Thursday, March 3, 2011

CKR: October 2008

(continued from April - September 2008...)

“CKR” Diary Post No. 33
Friday, October 17, 2008
Before I call the manuscript a FINAL draft, I want to be sure every word / paragraph / page / scene / chapter is coherently structured and consistently presented. Chapters 1 through 4 went a little slow. Chapter 5 was a bitch, but Chapter 6 didn't put up as big a fight. Then Chapters 7, 8, and 9 were a breeze. As far as I'm concerned, the first hundred pages are as final as they're going to get. So, I stopped by to clue you in…and to celebrate; one-third of this book is done!

Since I figured you'd want a sample, here are a couple passages:

For as long as I'd known him, James Weatherton Richards had sat back and taken everything life presented him with a grain of salt and a calm acceptance. It didn't hurt that he was the most intelligent and most fortunate son of a bitch I'd ever met. He'd never planned anything because he didn't have to. Shit fell into the guy's lap and he turned it into the best thing that ever happened every time. For him to have an actual plan to do anything was curious. Learning it involved three women—not one, not two—made it alarming.

She was so easy to talk to. I'm positive I would have arrived at that same conclusion had I not been intoxicated, though I have no way to prove it. Early on in our Mask Room banter, I went as far as to think she might even be able to help me straighten out my relationship with Kate. But Fannie the French Maid interrupted us to take our drink orders and the few seconds I had to reconsider made me think twice and hold my tongue. How might it have looked to her if I'd spilled my woes and begged for assistance to get my wife back?

I've made a lot of changes in two and a half years. Thankfully, most were incorporated as I went along. The closer I get to the end, the more polished the chapters are and the easier/faster they are to edit. I won't make a prediction as to a completion date, because that's as good as jinxing myself (flip back a few entries and you'll see what I mean). But, if I could keep this productivity rate up, I'd be finished by the end of next week.

Don't get excited yet, though. It still has to be shopped around to publishers, and the film treatment and screenplay need to be written. We're far from the end of this ride. For now, keep an eye on my "status" bar for daily progress, and expect to hear very little from me until I get through another hundred pages or so. I'll be ready for a break by then.

As always – thanks for following along with me.  :)

“CKR” Diary Post No. 34
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Millions of people are out there, right now, thinking, "I'd really like to write a book."  Maybe they've been through some terrible crisis they'd like to bring to light. Or maybe they hope to give fiction a shot, or create a children's book.

Regardless of genre or length, writing a book is a dream that many of us share. Unfortunately, the commitment required to see it through is something that separates those who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and those who are aren't. It's why the majority of the people who share the dream never achieve the reality.

But, just how hard IS it to write a book? How much time does it take? Where do you start? And how do you know when you're finished? The answer to those questions, of course (as well as to many others), is it depends. If your message is a timely one, you'll want to finish before its relevancy fades. If your plate is already full, don't expect a completed project in only a few short weeks, or even months.

Take this book, for example. I got the idea and started batting around storylines in late February of 2006. Working on it full-time—and often on evenings and weekends—I hammered out the first draft in three months. I took chapters to my writers' group, got feedback, and made changes. Chapter 1 became Chapter 4. Short scenes were lengthened. Long ones were divided or cut. Over time, the opposition within my writers' group caused us to disband. I got sick, started devoting more time to the blog, and put the book on hold.

That winter, a writer friend whose opinion I hold in high regard suggested I re-write the entire manuscript and change the third-person perspective to first. It was quite an undertaking, and one I didn't dive into until after I'd read a couple first-person POV novels (i.e., High Fidelity and Empire Falls) to get me into the groove. Without the group of writer friends I'd been relying on for 4 years to keep me on track, I started the re-write. Then my first novel was released. In order to make time for promotion, I had to put CKR on hold again.

Amid book signings, promotional trips, sickness, and a laundry list of other things that kept getting in the way, the re-write took over a year. The final push to finish that second draft earlier this year (2008) came after I started seeing a nutritionist who finally got my health in check. Then summer came, and the kid was home. It had taken me so long to get to the point I was at with the manuscript, there were a million changes I knew I'd have to make before it was done. But getting to it was a challenge. Finally, once school resumed—and after our favorite soldier made a short, two-week visit from Iraq—I gathered all my notes, jumped into Chapter 1, and began the final run-through and polish of my novel.

That was a couple weeks ago. Today, I'll be battling with the last paragraph of Chapter 18 and (hopefully) combining what's left of Chapters 19 and 20. Of course, it's spirit week at the high school, so how much I accomplish will depend on how easily I'm able to find face paint, "t-shirt paint," and hair color for my daughter. I also have to retrieve her Homecoming dress from the cleaners and, sometime between now and Friday, I need to call AT&T and arrange to pick up a replacement phone for the one she broke, so she'll be able to send texts from school all day Saturday while she's preparing for the dance. God forbid she's out of communication for any extended length of time.

Oh, and did I mention Scott's out of town 'til Friday? One would think I'd get more done while he's gone, but we keep in touch with frequent emails and text messages and periodic phone calls. Unless I stay up past ten o'clock, I don't work any more while he's away than when he's here.

But, what I HAVE worked on is coming together pretty well, and I wouldn't dream of writing a post without sharing some of what's in store:

Before ten, I shaved, showered, and dressed, so I was ready when the phone rang and Alex said it was time to meet at the truck. I was apprehensive at first, arriving with a lit cigarette in hand and an expression that even I knew was radiating the news that I'd recently gotten away with something shameful.

"We come to Daytona because we've always come to Daytona. It's what we do. Me, Alex, and Jimmy. It's our thing." Feeling a little light-headed, I started to notice how much more rapidly the hard liquor had chiseled away my inhibitions than the beer had. I also wondered if I shouldn't stop trying to speak.

Since Chapters 21 through 28 were crafted fairly recently, I don't foresee any more major structural changes after today. I could be wrong, but wishful thinking has kept me plugging away so far. I also don't expect to write another Diary entry until I've typed the two words every author works so hard to get to: The End. There have been moments throughout this process when I've wondered if I'd ever finish, but it's so close now I can taste it, so I'm going to keep at it 'til it's done.

How 'bout we meet back here when I get there?  :)

(to be continued...)

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