Friday, May 23, 2014

Scene by Scene

[It's Friday. I should be posting at the blog on my author site, but it's still broken (see yesterday's post). So I'm posting that here. Perhaps some day I'll figure out how to fix the other site and add this to it.]

Yesterday I taught a noon hour class at the office, on construction administration procedures. Nineteen people attended in the room and more by video conference. It was the fourth and last day of an exercise that I call a construction simulation. I created a construction admin situation (based, actually, on a real world problem that came up some years ago), had people register to participate, then bombarded them with e-mails and letters from a contractor, that contractor's consultant, their developer client, and even for one the contractor's attorney. For three days I was fully engaged in sending and responding to the exercise e-mails sent me by the participants. The class went well, but I was exhausted physically and mentally afterwards.

So at home last night, I heated leftover soup for the wife and me to eat, then we walked our 1.3 mile course, then I sat down at the laptop (because my desktop is still not out of the shop yet; hopefully today) and began typing on Headshots. I had my choice of going back in the manuscript and typing the edits I marked on the last read-through, or working on new material. I chose to do new material, starting a new scene in a new chapter, but in sequence from where I left off last time. I started the evening with the manuscript standing at 72,078 words.

Unfortunately I really labored with the scene. It's set in Sublette, Kansas, and at a farm in Haskell County Kansas, where the hero has just come back home to after another successful baseball season. This is the end game in the novel. Bad things will soon be happening. It's time for the young Mr. Thompson to step up and protect all that is dear to him. Does he have it in him? We'll see, but first I need to get the right mix of bad guys and good guys in position for the climax scene, or maybe scenes—let's call it the climax event. How to get them all there?

I had given this some thought, but not a lot. As I sat at the computer and paused for a moment an idea came to me on how to get one of the bad guys to Sublette. I started typing. Fifty words later I paused again. The idea had run its course. I "shelled out," to use an old computer term, to a mindless computer game for a while. I came back to the scene and wrote another hundred words, then shelled out again. Back and forth I went. I think on one cycle I managed to type 200 words before my brain said "Enough" and I had to quit writing.

What was the problem? The TV was on for a while, on a news channel. But I soon turned that off so I had no distractions. The scene wasn't particularly difficult to write. It was from omniscient point of view, whereas most of the book is third-person limited point of view. It was a healthy mix of narrative and dialog, with no new characters.

I concluded that the problem was mental exhaustion. Too much mental activity over the last few days. Better to finish this one scene as best I could and leave it alone. Edit it later. I did so, finishing in about 50 minutes total, and just over 700 words. After the wife and I started our nightly reading aloud, currently in The Sign of the Four, which is the second Sherlock Holmes novel by A. Conan Doyle. I started off reading it and could barely stay awake.

An hour later we had muddled through one long-ish chapter, punctuated by a couple of breaks to stand up, move around, and get some juices flowing. By 11:00 p.m. I was in bed, earlier than normal. Clearly I was tired.

So, I'm in the end game of Headshots. I have maybe 10,000 more words to write, I think. At 700 words a day that will take about two weeks to finish. Hopefully I can do better than that, especially over this three day weekend. I'd love to be able to post next Tuesday: "First draft is complete!"

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