Tag Archives: novel

Keep On Keepin’ On…

I’ve passed 70,000 words of my current pass at Slipwater, and I’m now at the point where most of what remains is going to have to be completely rewritten. Actually, I should be honest: it’s all going to have to be rewritten. Why? Because…

The-first-draft

Although I have messed around with the first two thirds of the story many times over the years – and I’m very happy with where it is now – the final stretch was only ever done once. In 1997. Well, I didn’t know anything in 1997. Hell, I was still a virgin in 1997. But more appropriately, some of the stuff I wrote was terrible in 1997. Okay, yes, some of the stuff I write in 2017 isn’t much better, but baby steps.

However, there are a couple of encouraging lights in the darkness. Firstly, I have an outline and a very good idea of where the story heads from this point onwards. And secondly, the novel is probably going to top out at just shy of 90,000 words, so there isn’t too much further to go.

Oh, and thirdly, this time I’m not stopping until:

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Tickling a Writer’s G Spot…

creative-orgasm

There is no greater high as a writer than getting that sentence or paragraph… just right. You know what I mean – it’s that collection of words that you have spent far longer than you would care to admit, dissecting, rearranging, clipping, deleting and then reinstating, only to find that when all is said and done it doesn’t look all that different on your laptop from when you started messing around with it in the first place. But somehow, now, it just works.

Or maybe you don’t know what I mean. and that’s all right. I will accept – it’s a strange place to procure joy. I had one such literary climax yesterday, at the beginning of Chapter 23 of my novel in progress.

Carl had indeed given the blueberry waitress one of his Andrew Jackson twenties, and her initial scepticism as to its authenticity was alleviated when he quickly complimented her on the way she wore her hair in order to distract her. He coupled this with the kind of smile he had usually reserved for Beth – or before her – girls he had been interested in. The waitress had already taken another twenty from the till in order to satiate her uncertainty about the origin of Carl’s note, but instead of drawing comparisons as she had intended, she simply blushed, and thanked him for his kind words. When he told her she could keep the change she thanked him for that too and dropped both notes into the tray without any further ado.

This seemingly insignificant 130 word snippet appears in the narrative after 63,000 other words have gone before it. Most of those other words are (hopefully) very good, but it was as I was fiddling around with this particular chunk of text that I really felt things click into place. Why? I’m not entirely sure. But it’s a great feeling to have.

Completely out of context, this paragraph means absolutely nothing to anybody but me, and that’s fine, because the point is something intangible – something I could spend 63,000 more words trying to qualify and still not get anywhere near the head of the nail.

All right, fine, I will admit that likening it to a sexual experience is a little hyperbole on my part, because finding that perfect paragraph is just not comparable to sex in any way whatsoever: it’s much better than that.

Or maybe I’m just not doing it right.

Friday Fiction Fixes #21…

Mister X by John Lutz – 2010

imagesI could probably be rightfully accused of having a predilection for those authors whose books I am already familiar with, so it’s infrequent that I read a novel by someone that not only have I never read before, but someone that I have not even heard of before. Mister X is one of those novels, by one of those authors. As it turns out, Lutz is a pretty popular writer as well – who knew?

Mister X is a crime thriller about the hunt for a serial killer who enjoys carving up his victims in all manner of wonderful ways. His trail has gone cold and interest in his capture only begins again when a strange woman with a curious connection to one of the victims shows up out of the blue in the office of the case’s lead detective.

It’s a fairly standard entry into an extremely crowded genre, and while it does nothing in a particularly outstanding manner, everything it does do, it does… competently. The characterisation is satisfactory; and the plot is (for the most part) fairly interesting. Yeah, Mister X is a competent novel in every respect – just don’t expect it to make a lasting impression on you.

Everything Started, Ends…

Twenty years ago I completed a draft of Slipwater – the only novel I have ever written. Let that sink in for a moment. Twenty. Years. Ago. My novel is legally old enough to buy a drink!

swore-i-would-write-my-novel-katie-murphy-author

In 1997 Slipwater was an extremely complicated idea in my head, which is at least part of the reason that the first draft – which clocks in at 88,000 words – probably runs out of steam towards the end. Or at least, I did. I just wanted to get it finished. At twenty-one years old I didn’t have the necessary life experience to tackle a lot of the themes I was getting into, so it was rushed.

