK?! NO?!? THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!'/Writing a book is like having homework all the time. And no one needs that, especially at my age."
I can SO relate.
Last night, I fed Chapter 7 to the wolves (aka The Bloody Pens) and, believe it or not, they didn't "eat" it. It's a critical chapter, because it's the first time in 13 years that Ted (the main character) considers cheating on his wife. A lot of things go through a person's mind at that particular juncture, so I want to get it right. (Looking for a challenge as a writer? Try making a guy who's thinking of cheating on his wife LIKEABLE. Good luck.)
The Pens pointed out a few things that were missing, like more internal dialogue, but, overall, they seemed to be okay with the chapter. I figure that could mean one of two things: they either really liked it (which is good), or they've decided as a group not to bust my balls so much (which is potentially bad). My opinion is that it's a combination of the two and I can live with that...for now.
I may have said it before, but one of the biggest advantages to having a writers' group at your disposal is that they remind you (regularly) what THE POINT is. It's great fun writing playful scenes set in obscure places, but every scene has to further the plot and support the theme. An "average bear" reader might not notice if the writer's fallen short, but a group of other writers pick up on that stuff and pounce like starving cheetahs. Doesn't sound pleasant, does it? But, if you want your material to be GOOD, you need to bleed a little.
So, next week I'm going back to the re-write, starting with Chap 10, with a pretty good feeling that I'm on the right track with this story. Hopefully, I can get the Pens to review Chaps 8 and 9 next Thursday, so I'm not too far ahead of them. (Remember, the first draft of the book is 100% finished, but the re-write is where the Pens weigh-in the most.)
Everyone, please cross your fingers that we don't have another hurricane (or tropical storm or depression or tornado warning) so I can get some work done next week.
“CKR” Diary Post No. 4
September 5, 2006
The following Chapter Clip excerpt is taken from the last page of Chapter 10. The scene takes place in an Orlando hotel room and I was editing this particular section, trying to finish the chapter, when my twelve-year-old daughter came home from school today. Think about that as you're reading and we'll chat...
But what was he thinking? What about Kate? His wife. And Dillon? Wasn't Ted's number one priority this weekend coming up with a Forgive Me speech to rock the ages? How the hell was he thinking of new pussy--or any pussy for that matter--while he was supposed to be working on getting his family back?/But, then again, there was no rule that said he had to bang her./"I gotta be fuckin' nuts," Ted said, standing at the door, "but I'm in."
It's a good thing I had enough presence of mind to minimize the screen before my daughter walked in, greeted me, and glanced over my shoulder at the computer screen (which had been replaced with my MySpace home page). I thought maybe that example would give you an idea of what it's like to have your head in one place while your body and attention should be in another. So goes the existence of a writer.
But I'm not bitching because I got a lot of work done today. I polished off two letters I'm sending to prospective "blurb" writers--people I'm hoping will write a short endorsement for the back cover of IMMORTAL BONDS. I ran a couple new book title ideas for CKR by the Pens, but they're in unanimous agreement that I should keep the title...at least, for now. I did a "shallow" review of Chapters 1-9, to add a few things that have been rolling around in my head, plus I wanted to be sure everything was flowing well. Then I read through Chapter 10 and changed a few things, but not near as much as I thought I'd have to change.
All that means I have only 18 chapters to go in the re-write. I may or may not get to Chapter 11 tomorrow, because I've got a doctor "thing" in the morning, but I'll do what I can. And, if I get ANYTHING worth mentioning done, I'll be sure to pass on the good news.
“CKR” Diary Post No. 5
September 10, 2006
With the exception of Peter--who arrived late, talked on the phone, and left early--only three of us attended the Pens meeting last Thursday. But Prudy brought a couple chapters of A Grave Injustice, one of the novels she’s working on, so, along with my chapter, we had enough material to fill the time. And she and Tina had nothing but positive things to say about Chapter 8 (the last scene at Pleasure Island and Ted’s first taste of forbidden fruit), offering only minor suggestions for improvement. When feedback is good, the shot of whiskey after the meeting tastes much sweeter. (When feedback is bad, it helps dull the pain.)
The drive to finish this book is still undeniable, but I’m sleeping much better these days and the focus of the nagging little voice in my head has shifted from getting the story down to getting it right. So it’s time to ask the important questions: What’s my protagonist’s biggest conflict? How does he plan to overcome it? Does he succeed? Are there people or circumstances that help him? What issues put him there in the first place?
