No Offramps

looked at my outline on Plottr seeing more green boxes behind me than white boxes in front of me. I hated the ending. Worked all day. Replace the ending, called the novel done and returned to billable work. At present the title of the book is “Ski Branston”. I don’t know that I love the title. “What happens when fraudster’s take over a Vermont ski hill” is a worse title. The folder on my computer is still called “Trowbridge Vermont” which was the title of the first draft.

I researched this story during 2020 with a first draft finished on 28FEB2021. I read badly, developed badly, and I forgot what I was writing. I love writing fiction, yet I spent my days writing the non-fiction-iest stuff on the planet. Stuff I learnt as a kid, I had to hear again from editors and friends.

Whilst crafting “The Little Ambulance War of Winchester County”, I drove hard bring characters to three-dimensional life. I was pleased when I asked a reader/friend, who is your favorite character. She picked Captain Flynn’s wife and Alex’s mother. She is a driving force in the novel, but is never given a name. The irony was that I modelled this character after her, my friend/reader.

I have these sayings I mumble when I get in trouble. I am about to add another one I heard from Neil deGrasse Tyson (via youtube). In describing the movie Oppenheimer, Neil said something about all of these amazing characters in the movie who were never named such as Richard Feynman and Heisenberg. He said that Christopher Nolen “never took an offramp” to explain these people. I knew that they were there because we watch TV and movies with the talkie-talks on (aka “closed captions”, himself with two hearing aids).

  • “No Offramps” belongs on my list, thank you Neil.
  • “Be in the room”
  • “Five senses”
  • “Speak your voice”

I also studied the books and movies I was enjoying and listened to a lifetime friend. She said to me, I read for characters and flow, I don’t give a shit about the ending. That kinda resulted in: “Don’t aim for the ending”

When I picked up the draft in 2024, I kept everything and tossed everything out. Both are true. Instead of proving the thesis of an essay and plodding through my normal technical infill needed to lend evidence to an argument, I said, “Just write a story and let the reader in.”

That may mean writing an incomplete story?

My father once described his own writing as “post cinematic.” Under his eye, I wrote a few scenes and essays with this guidance. He said, you do not need to describe Paris and drive by the Eiffel tower to establish setting. Since then 1940s, everyone knows what Paris looks like. They know it in black-and-white. They know it in color. They know the horror of Nazi’s driving down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. They know the image of mimes and painters along the Seine. All of those images are stored behind the word Paris. The reader sees it. Victor Hugo had to describe Notre Dame to every reader. Melville used a section of a novel to describe the encyclopedia entries for whales. You, he said, need only to describe the faux gas lamps reflecting through a still puddle on a cobblestoned street.
Today’s reader and viewer brings a degree of sophistication to media today including skepticism (I hope) about the role of the artificial.

Invite them in, he said, they’ll join you.

These are lessons I need to remember everyday.

Publishers Work

What did I do on Tuesday 26MAR 2024? I finished a novel. Maybe it was Wednesday, when I replaced the final chapter? Immediately following the last keystroke, I kept writing. I had billable writing to do. Should I have whooped and hollered? I didn’t. I had a week’s work that needed completing for clients that need their work completed.

When meeting with my marketing person on Friday 29MAR 2024, she and I discovered that the novel is available for pre-sale everywhere. That seemed to be a trigger. I am now instructed to go drive pre-sales. On Saturday and Sunday, I took on a new set of tasks.

Get a book done, market the last one. Write next book. It’s not bad lifestyle. I grew up with it. I may just notice that my father wrote through the winter and had a more relaxed schedule during the summer.

That’s the rhythm. I do my work in a year. The publisher does her work in a year. Each year, we do our job and maybe these efforts zipper together for success?

I can bang out a 4000-word chapter in a few hours, normally before noon and my lunch. There are others with that skill. I’ve got hard drives with crappy drafts, good drafts, incomplete works, and the normal detritus of a writer’s life. When I tell myself I have a deadline, then I meet it. I want 100K words in three to four months. Let’s acknowledge that I am typing that fast, but am I actually writing when I type? Or am I unspooling thoughts from a buffer? It takes the better part of a year to get a novel from concept to completion and ready for the editor. There’s all that thinking and planning to do. What I do is a mystery to many around me including my husband of nearly 30 years.

While I do my think, I attempt to peak over the fence in the publisher’s yard. Who knew that publishing takes a year too. The lingo and duties changed during my lifetime too. I haven’t got a single person’s job title/description correct yet. I see the results. I feel the results. I get emails with new terms in it, that I am learning fresh. There is publisher over there doing publisher things which feels a lot like marketing and related jobs. I had to learn the word ‘blurber’ this week. It has nothing to do with ethnic groups of North Africa. A blurber writes a lovely sentence about your book and it gets put on the cover.  

Managing this world takes work, real work. The following screenshot is proof of a publisher’s work.

Publisher's Work
The result of a publisher’s efforts