Down to the grind now, my novel really tightening up and starting to take on a polished appearance.
Just about finished my “Sherron Draft”.
I started this book last August (2013) and, except for a few breaks to work on small side projects or conduct research, I’ve been pounding away on the manuscript ever since, grappling with it, trying to find the shape within the stone (if you know what I mean). When discussing the book with my wife, I’ve spoken only in generalities and other than a broad outline, she really isn’t privy to plot details or my approach to the material. But in 2-3 weeks I’ll print what I have, a complete third draft, 225 pages, and hand it over for her perusal.
Sherron’s a smart, discerning editor and she knows my aesthetic—she’ll spot any lapse, identify shortcomings, ruthlessly point out awkward passages. She’s well read and has a sharp, critical mind. She won’t soft-pedal or candy-coat her remarks. We both want the same thing: to make this the best possible book and, in that sense, there’s no room for wishy-washy critiques.
No one likes criticism, we all like to feel that every word we commit to paper is the very essence of perfection. Sadly, that isn’t the case.
If you want to know the biggest difference between me and 99.999% of the “self-publishers” and indies out there, it’s the time and effort I lavish on my novels, short stories, poems and essays.
You think those assholes who excrete paranormal romance and shapeshifter erotica will spend over a year going through their work line by line, meticulously editing literally every syllable? And, I want to emphasize, I’m a full-time author, I do this every single day of the year, from eight in the morning until eight at night. Yup, weekends and holidays too. Each paragraph, each individual comma is carefully, endlessly, tirelessly scrutinized and weighed and measured.
And I’m not close to being done yet.
After Sherron’s had a chance to read and comment on the manuscript, there will be yet another complete draft and more editing until the book finally meets my exacting standards. Tentative release date in April, 2015, so I’ve got, by my estimation, five more months of work ahead of me.
And you wonder why writers drink like fish and use every substance known to Nature to soothe their jangled nerves and quiet their raging minds?
I’m a fortunate man to have someone in my life who is able to contribute in such a practical, selfless manner to my obsession and is as serious as I am about my writing and my desire to achieve the status of elite literary author. A world class talent.
We’re a team dedicated to excellence and we will countenance no slapdash writing or unoriginal thinking.
We’re creating literature for the ages.
Nothing else will suffice.
Well, cinephiles, the news isn’t good. An article penned by Neil Smith for the BBC website previews some of the big releases and most-hyped films of 2010 and it’s enough to make any serious film-goer weep in despair.
“The prevailing trend, ” Mr. Smith concludes gloomily, “is towards established film titles from yesteryear given a hi-tech makeover.”
So we can expect more updates and reinventions, the character names familiar but the faces different, with a budget rumoured at around a hundred mill. Let’s see, just off the top of my head I recall movies based on “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Get Smart”, “The Avengers”, “Miami Vice”, “Bewitched”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Starsky & Hutch”; in terms of remakes there’s “War of the Worlds” and “Day the Earth Stood Still”, “3:10 to Yuma”, “The Pink Panther”, “The Longest Yard” and, coming soon to your theater, a nastier rebooting of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. We have sequels and prequels…and even the great Ray Harryhausen isn’t immune to pale imitation: the new “Clash of The Titans”, helmed by Luc Besson protege Louis Leterrier, premieres in Canada in March.
And it would be negligent of me not to mention the highly anticipated “A Team” movie, which promises to be even better than the original series.
I’ve written previously of my absolute loathing for JJ Abrams’ take on “Star Trek”. I thought it utterly vapid, not to mention incoherent. “Star Trek XI” barely bothered paying lip service to the original, JJ resorting to bottom-fishing Leonard Nimoy in a vain attempt to lend the abomination some small measure of legitimacy (he failed). The mega-success of that film bewilders me–is the government putting something in the drinking water to make us dumb? Was that crazy guy standing behind me at Tramp’s Records down in Regina right and the H1N1 vaccine is a plot by Barack Obama to enslave our minds?
Let us not forget (I certainly can’t), the top grossing film in 2009 was, wait for it…”The Transformers”.
And (the good news just keeps coming) if the present trend continues, Jimmy Cameron will easily top his “Titanic” tally, “Avatar” already pulling in over a billion bucks from people who like their movies big, loud, pretty and predictable.