Unlike David Milch (creator of Hill Street Blues and HBO’s Deadwood), who writes with a “transcriptionist” and an audience, writers generally work in a vacuum. I see everything clearly in my mind—every setting, every emotion—but the reader needs to see it, too, and the disconnect between my vision and theirs isn’t always obvious. So, conversing with someone about characters and the hurdles they overcome brings a different perspective to the table. An outsider’s perspective. (Yet another reason I’m thankful for The Bloody Pens.) I’ll give you an example:
My main character is on the brink of losing everything--his wife, his son, his home, his job, his friends, and possibly his interest in the music he enjoys most--and he knows it. As a result, his thought processes aren’t rational and his decisions hurt more than help. Although I knew that instinctively, it took Prudy and Tina’s questions to make me realize Ted’s dilemma wasn’t coming through in his thoughts and dialogue. I knew how he felt, but the readers missed it, because I hadn’t “connected the dots.”
Armed with this new information, I’m looking forward to diving into edits again next week. My goal is to get through Chapters 11 through 15, which include the book’s only sex scenes and the Daytona 500. Let’s see how I do…
“CKR” Diary Post No. 6
September 21, 2006
Finished the edits/re-write for Chapter 12 this afternoon, making the chapter a bit longer, despite removing a sizeable chunk of the porn. (Have no fear, there's still enough to scare God-fearing Christians.) I like the length, though, and Ted's inner dialogue is fascinating. Men are amazing creatures.
He ordered room service and pulled a chair up to the table, where he first reviewed the letter he'd started at the radio station, then ripped it from the tablet, crumpled it into a ball, and dropped it to the floor. His words needed to be persuasive, not desperate.
Someday, somebody is going to ask the question, "Are you supporting unprotected, extramarital sex by including this scene?" If they do, my answer will be: If it helps lower the 50% divorce rate, I'd have to say yes.
Tomorrow, I'd like to take Chapter 10 to the Pens, but, as always, I'll need to review it first to delete obvious errors and make sure it's not a waste of their time. The fact that I've re-written it twice already makes no difference. In a group like ours, where we regularly discuss structure and craft, there's no excuse for bringing in material with, among other things, POV violations or chapters that don't further the plot or support the theme. And since my weaknesses (in case you didn't know) are description, thought/inner dialogue, and action, I pay special attention to those areas before I consider a draft "finished" and ready for the Pens.
In other news, I'm getting ready to tell "The Man" about the book. Calm down. CALM DOWN! We all knew it would come to this one day, so you should have prepared yourselves better. I did. And I'm c-c-calm as a cu-cu-cucumber. It won't happen this week or next, but it'll be soon. Keep in touch to hear the latest.
“CKR” Diary Post No. 7, or “How Kid Rock Killed The Bloody Pens”
September 27, 2006
Last week, while chillin’ with Scott on the patio and discussing the complex, multi-dimensional character of Dr. Gregory House, I started thinking about how Prudy has been urging me to crank-up the “likeability” level of CKR’s main character, Ted Seever. I’ve been through the first ten chapters three times in an effort to address the problem, but week after week I fall short. “I’m not seeing his struggle,” Prudy says. Tina agrees, saying that—even after nine chapters—she’s unable to relate to the character and admits she doesn’t like him either.
Well fuck me runnin’…
So, I took a good look at House and asked myself the question, “What makes an arrogant prick like Dr. House likeable?” The writers obviously pulled it off, because Scott and I love him. He’s flawed and miserable and treats everyone like shit, including his best friend, yet there’s something about him that makes me want to be like him. Makes me want to say and do the things he says and does. If Gregory House can be likeable, then I should think Ted Seever could be, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it since last Friday when my writer’s group, The Bloody Pens, took a nose-dive into the critique of no return. Which reminds me of a House episode, dealing with the five stages of death…
...[inserted 2/13/11] The remainder of this extraordinarily long and bitter post has been omitted to protect the guilty; to the best of my knowledge, the innocent don't give a shit. Suffice it to say that, amid the turbulence of critiquing CKR, the Pens dissolved and re-birthed later without me. The whole thing was juvenile. I'll get them back, though...which is not juvenile at all...
(to be continued...)