Life Sentences, Day 127: PULPED Update

February 5th, 2011

Today I’m giving you short shrift because the goal for the day is 2500 words of PULPED, which begins with reviewing and editing the most recent 50-60 pages.   I’m at an interesting point in the book.

I’ve done all the stuff I didn’t know how to do — bringing Simeon out of limbo and into the so-called real world; getting him and Madison in the same place; getting over the rather steep wall of their becoming acquainted; and, in fact, having them become rather better acquainted than I thought they would.  Now I’m on the fly toward the ending.

And I have about twelve endings.  If I wanted to (and I’m not sure I don’t), I could pile roughly six reversals one on top of another, without really having to slow down much for explanations.  (I really hate detective stories that require long explanations, with the sole exception of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, which are perfect in every regard.)  The problem with reversals is that they bore me beyond a certain point, even if there aren’t a lot of static scenes to get the reader up to speed.  Two reversals are enough.  Then the machinery starts to show.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t talked much about the “mystery.”  That’s because I practically never think about the mystery.  I pretty much figure it out as Simeon does.

Now I need to figure out the most economical way to tell the story, and then which story exactly to tell.  So far, I have to say — roughly 80,000 words in — that I’ve had no idea whatsoever where I was going.  Every time I’ve thought I had a bead on it, something has pulled me in a different direction.

Which is fine, except that I’ve littered the story thus far with clues and (worst of all) piercing insights on Simeon’s part that lead to endings that have long been abandoned. That’s one of the reasons for going back and cleaning up the most recent 50-60 pages.  The other is either to improve or to cut some really execrable writing.

I’m used to doing this; it’s one of the costs of working without a net.  Still, most of the time when I have only 12,000-15,000 words to go, I have a pretty good idea of what those words will say.   But I have faith: I’ve got my Arcade Fire/Neil Young/Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros playlist on.  They’ll pull me through.

And if they don’t, well, at least I don’t have to return a publisher’s advance.

13 Responses to “Life Sentences, Day 127: PULPED Update”

  1. Everett Kaser Says:

    Tim said: And if they don’t, well, at least I don’t have to return a publisher’s advance.

    Boy, talk about the Nozer rearing his ugly head. You’ve got all the ‘hard’ parts done. You even know lots of ways to finish the novel. All you have to do is DECIDE which way.

    Kick that Nozer in the ass, sit down at the keyboard, and …er…um… start kicking ass.

  2. Philip Coggan Says:

    Justin Thyme sprang carefully into the dark room. He saw the evil Hans Knees and Boompsa Daisy, but they didn’t see him because the room was dark. “Put your hands in the air and don’t try anything funny!” he shouted loudly. The evil duo looked up evilly in evil surprise. “Look behind you!” said Hans evilly. “I’m not falling for that!” said Justin judiciously. Then the third man, the one hiding behind the door, hit poor Justin over the head with a plot hole. Cackling madly the evil threesome stepped over Justin and set off for the next paragraph.

    (Congratulations on the end in sight, and I’m looking forward to Pulped).

  3. Phil Hanson Says:

    “And I have about twelve endings.”

    And I have about the same number of short stories in need of endings. If you have any left over, maybe we can work something out.

  4. Everett Kaser Says:

    Hey, Tim, congratulations!!! The THIRD most popular author on DorothyL in 2010 out of a total of 603 listed!!!

    Link to list:

    DorothyL Best of 2010″

    All four Poke books, Crashed, and Everything But The Squeal were listed.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Boy, you guys are a lot funnier than I am today.

    Everett, I don’t really have any doubt about whether I’ll finish it. I’m not particularly certain I’ll finish it well, though, and it actually is nice not to be into some publishing house for six figures that they’ll want back if they don’t accept the book. It’s also nice not to have a deadline, beyond which I would be in violation of my contract. I always figure that publishing houses have a certain amount of buyer’s remorse when they’ve given some yahoo they’ve barely even met face to face a whole pile of money for what is essentially a bunch of words. We do NOT want to give them an excuse to exercise that remorse.