I get a monstrous headache when I ponder what all of this bodes for the future of film. Have we reached the creosote at the bottom of the barrel or–
Holy fuck, the Rock as a hockey enforcer and (ulp) tooth fairy? You gotta wonder what the pitch was like for that one. And if the guy who gave it the green light was over-medicated that day. Maybe it was a total whim, a desperate writer, his ideas shot down one by one, goes for broke and tosses out the first stupid thing that comes to mind. “There’s a hockey goon, see, and he’s somehow cursed and has to take over as tooth fairy…”
But what’s a budding screen writer supposed to do? Nobody’s buying “high concept” these days and who wants to wait around three or five or ten years to get funding through some indie? Fuck that. Everyone knows a writer’s life blood is development dough. Milk that tit dry, baby! And all but the terminally moronic have heard the news: producers and film execs aren’t looking for anything original or different and any agent who wants to keep his “A List” contacts isn’t going to champion a script that’s literate, low-key, thoughtful and utterly lacking explosions and eye-catching CGI effects.
Not when there are old ideas still to be resurrected, a rich vein of nostalgia to be ruthlessly exploited. By wunderkinds like Abrams and Zack Snyder and Michael Bay. Comic book fans and video game junkies. They don’t read anything that doesn’t come with colour illustrations. Not the sort who are interested in niceties like character development and well-rendered, believable dialogue, silences that speak volumes.
And apparently neither are you.
You’ve seen many of the films I’ve just named, haven’t you? And when the end credits rolled, you didn’t feel the slightest bit enlightened or ennobled by anything you’d just seen in the preceding 104 minutes. You know what you’re doing, don’t you? You’re padding the box office receipts of garbage films, encouraging the Hollywood mill to churn out yet more garbage. Charmless, superficial, derivative drek. Berke Breathed, that old curmudgeon, wrote about the sensawunda that is missing from films these days and I couldn’t agree more. Two hundred million bucks worth of state of the art special effects don’t amount to a hill of horseshit if your story is thin, trite and cliched. Sorry, Mr. Cameron.
But most film-goers (apparently) couldn’t care less. So what if “Cloverfield” was just a tarted up “Godzilla” flick? Big deal if “300” is historically inaccurate. They lined up in the driving rain for an hour to see “Star Trek” and will happily, uncomplainingly plunk down forty or fifty bucks when the “special ultimate limited edition” of “Avatar” is released this summer, with hours of bonus footage and deleted scenes and alternate endings and–
Okay, sorry I’m coming across so smug and morally superior. After all, Mr. Trekkie here just had to see “XI”, didn’t he, even if it was only to confirm it was as bad as I feared (actually, it was far worse).
But that was an aberration. Something completely out of character for me. Usually I resist the blandishments of the ads and trailers and ignore the well-meaning twits who say “well, I thought it was different from the usual stuff”. People inured to the eye candy and mindless, adolescent shite that pollutes theatres and the “New release” section of local movie stores, reducing a once-great art form to utter pap.
The “Star Trek” movie was merely confirmation of what I already knew. I don’t fit the demographic of contemporary film-goers. I have pubic hair and a real job; a life. I left that movie feeling like I’d been swindled by a particularly graceless and inept con man. The plot was ridiculous, it made no sense and, again, it made gazillions. I just don’t get it. These films, the remakes and sequels that show up week after week, are completely devoid of personality and any nuances or dashes of fine detail are entirely computer generated. What’s the appeal, folks? Why are you so averse to films that make you think?
Fuck the new “Sherlock Holmes” film, even if Guy Ritchie is directing. Especially if Guy Ritchie is directing. Here’s a guy with some talent (“Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”), participating in the utter rubbishing of one of the great characters in English literature. I’m a fan of the stories, I’m a huge fan of Jeremy Brett’s sublime interpretation of the master detective and I will not be seeing this new version. Transforming the cerebral sleuth into an action hero is an act of artistic heresy. For his crimes against the canon, Ritchie should be burned atop a pile of Madonna albums.
Okay, Mr./Ms. Average film-goer, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to repeat after me:
I am hereby declaring myself immune to hype and vital marketing campaigns; I will sneer at the latest franchise film, scoff at the laughably glowing reviews it receives from idigdumbmovies.com or KCLR Radio Topeka.
“The #1 Movie of the Summer!”
“The motion picture event of the year!”
“The Best Movie Ever!”
Sorry, we’ve hear that before, haven’t we?
It’s been many years since I’ve been the slightest bit interested in partaking of the latest “must see” film. I avoid the new stuff, instead plunge into the stacks, the “catalogue” movies. Making forays into Saskatoon and pillaging their main library. Finding films and checking them off my list. Old noir, classics of every genre, every era. The kind of titles that are gradually being weeded out of local rental shops to make space for 50 copies of “Spiderman 6” or an entire wall devoted to the “Laverne & Shirley: The Movie”. And I use the wonders of technology, go on-line and track down the movies I’ve heard about, yearned to see for years, decades: Murnau and Fellini and Dreyer and Clouzot; foreign and silent films, cult curios, visual melodies and meditations assembled and spliced from the zeitgeist.
