This isn’t a cop out, but let me give you an excuse

I’ve been writing.

Sort of.

Well, not really.

I’ve been writing some things down, which is something.  But I haven’t been writing writing.  Father’s Day weekend found me in Mankato, Land of Ten Thousand Lakes Minnesota for a pool tournament for one of the boys.  Now, as is my custom, whenever I go on a trip I always take my backpack.  My backpack has my critical travel needs: iPod, two different ear buds (one pair shuts out background noise, whatever I’m reading at the time (I finished Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone and started a Zeppelin bio, When Giants Walked the Earth), and my notebook.  I bring my notebook thinking, “I’m almost certain to find some time to write!”  This never happens.  Ever.  The wife and I went on vacation last year to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary with no kids and were gone for five days and I didn’t write a single word.  Last weekend was more of the same.

However, I do keep a small notebook and a pen on my person at almost all times.  It’s a little tip I picked up from Kicking and Screaming (the Noah Baumbach film, not that tripe with Will Ferrel).  So while I haven’t made too much headway in my rewrite (because I haven’t thought of anything original to write) I did scribble a few paragraphs inspired by some of the great people watching at the Verizon Center.

“The room was full of one time biker babes.  Women that at one time turned heads and probably caused a fight or two back in the day.  But now the wind and sun had left them permanently raw and worn; the details of once salacious tattoos lost in loose and wrinkled skin.”

“There were storm clouds gathering on the western edge of town.  He knew the rain was coming; he could smell it in the air and feel it in his aged joints.  The clouds were dark, as dark as midnight.  They blocked out the sun and sent a cold wind Eastward ahead of it to alert all of their coming.  He looked up and saw droves of birds flying east as quickly as possible…”

Great stuff?  No.  The makings of something else later on down the line?  Maybe.

By the way, I’ve figured out what it is I hate about rewrites.  First drafts are fun.  They are full of the unknown, like a child out playing and making the first marks after a fresh snowfall.  There are almost no rules and there is nothing holding you back.

Rewrites are more like work.  You’ve set a framework for yourself and feel an obligation to honor most of that original framework.  Does it limit your options?  No.  But establishes a pretty finite set of details.

I hate work.

That’s probably why I’m often on the internet or writing when I’m at work…


Second Verse NOT same as the first?

I hate rewrites.  I always have and I always will.

The problem is I enjoy the implied finality that comes with finishing writing a book.  For example, I finished my sci-fi/noir book two weeks ago.  I was the happiest sumbitch on the planet.  At this point all I need to do is finish typing it into word (I write almost exclusively longhand with pen and paper) so that my “beta testers” can read it and give me some feedback and notes.  I want the notes, and I want to know what to fix or improve on.

However, at the same time, I dread the fact that I’m going to have to do it regardless of how badly I know it needs to be done.

Case in point, I’m finally revisiting my first ‘decent’ novel, A Darkling Plain.  I started it in college and finally finished it the winter of ’01 (or “Aught-One” as I’m fond of now saying).  I’ve known for the last ten years that it was in desperate need of a rewrite and even have known for years some of the changes I wanted to make to it.  Still, I’ve never done it.  I’ve put it off and put it off for a decade.  Why?

Because I hate rewrites.

There are two reasons why:  A.  I get married to the original draft.  I know I want to make changes but when it comes to taking the axe to sections or characters or dialog part of me is suddenly there screaming that it can’t be done because a. leads to b. or what have you.  Yes, there are ways of getting around that and it will improve the overall book.  All the same, I’m suddenly one of those packrat freaks on A&E who load their house full of shit and can’t bear to sacrifice any of it despite it just stinking and cluttering up the house.

Then there’s B.  It’s not as fun as doing the original draft.  It’s like watching a movie again for the 100th time; you already know all of the characters, you know exactly what’s going to happen next, and there’s nothing new to be discovered.  It’s not entirely true because I’m going to be changing the movie, but the sentiment is still there.

It’s a little bit different with Plain, though.  I’m excited to make the changes because I know I’m a more mature writer now and I think I’ve improved in the last ten years.  Most of the “tools” in my toolbox are the same, but they might have a bit more polish.  I’m less derivitive of my literary heroes and have found more of my own voice in my detective fiction so I know that will help.  The changes I want to make are a bit more realistic and less like a bad Shane Black film.

Also, in reading it now it’s so painfully clear that it was written by a college kid who watched too many shoot em up action movies in the 80s and 90s.  It makes it almost embarassing for me to read it and I want to push it far away from me.

There is one upside to this.  The character of Alex Pine was introduced in A Darkling Plain and is also in Our Own Devils (available for purchase at!).  I had started this book and created the character before I met my wife, Amanda.  However, much of my wife went into her as the story grew.  Now as I’m going through the rewrite I can put even more of her into Alex.  So in one way, it’s like I’m getting to meet Amanda all over again.  That’s pretty nice.

In the meantime, I’ve been blogging about this whole thing while the new manuscript lies neglected on my desk.  I should get back to work now.

Nah, funk that.  I’m gonna get some sub-par Chinese food instead.

What a difference over a decade makes…

Maturity has a strange way of creeping up on us.  It’s not a always a series of conscious decisions through which we change into the people we become.  It’s often a subtle change in nature.  Mostly we detect it how we got about our plans on the weekends or what we decide to spend our money on.

This morning, I’m seeing the great changes I’ve gone through as a writer.  I finally caved and decided to return to the source material for my first detective novel, On A Darkling Plain, as I begin going about writing the long over due second draft.  I can tell very quickly how much my writing has changed since I first started writing it back in 1997.  At that time I was reading almost nothing but Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels to where my vision became quite skewed and my characters and writing style were far too derivitive.  I had actually given some of what I had to an English professor I admired and he had even said it was derivitive.  For some reason I took it as a compliment instead of using it to improve my work.

I actually find myself getting a little embarassed as I read through these pages written almost a lifetime ago.  I had created a character that was far too much an amalgam of the down-and-out gumshoe and the glorified, worldly Spenser.  I know I did a much better job with the character when I wrote Our Own Devils but now I have to lay that groundwork here, like I’ve already built the house and now I’m pouring the foundation.

Aye, caramba…