    Philip, that’s absolutely hilarious. Made me laugh out loud several times. I wish I’d written it, and perhaps in the future I shall say I did.

    Phil you’re funnier than I am, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pass story components around like that? These endings are all kind of specialized, though, what with their dealing with two dimensions, and relationships between real and fictional characters and all that.

    Everett — really? I only get the digests, so I haven’t seen anything yet. Who am I behind and who am I in front of? Third is pretty damn good with that group. As soon as I see it, I’ll do something on Facebook or someplace about it.

  6. Debbi Says:

    This is why I tend to start out with a bare bones rough draft of the novel I’m working on. Funny thing is, the longer I do this, the barer the bones of those drafts are getting. 🙂

    Which is to say, I’m getting a bit braver about working without a net, to an extent.

  7. Laren Bright Says:

    I thought Philip’s piece WAS the ends of your book, Tim.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Congratulations! You are in August company on DorothyL. Well deserved, and “they like you.”

  9. Everett Kaser Says:

    Tim: You’ve probably seen the full list by now, but these are the top nomination names and counts (number of times a book of theirs was included on a list):

    Stieg Larsson 28
    Louise Penny 27
    Timothy Hallinan 25
    Nancy Pickard 24
    Tana French 20
    William Kent Krueger 18
    Alan Bradley 16
    Robert Crais 16
    Laurie R. King 16
    Lee Child 15
    Michael Connelly 15
    Ariana Franklin 15
    Chris Grabenstein 15

    There wasn’t very much difference between the top 4 or 5 authors.

    What I found interesting was that 89% of the people submitting “Best of 2010” lists were WOMEN, and only 11% were MEN! Talk about falling down on the job. At least I was one of those 11%. 🙂

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Debbi — I’ve tried but I can’t do it. I write these slick, intermittently persuasive book proposals and turn them in, absolutely certain that the book, other than the first 15-20 pages, will be completely different. I figure it’s all okay as long as my editor likes the book better than she liked the proposal. But I also have to tell you that being way, way, out there with no net and no sense of direction is, for me, the most exhilarating part of writing. I’m having more fun with PULPED right now than I’ve had since the last 60-70 pages of LITTLE ELVISES or THE QUEEN OF PATPONG.

    Laren, Philip has set a high standard, and I have to vault over it. I’m having my pole lengthened even as I write.

    Whoa, Everett — I hadn’t seen the actual list. In between Louise Penny and Nancy Pickard — amazing company. And all those books being cited. On the other hand, I’ll bet Penny was named virtually all the time for BURY YOUR DEAD, which is absolutely brilliant, and which was NOT nominated for the Edgar. If it had been, I’d definitely stay home.

  11. Everett Kaser Says:

    Tim, your books were voted these times:
    Nail Through The Heart 6
    Breathing Water 4
    Crashed 5
    Everything But the Squeal 1
    Fourth Water 1
    Queen of Patpong 8

    Louise Penny’s were:

    A Fatal Grace 1
    A Rule Against Murder 1
    Bury Your Dead 16
    Still Life 2
    The Brutal Telling 5
    The Cruelest Month 1

    But keep in mind that 89% of the respondents were female, and the female respondents read and recommended a majority of female writers, and male respondents read and recommended a majority of male writers.

    So the list is definitely skewed in favor of female writers. That said, the TOP of the list (as I listed in a previous comment), is slightly dominated by male writers. So go figure.

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought. Penny is very good, but this is her best by a long way. Interesting that NAIL got more votes than CRASHED, but it probably reflects a relatively low number of e-book fans.

  13. Everett Kaser Says:

    Well, Nail has at least one vote for it a year from now, too. I’m planning to keep a list of my favorite books this year, so I can contribute with more than what I can remember from memory. There was only one book I read in January that makes the list for 2011 (my list), and that was Nail.

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