It’s hard to turn up Monte Hellman films these days (try it sometime)…good Lord, someone’s selling some old Herzog flicks on eBay…and here’s my hero, Orson Welles, snippets from “Filming Othello” broadcast on YouTube . I watch them all and then seek out the Micheál Macliammóir film diary Welles alludes too. It’s wonderful , as well.
Recently I secured a copy of the remastered Criterion edition of “M”. And it’s high time I watched my VHS copy of King Vidor’s “The Crowd” again…
There is more craft, thought and artfulness put into either of those efforts than any flick released in the past ten years. Maybe longer. Isn’t that something? And they’re both at least 80 years old.
The auteurs like Lang and Vidor have died off or grown old. That image I have of Kurosawa, lying in his coffin, one of his longtime collaborators putting flowers between his toes to hide the bits blackened by frostbite. From the years spent outside, stalking about cold sets, making sure everything was exactly right. Now that’s an artist.
The new kids have it easy. They don’t even have to go outside. Green screen the actors and add in the sets, backdrops post-production. Perk up the tits on the leading lady while you’re at it, will ya, boys? The present breed write with laptops, instead of their hearts and souls. One eye on the box office, ever eager to please their corporate masters. Up to and including shooting a new ending for their labour of love, should a test audience of retards grade it too low…
He is, after all, the narrator and (ostensibly) author of So Dark the Night. And he doesn’t take kindly to picky, petty-minded editors who go over his writing with the scrutiny of an electron microscope.
“Fer Chrissakes, pal,” he has snarled at me on numerous occasions, “every bloody word doesn’t have to be right. This ain’t fuckin’ Shakespeare.”
I’ve been assigned to tighten the manuscript and while the job hasn’t been too demanding, the central figure in So Dark the Night has turned out to be prickly, opinionated and not afraid to use physical intimidation and force to get his way. It has made for some uncomfortable moments.
I have tried to explain that a little tightening and paring is good for any work but he isn’t having any of it. He insists I’m trying to put my own “stamp” on So Dark the Night and will clean up his hard-boiled prose to the extent where it’s no longer recognizably his.
It’s a ticklish point. As editor, it is part of my duty to retain Nightstalk’s unique syntax and word choice and I must even do my best to tolerate his (in my view) overuse of similes (I detest similes, they’re usually employed in such a lazy and facile manner). But there are certain rules of grammar that must apply. For instance, I have tried to clean up his propensity for infinitives (split or otherwise)–
“What the hell are they?” Nightstalk snarls.
–the prepositions he’s prone to leave dangling everywhere, the strange subordinate clauses, the exposition–
“Aw, bullshit,” is his only rejoinder.
Honestly, the fellow wouldn’t know a gerund from a–
“Careful,” he warns, his fists clenching.
You see what I have to deal with.
For a good idea of his temperament and the aura of violence Evgeny projects, I suggest you check out Bob Hoskins’ performance in the greatest Brit gangster movie ever, “The Long Good Friday”. All through the movie, Hoskins behaves like a bombshell about to go off. Evgeny gives that same impression.
We’ve been working on final revisions for just over a month now and I must say our relationship shows little signs of improving. I’m very much into precision: the exact right word in the exact right place at the exact right time. Evegeny is looking more for an overall effect: he recreates a scene to the best of his recollection, with all of the literary ability he possesses…and for him that’s good enough. He has read a great many (too many!) pulp writers and is aware of how fast and prolific those individuals were, churning out material at a remarkable rate. I recoil when he draws such parallels, since I have high hopes that So Dark the Night has more literary merit than the vast majority of tales hacked out by mercenary-minded wordsmiths and Grub Street types.
Still, we shall have to find a happy medium, for the sake of Nightstalk’s peace of mind and my physical safety. Likely about another ten days work left so it’s simply a case of trying to get along and come up with a completed effort that is exciting, literate, funny, engrossing; a book that is a pleasure and joy to read. I’m confident we’re close to reaching that point and that if we keep cool heads and open minds, we can finish this book with the minimum of bad feelings (and bloodshed).
That said, I’ve recently upgraded my Blue Cross medical coverage.
Just in case.
