October 6 (Part II)

Several years ago, I started a blog series where I planned to cover, in great detail, the process behind my novella Kutter as I wrote it. A beginning to end look at the creation of the book. But I fell way behind in writing it and quickly abandoned this idea.

Now I’m trying again. We’ll see how it goes.

The novel I intended to do after Bang Up isn’t the one I’m writing. That’s been pushed back a book or two. That novel has a much larger scope, while my next book is fairly intimate, and they’re both in the “creature feature” genre, so it made sense to swap the order.

As I said in Part I, the concept is “zombie animals.” But I didn’t say to myself, “You know what I should write about? Zombie animals! KA-CHING!” The inspiration was a small character moment that occurred to me out of nowhere last month, one that involved a big burly guy revealing vulnerability in what I thought was a sweet and funny way. Mostly it was one line, “But I don’t even know how they work!” (referring to a baby) that appealed to me.

I thought that if this moment was in the first chapter of a novel, the reader would like this guy right away. And if I can find a way to make you root for a main character very quickly…well, he’s somebody I should put in huge amounts of horrific peril.

I brainstormed more ideas about this guy and decided that he’d be perfect for the “under siege” genre. A burly, no-nonsense, off-the-grid survivalist guy and his (now 18-year-old) niece, trapped in their cabin in the woods by the danger that surrounds them.

What kind of danger? Screw it, why not zombie animals?

I’m definitely not the first person to come up with the idea of zombie animals, and it wouldn’t be the big marketing hook of the novel. To me, it’s like saying “I’m writing a werewolf novel!” I might not even keep that idea. It’s still early.

Anyway, I wrote 442 words of that story while on vacation (not even getting to the “But I don’t know how they work!” line). I came up with a very loose structure for the book that’s essentially two parts: “How do we keep them from getting in?” and then “How do we get to safety?” I have a strong idea of how I’m going to do all of the character setup, but not many details beyond that.

I have the Women in Horror Film Festival today, Bang Up tomorrow, and on Thursday I’m beginning the long-ass drive from Georgia to Massachusetts for the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. That leaves Monday through Wednesday to get a good start on this book. However, when I’m in the final stages of writing a novel, a lot of other stuff gets ignored, so I’ve also got a lot of catching up to do during those three days. Most likely, I won’t fully dive into this book until mid-October.

But you can read all about the process here!




October 6 (Part I)

Yep, I finished Bang Up last night. Some authors feel a little sad when it’s time to say goodbye to a book, sort of a postpartum depression. I am not that type of author. I assure you, when I finish a novel, I am 100% “Woo-hoo!!!”

Not that it’s time to say goodbye to Bang Up. I’ve still got work to do. But, honestly, not a TON of work. There’s a school of thought that you should plow through your first draft and never look back–focus on getting the book done. You can fix it later. (See: James A. Moore, my collaborator on The Haunted Forest Tour.) Truthfully, when I talk about writing to the new generation of authors, that’s the advice I give. You can get so caught up in editing yourself that you don’t make any forward progress.

But it’s not my process. I revise constantly as I go. So the file “Bang Up.docx” on my laptop isn’t significantly different from Bang Up, the novel that will be on your Kindle  soon.

I do keep a separate file “Bang Up Notes.docx” for things that, for whatever reason, I don’t want to address until the book is finished. Sometimes it’s a full page. Usually it’s less. Typically it’s not “This needs to be fixed” but rather “Keep an eye out for this on the final pass.”

For example, one note is to focus on “who knew what and when.” The finale involves individual characters learning things that everybody else knew many chapters ago, and I need to make sure all of that is consistent. I’m pretty sure it is, but that’s something for me to keep in mind when I go through the entire book, beginning to end.

Bang Up is a comedy. And I tend to be a greedy joke hoarder until I type “The End.” Once the book is done, I can accept that the book can stand to lose a few jokes and still be sufficiently funny. Crappy jokes have, in theory, already been cut. The ones I’ll lose on the next pass are the jokes that I find delightfully amusing but that I know deep in my heart need to go.

Then it’s off to my team of test readers.

On Sunday, if any of it seems interesting, I’ll post non-spoilery updates on the tweaks I’m making as I do my “final” (meaning, not final) pass on the book.

Now that this book is nearing the end of the creative process, it’s time to begin the process on the next one. Hint: zombie animals. Watch for Part II of my October 6th update probably before you realized there was a Part I.

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