In the decades since then I have told myself I am going to get back to it one day, and I’ve meant it every time. Over the years I have gone back to it… off and on. I even got so far as to redraft about 70% of the novel, but for some reason or other, I have always let it slip.

Between the years of 2005 and 2011 I sent it off to several publishers. Some wanted the first few chapters; others the first ten pages. One of these places did actually then request to see the whole manuscript, which put me in a bit of a pickle because it was at a time when I didn’t have a complete draft from start to finish. C’est la vie.

Anyway, the point is – I’m getting back on the horse again.

What’s Slipwater about? Oh, a lot of things. It’s a police thriller about the bond of marriage, and of friendship, and how a personal tragedy affects both of those things. It’s about a serial killer and second chances.It’s about the drive-through town of Slipwater and the strange secret it possesses.

But mostly… it’s about damn time I finished it.

Friday Fiction Fixes #12…

Velocity by Dean Koontz – 2005

Koontz-Dean-Velocity-4003-pI’ve read dozens of Koontz novels over the years – from the pretty terrible to the pretty terrific – but the man has earned my respect and gets a pass for the odd misfire. He is one of those authors I will always find a way back to if I can’t think of anything else to read. I’ve always envied his style. Koontz doesn’t write long-winded paragraphs but squeezes a lot of character into so few words. It’s a lot harder than it looks. It’s definitely a skill I admire, and there are very few people who can do it better.

For the first third of Velocity, I really thought it was going to be up there with his best. The idea is great: Billy Wile, finds a hand-written note under his windshield wiper (see the set-up spoiling cover picture above) and that’s it. Then we’re off to the races. It runs at a blistering pace, with a few clever moral quandaries to mull over along the way. The first two-thirds of the novel is fantastic, but once Billy starts to gain a little perspective on the situation, the story slows down, and it really isn’t as exciting or interesting anymore. Unfortunately it pulls towards a fairly unsatisfying conclusion with a couple of plot holes that you could drive a truck through.

Koontz knows how to pace a very good chase thriller, so even if the story wanes you never feel as though you’re sinking into quicksand because you’re always out the other side before you know it. Does he sometimes phone it in? Sure, that’s a valid criticism: his work can be a little formulaic at times, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. People like what’s familiar. If you enjoy beer, you don’t stop drinking it because it tastes the same as last time, do you?

A Writer’s Death…

IntersectionDriving through a red light at an intersection is never a great idea, and is only really acceptable in rare circumstances (pregnant woman in the passenger seat, being chased by the FBI, late for a date with Evangeline Lilly, etc), so when I did it today, I had very little in the way of an excuse.

So, why did I do it? Nothing as exciting as any of those I’ve mentioned, I’m afraid. I was trying to iron out one particularly stubborn – Ray Davies-sized – kink in my novel, in my head, and I completely switched to auto-pilot while I was behind the wheel. My bad, of course.

It would almost have been acceptable if the lights had just turned red (because we all do that from time to time, don’t we?), but that wasn’t the case. I know that because just as I figured out the answer to my literary conundrum, I awoke to find myself driving through the middle of the intersection, past an elderly woman who was quite rightly crossing the road in good faith, not expecting to meet her maker at the hands of a guy who was trying to plan Chapter Eighteen at thirty miles per hour. She – quite rightly – gave me the dirtiest of looks as I went by.

I guess I’m lucky she was the only thing I met in the centre of the crossroads.

Another Chapter…

OrwellI think Orwell had it just about right.

…and with Life (capital ‘L’) accelerating in other areas, I think it is about time I cracked on with The Novel. I am always giving myself deadlines to finish this and invariably, always giving myself excuses as to why I haven’t done so when the date passes.

Well, this time, it gets done. This time I have a very definite deadline.

So.

Once upon a time…