I’ve had a few nights recently where I’ve laid in bed thinking about my books instead of sleeping. I know a lot of people suggest keeping a note book by the bed for just such an occasion but I’ve never felt a need to do so. If the thoughts are really good, and especially if they are about a current book I’m working on, then I have no trouble remembering.
The first night it happened I found myself thinking about “My Life As Death” and some of the interactions the main character had with secondary characters. The scenes were good, the interactions felt natural and everything moved the story forward so I had no idea why my mind was focused on them. But as I laid there, I realized that the secondary character was going to have a bigger part to play in the story a little later on. It was exciting to know a little of what was to come, but with that figured out I was able to sleep.
During the next night of sleeplessness I found myself thinking about the same book and the same secondary character so I was a little upset. I’d already spent some sleepless time dealing with them and I thought I had it all figured out so I didn’t want to spend more time thinking about them and not sleeping. But then my thoughts drifted to their back story. I’d hinted about their history a little, and dropped a few details to add some depth to their character, but I didn’t expect it to have a major influence on the overall plot. Then somehow, those little details that I’d sprinkled into the beginning of the story, began to make even more sense to the overall plot. I saw not only what was going to happen to this secondary character, but also why. And it all tied back to some of the earliest words I’d written about them even though I hadn’t planned it at all. Those details, which I’d considered to be a throw away character description, turned out to be part of one of the biggest twists I’ve written. I loved it and I loved the character even more because of it. Too bad they have to die.
I don’t know what it is about the rain, but I love it. It doesn’t really make sense because I’m very active outside and rain usually stops me from doing most of the things I like to do outside, but I love a good storm. Even more so, I love writing on my back porch, under the steel roof during a good storm and this morning I got to do just that.
I haven’t been writing quite as much as I would like to recently but it’s been for the right reasons. And as I get used to the contract work I’m doing, and the kids and new grandkids get settled into their routines, I’m sure my writing time will increase. But even with the little time I’ve been allowing myself to write, I’ve been making great progress on My Life As Death. This morning I hit 30,000 words which is somewhere between 35% and 60% of where I expect it to end up. There’s a lot of discrepancy in what various people consider acceptable word count for novels but I like shorter books so I target 50,000-80,000 words, especially for a young adult book like this.
But even though the writing is going well, I thought I’d been hit with my first bout of writer’s block with this story just a couple days ago. I had a good writing session one day but when I sat down to continue the next day I realized the main character Nate had agreed to get together with one character (Shawna) but ended up doing something else with another (his best friend Weed). It was a silly mistake, so I decided to rewrite the scene having him get together with Shawna like he’d promised. Only, I struggled with that writing session. I had to work to get anything typed up and when I re-read what I wrote, it didn’t really seem to advance the story or any of the characters; It was just kind of a filler scene. I didn’t like it at all. The scene might have worked at a different point in the story, but not there.
The problem was that I knew exactly what the story needed (the scene with Weed) and I ‘d already written it, but only because I’d forgotten that Nate had made other plans. Then it dawned on me that since I’d forgotten Nate’s other plans so easily, he might have as well. I put the original scene back in, and had Nate realize too late that he’d forgotten his plans with Shawna. This took things in a whole different direction and compounded some already existing conflict between him and Shawna. So what I thought was writer’s block was just the story telling me to get out of the way because it knows what it’s doing.
So this morning, as I wrote in the rain, I got to continue on from that point in the story and I can honestly say that I didn’t see anything that I wrote coming. And because the story keeps surprising me and keeps drawing me further in, I hope it’ll do the same to you when you finally get to read it.
I’ve talked a little before about my latest work-in-progress My Life As Death, but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about it. The idea for the book is basically this:
On the eve of his senior year, almost-eighteen year old Nathaniel (Nate to his friends) gets into a drunken accident, totaling his car and ending his life, or so he thought. In the darkness of death, a face appears and offers him a deal; agree to become a Grim Reaper (yes, there’s more than one Grim Reaper), send 10 well deserving souls to the afterlife and he will get to finish out the life he was meant to live. Fail to reap all 10, and Nate will forever be a servant of death.
Now Nate’s not a homicidal maniac; to the contrary, he actually doesn’t like the idea of having to kill anyone, but he’s guaranteed to only have to reap the truly evil, the murderers, rapists and child molesters. How could anyone have a problem with getting rid of those people? Right? Upon touching the guilty party, Nate will even see their evil deed and know the punishment is deserved. Then he just has to decide how they’ll die. But not everything is as simple as it seems, especially when everyone has secrets.
I don’t know exactly why the plot intrigued me so much, but the idea of trying to get through high-school and deal with being a part-time agent of death wouldn’t go away. And it might not just be the plot itself, but the characters that kept me going back to it. I put a bit of myself, my friends and my experiences into each of my books, but this one seems to have a lot more of me in it. While writing this book I tend to listen to more of the songs from my teenage years than normal. I reminisce a lot more than I ever have. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I already feel so drawn into it that it’s hard to focus on any of my other works-in-progress. But that’s a really good thing, because this is going to be the first book I try to get a traditional publishing contract with so the sooner it’s done, the better.
And just incase anyone is wondering about the graphic at the top of this post – no, that is not indicative of what the book cover will look like. I have several different ideas for the cover, but I’m nowhere close to deciding what it should be. But I think the skull graphic does share the same feeling as the book. It’s a little dark and creepy, a little cute and funny. And I think that’s a good way to describe the book.