Editing, mostly, with a little bit of music and sports talk radio to help ease the pain. Aw, it hasn’t been so bad. I’ll admit to experiencing a lot of trepidation when I decided to give my novel So Dark the Night another run-through before I published it as a print-on-demand book next year. I posted it on this blog two years ago and since then have received numerous requests from readers that I release a “dead tree” edition of my supernatural thriller (and I do try to please my readers). Probably a smart idea: between this site and Scribd, So Dark has been downloaded at least a couple thousand times…a situation that pleases me beyond measure.
But I was worried that the interval of two years would rub some of the lustre off the book, reveal flaws, expose slipshod writing. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. The changes I’m making are cosmetic and are mainly due to how hard I was bearing down as I completed my final edits. I had been at work on So Dark the Night for three years and I wanted to make sure it was exactly right. I think it seems too tight in places and I am trying to loosen it up a tad, enhance Nightstalk’s narrative voice.
I’ve given myself a some firm deadlines to have this manuscript polished up and the book released by a certain date (more on that later). Delighted that the book is holding together very well (thus far) and that my faith in it, my love of the two central characters, is more than justified.
I’m also pleased that both my cover artists, Ado Ceric and Adrian Donoghue, have agreed to allow me to use their art when I release So Dark the Night and Of the Night in 2010 (likely through Lulu.com). The books have each been assigned ISBNs and we’ll soon finalize cover design and jacket copy. Feels good to be an indie publisher again–it’s been more than ten years since we released The Reality Machine and that’s too long. Gotta make up for lost time.
Stay tuned. 2010 is gonna be a busy year. Gotta celebrate my 25th year as a professional writer in style.
Break out the bubbly, string up a pinata…hell, folks, let’s have ourselves a party!
For the last few weeks I have been grinding away on final edits of So Dark the Night and it has not been fun. Rewarding, yes; mentally stimulating, undoubtedly. Fun? Not a chance.
I responded to a post on another blog this morning by opining that maybe the computer wasn’t the best invention for obsessive compulsive perfectionists like yours truly. In the bad old days of typewriters, if you made a mistake or needed to slice out a paragraph, you had to type the entire fucking page all over again. Which either made you do it right the first time or decide that it was “good enough”.
Alas, those two words are not in my vocabulary. There is no such thing as “good enough” and now, thanks to the cut and paste functions, the ease of editing with computers, my work may never be “good enough”. That’s a terrifying thought.
I’ve been banging away on So Dark the Night for over three years now. I’ve gone through the “final” editing process before and always seem to get drawn back for one last run-through. Imposing a deadline for myself this time around has really helped. This book will be loaded onto my blog the end of March, even if it kills me. It’s like the last rounds of Ali-Frazier’s “Thrilla in Manila”: both fighters battered, Frazier nearly sightless but neither giving up or backing down. Telling their corners not to stop the fight, no matter what.
This book has nearly destroyed me…and redeemed and strengthened me in the process. When virtually every single editor and agent either refused to look at it or turned it down after a cursory glance (or, like Jessica Wade at Ace Books, simply refused to respond to my queries after telling me how much she liked the first excerpt I sent her), I was traumatized. Doubted my talent, my courage, my Creator…but now, a la “Fast Eddie” Felson at the conclusion of “Color of Money”, I’m back. Oh, baby, am I ever.
Working with confidence and vision, seeing the novel in more dimensions and depth than I ever have before. I’ve finished edits on the first half of the book and today I begin Part II. I’ve divided So Dark into 20 page chunks and I pound away on each one like a heavy bag until I’m satisfied I’ve knocked the fucking stuffing out of it…and then I move on to the next segment.
The intensive editing has led to some, ah, interesting, side effects. Most notably, dreams; incredibly vivid ones. To the extent that when I stop work around 9:00 each night I have to deprogram myself, ease out of my fictional world, watch an old “Fawlty Towers” or original “Star Trek” episode with Sherron and have a giggle. My two sons are good sources of distraction too–funny, smart, interesting buggers. Their thought processes never cease to fascinate me. Their February break is coming up and during the time off I’m hoping a couple of old films I’ve ordered off the internet (“Conquest of Space” and “Tarantula”) will arrive and we can sit down, as a family, for a midnight-double-bill-creature- feature. I love sharing old flicks with them, chortling at the hokeyness and marveling at the absence of CGI, the wires showing and none of us giving a shit.
Sorry, have to make this post short. If I don’t make my daily page count, I can’t sleep at night. Insistent, nagging voices keeping me awake, telling me what a lazy, shiftless bastard I am.
Make sure you come back the end of March and see the end result of all this crazy-making work. So Dark the Night will be the leanest, tightest 470-page novel you’re likely to come across. That’s a promise–and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I always keep my promises.