Thursday, October 03, 2013

Meeting deadlines

John here.

This week, I'm working fast and furious to meet a May 1 deadline for the sequel to BITTER CROSSING, which also comes out in May. I'm revising the opening 150 pages. The process – stopping to reread when I page 100 or 150 – is not new.

And it’s usually painful.

I wrote BITTER CROSSING on spec, and it led to a three-book contract. When the offer came in, I immediate started planning the sequel. I’m leery of using the word “outline” because that’s probably not the right word. I have six pages of character sketches, each one adding more light to the would-be plot.

Here’s one character sketch:

Maximilian Karp, 50, was born in Prague. He has several personality traits that were forged at a young age and have now become crystallized: One of six children, he lost a sibling when an incendiary device took the life of his younger brother while the family traveled to Afghanistan when he was a child. His parents told him the bomb was from the U.S. Army. He was an outcast as a child, singled out for his poverty, singled out, too, because when his father was killed, when Karp was 10, his mother took menial jobs to support the family. And when those jobs failed, she turned to prostitution, using a sheet to cover the doorway to one of the four rooms in the house. Images of the bare twin mattress that lay beyond the sheet, memories of the neighborhood kids' harassing remarks, and the recollections, like a movie reel playing over and over, of one of his mother's clients in particular, come back in crashing waves at Karp.

How much of this back-story will the reader ever see? Who knows? Will readers know Max had a traumatic experience involving his mother? Probably. (Hey, for a guy who never outlines, I’m doing my best here.) As you can see, my focus is on each of the main player’s back-story and his or her ensuing psyche and motivations. If I honor the character sketches (each one runs a half to a full page), and, as Hemingway said, write one sentence that logically follows the previous one, the plot should take care of itself.

Or, at least that’s what I’m telling myself, as I plod ahead, reading, cutting, and adding to the opening 150 pages.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

John, I love to read about writer's processes. Good luck, and I'm sure you will pull it off