Saturday, July 02, 2011

When the Dam Breaks

A while back I posted about hitting the wall on my WIP, “Under the Ember Star.” That wall proved tough to get over. I find a book develops a certain momentum, especially if you try to end chapters on cliffhangers. And once you get into that rhythm of movement it’s hard to break free. That was the source of the wall. I wanted the story between 25,000 and 30,000 words, and I realized I had to get hold of the reins and pull the thing up if I were going to end it where I wanted it. But the story fought the reins. I finally won, but it was a near thing, and it looks like the final will be right around 30,000 words, just a little longer than I’d hoped.

When the wall finally breached, the end came quickly. I did about 20 pages of rough draft in one day. It’ll have to be polished so the work is not done by any means, but the pieces are all there and I know where they go. And best of all, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I was afraid there’d be too much talky explanation at the end and not enough action, but I found a way around that. Sometimes, also, I worry that I won’t be able to pull it off, that this time I’ll write myself into a corner I can’t get out of. I’m glad it didn’t happen. This time. Someday it probably will. That’s the perils of writing by the seat of your pants.

In other news, I have another review of a friend's book below. This is for Apostle Rising, by Richard Godwin.

Apostle Rising mixes a number of genres, and does it flawlessly. There are elements of the police procedural, with two sets of connected serial killings being investigated. There are horrific elements that are a match for anything you’ll read in a straight horror novel. And there are edge-of-your-seat twists and turns that keep your head spinning and which are the basics of the thriller. The final twist caught me completely by surprise even though I read a lot of thrillers and am generally pretty good at picking out the hints. This one had me smiling because it was just perfect, and yet I never saw it coming.

The story is also written in luminous and often poetic prose:“The woods are cast deep in folded meadow shade, hues of blackness tinged with the heavy odours of autumn, rotting to nothing in the scattered leaves where insects scurry and blind slugs creep and grope their way to mulch.”

One of the main reasons I picked up this book is because I’d read a number of Godwin’s short stories and always enjoyed his prose. Godwin is a helluva stylist and I’m a sucker for beautiful language, especially when it is combined with a dark sensibility that gives it backbone.

Finally, we have good characters, both heroes and villains. I like heroes who hurt but move ahead despite the pain, characters who stand for something, who fight the good fight. Frank Castle and Jacki Stone have those qualities. And the villains (there are more than one) are a good match for our heroes. Overall this is a very strong outing for what I believe is Godwin’s first novel. I’m looking for even greater things ahead for this writer.


Deka Black said...

Writing walls. 30.000 words is a good length in my opinion. But ihave a sort of sillty doubt. Why do you wanted this time a work of this particular lenght?

ivan said...

...Surprised that a highly organized type like you would be a "pantser", writing by the seat of your pants.
As an old prof myself, I tried to give people the impression that I was an organized guy and would not write by "pick, pluck and pray." ...Structure, structure, don't write too much and structure more..

But no. The older I get the more I realized that writing is the expression of powerfully felt emotions, almost unseen if sensed, set up on the printed page, with, hopefully, elegance and tact.
...And then there are the little decisions you make right on the keyboard at that particularly charged moment when english composition becomes writin'.
It's kinda crazy.

Sure agree with old Dostoevky that maybe we should have stayed engineers rather than frustrated buggers.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Glad the dam broke. I have three stories I'm waiting on. Damn dam.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, it's intended for a line that Borgo press is doing of "doubles," two books published back to back, and it needs to be around that length for that line.

Ivan, I find that too much 'planning' in the early stages just sucks all the juices out of a story to me, and then writing it is like eating week old pizza instead of the fresh delivered piece.

Patti, I hope they break loose soon.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you broke the wall! Wish I had the problem of too many words.

Deka Black said...

I sCharles: i see. like the Ace Doubles line? Good. Is a kind of book i find very lovely and interesting.

Cloudia said...

you show The (pathology? LOL) Writer in illuminating ways, Charles!

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral


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Golden Eagle said...

Glad to hear you finally got over the wall!

Thank you for the review--I really like the example of the prose you posted.

RK Sterling said...

Wow - 20 pages in one day is pretty awesome. Congratulations on finishing. I look forward to the final product.

Lana Gramlich said...

I can't wait to read it, hon. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex J. Cavanaugh, it's easier to cut than to add. At least I find.

Deka Black, yeah, I think they're pretty cool.

Cloudia, guess I'm pretty close to the subject. :)

The Golden Eagle, there's a lot of very poetic passages in that book.

Kate Sterling, I know. pretty much unheard of for me.

Lana Gramlich, you soon will sweet dumpling of mine.

Ron Scheer said...

Well done. I don't know much about the psychology of hitting walls. For me it would be like losing interest in a relationship and finding that I dread spending time with someone and can't wait to get away.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron, sometimes writing feels a bit like that. a long book takes quite a lot out of you and gets very intense. You do get angry with the work at times, and often disgusted with it. but if you work through that you come back to loving it again. Or at least I do.

LoveRundle said...

Wow, it sounds like you're really getting that book put together. Once it does start flowing, it goes pretty fast, I agree. For me, it's just getting to that spot. I have to work on a project for a few hours before I find the flow sometimes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, that's the great thing about summer for me. I have the hours. During the school year I very seldom do.

BernardL said...

How true. When the wall cracks, there ain't no stoppin' the flow. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, it feels pretty good.

Steve Malley said...

I'm climbing a few walls myself at the moment, main reason I haven't been around much.

@Ivan: Nicely put! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Charles. I'm glad you enjoyed 'Apostle Rising'.

Richard Prosch said...

Good job, on the story, sir! I recently woke up on the Mississippi River myself. Have you been to St.L. recently?

Travis Cody said...

Congrats on getting past that wall.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, I've been wondering what's going on with you, dude.

Richard Godwin, Definitely.

Richard Prosch, been quite a long time since I've been to St. Louis.

Travis Cody, thanks, it was certainly a relief.

jodi said...

Charles, congrats on scaling the wall that was holding you back. You seem to be able to step away and identify what it is you don't care for. Good to be able to be that objective about your work.