Monday, July 22, 2013

while keeping one eye on the road

This post is another of those annoying entries written for myself so I can look back and track the progress of my current work-in-progress. So you can stop reading now if you like; I won't be offended.

The Hanging Man, previously titled Circus in the Dust, the sequel to The Transcendental Detective, now has four chapters of first draft. That's pretty good. I've been drafting it since May 9 and I've written about 26,000 words. I think. The word count is iffy because all but the first chapter exists only in the form of my longhand MS. I really need to sit down and type the damned thing up soon in case I lose my handwritten version, which would be a tragedy for me and likely I wouldn't even attempt to reconstruct the novel. I'd just write something else. There are plenty of other things to write.

The writing is going well, I think. As I said to my friend Michelle D. Argyle last week, "it seems to be working so far." For those of you who've never written a novel, putting together a first draft can sometimes seem like the act of assembling a car piece-by-piece while simultaneously driving it at high speed down a twisting mountain road. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and fun and you really can't see what you're doing because you have to work the ratchet driver while keeping one eye on the road and feeling around behind you for the next bit of car you want to bolt into place. Fun, as I say. I much prefer revisions. Revisions are a civilized pursuit. First drafts are for crazy people.

There was something else, but I can't remember what it was. Aristotle? Poe? Baudelaire? Kierkegaard at Large? No, it's gone. Oh, maybe it was a brief description of the book: Patience Quince, Algerian police detective traveling through America in 1935, is present at the discovery of the body of an unknown well-dressed man found hanging by the neck in the county equipment shed at Wilburton, Kansas. Patience is temporarily stranded in Wilburton, and cheerfully offers herself in a professional capacity to Sheriff Jack Hawke, who does not want her assistance with the investigation into the death of the hanging man. Et cetera et cetera including dust storms, a circus, telegraph operators, German immigrants and an unread letter, not to mention a very bad painting of a landscape and an immense wooden trunk bound in brass. When you pick up this novel and give it a shake, it will rattle with quite a lot of noise, I promise you.


  1. Revisions are a civilized pursuit. First drafts are for crazy people.

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this. First drafts for me are easier because I don't generally care what gets down on the page, as long as the page gets filled.

    Revisions are a nightmare because then I really have to buckle down to decide what stays and what goes. And then with critique partners having their say, sometimes it just turns into dribbling babbling madness when I need to reinsert paragraphs I've just cut out.

    Patience Quince is a lovely name for an Algerian detective. I very much look forward to reading about her in both books. However, as you know (maybe, but I will state it again so you don't forget) I am much more interested in Mona in the Desert. lol

    And yes, I will wait for her as long as it takes.

  2. "Patience Quince" is a joke name. The whole thing began as a joke, and here I am writing a sequel. Huh. I don't really know how that happened. I continue with the joke names in the second book: there's a woman named Patsy Sweet, and a bunch of characters have names based on birds. I will likely fuss around with character names during revisions; I do that often enough.

    My vague plans for a possible 4th book in this series include a character who is playwright named Bill Shakespeare. This is in 1935, mind you. On a boat. We'll see.

    Mona could be a few years, especially as I really need to do a lot of work to that one. But work is good: it gives us something to do.

  3. Type up those chapters, Mr. B! I'm making surprisingly fast progress on Sister Soul. I think that's because I'm not feeling any pressure to make it a masterpiece. I'm just trying to amuse a small audience, including myself. Your description sounds fabu. And, luckily, I shake all my books before reading them.

    Your saying about first drafts and revisions is worth putting on tombstones.

  4. I actually dragged my oversized, incredibly heavy laptop across the city today so I can type up the MS at lunch (or at least start typing it up; I think I've got hours and hours of typing ahead of me).

    I don't know about masterpieces, but I am trying to make The Hanging Man a good book, or I'm going for something beyond amusement. I hope I remember to make sure it's amusing, though. That's a real danger. I might get all Serious and that would be a shame.

    I want my tombstone to say "Scott Bailey, 1962-2062, Big Damn Hero."

  5. Sometimes when I shake my books, they fall apart.

  6. Yeah, me too. I know I'm supposed to think of those moments as opportunities to excel or prove myself or whatever, but all I can do is look at the mess and mumble that I hadn't seen that coming.

  7. I am with Anne on this. I do not like to revise a long piece of writing; I hate typing it out. When the Paris Review (I think it was) interviewed Anita Brookner she told them that she never has to revise, or only a small bit, she said, in the last chapter sometimes, a word or two, not a lot. Very calmly she writes her book, then very calmly she reads it, and she sees that it is finished. That's the way to go, I thought. That's the way to do it.

  8. That would certainly be the way to do it if it were possible! My method is more akin to moving from a rough sketch on canvas to a final portrait in oils, working in layers, taking the whole canvas into account. The thing I'm writing now has a pretty detailed outline that I find myself unable to strictly follow, because my original conception was much more vague than I'd thought. It always is. I despise typing it all out, though. I've got about 32,000 words written so far, most of them still only in longhand in my notebook. That's the worst part of the process for me, the typing of the first draft. Revisions, on the other hand, are what I enjoy. Seeing what I've sketched, making something solid from it, working in all the new ideas and refining all the first ideas. That's good stuff. First drafts for me are like reeling around the city, so drunk that I don't quite remember where I've wandered or what I've said to whom.

  9. Proust's solution to the typing problem -- hire a secretary -- would have been a good idea if he hadn't started falling in love with them and giving them aeroplanes. Still, the typing part was solid.