Tag Archives: excerpt

Changing horses in the middle of the stream – or, changing projects in the middle of Nano

So, I’m doing something which is probably very stupid, but I’m also hoping to learn more about myself as a writer in the process. I mentioned a couple of posts back that A Wasted Land has been coming along more slowly than I had hoped. Mostly this has to do with me needing to do more research and related brainstorming. I thought I had the plot pretty much mapped out, I had a synopsis and the first chapter with me at the last Villa Diodati workshop and I got some good feedback on it — but I also had a bunch of big, gaping holes: the progress of the battles in this novel, the secondary characters (who are still like ciphers), the settings I haven’t used in previous books. I was doing more research than writing, getting no more than 600-700 words done a day.

So I stopped. Not completely, of course. I’m still adding notes to my Scrivener file and reading some new (to me) books on the Dark Ages. Right now it’s The English Settlements: English Political and Social Life from the Collapse of Roman Rule to the Emergence of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms:

I’ve often wondered if I could write faster if I didn’t (almost) always write such research-intensive stuff. So couple of days ago, I started to think about the kinds of plots I enjoy that aren’t fantasy, historical, or science fiction, something I could set in the here and now, in places that I know fairly well and won’t have to be researching two hours for every hour I write. I hit upon escape plots where the protagonist is running from a mysterious threat. Think The Fugitive, Terminator, that kind of thing. I figured I could set the story in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. But if my protagonist is running, she could start out someplace else that I know pretty well, the Raleigh/Durham area where I spent a lot of time over the years for IBM.

And I started writing. I don’t have a title yet, nor do I know what the mystery is going to be, but I do have over 6,000 words already. Even though I didn’t do any pre-writing, I’m now at about 1200 words a day on my unnamed thriller. Those still aren’t Nano levels, of course, and I know I’m not going to “win” this thing, but it’s turning out to be a lot of fun writing something where I don’t have to do as much prep. And I’m not trying to imply that this genre is any easier to write than historical fantasy, it all seems to come down to the time factor. I’ve had to look up a few things, of course — what are the most popular cars in the US, where are the superstores in the Triangle and are they open 24 hours, how to get more money than your limit from an ATM — but it isn’t every little detail. And I can find the answers to my questions a lot faster. Besides, for the settings I can rely at least in part on memory. Those are huge time savers.

So if I can come up with a decent mystery for this thing and finish it, I may be in the market for a genre pseudonym. 🙂

For the above reasons, you’re getting something completely different from me this week for WIPpet Wednesday, from my unnamed fugitive novel. WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂 My math this week goes like this: 11+2+0 (11/20) = 13. So I’m giving you thirteen short paragraphs from the first scene I wrote a couple of days ago:

Then she heard Rick bellow at the top of his lungs, “Help! I’m –”
And silence.
No! Amber felt as if all the air had been pressed out of her body. She rose again slowly, gazing sideways into the room for confirmation of what she was afraid to see. Rick, slumped forward on the chair, arms limp at his sides, blood pooling on the floor beneath him.
“Do you think anyone heard him?” one of them said.
There was a brief silence and footsteps, going and coming. “No changes in the lights on the houses nearby.”
“Good,” Griffith said. “When the wife gets back, we’ll make it look like a murder-suicide. The police won’t ask too many questions — we have that covered. Then the secret will be safe.”
Amber knew that if she sobbed her pain it would be her death sentence. It was an act of will the likes of which had never before been required of her. But even as she fought with her grief, an important detail had not escaped her — she couldn’t go to the police.
But what was the secret these people thought was important enough to kill for? What could she possibly know that was worth that? She was only a high school drama teacher, after all.
And on the other side of the wall, Rick was slumped dead in their dining room. For what?
For a moment, Amber considered stepping in front of the window, making herself known, allowing them to murder her and lay her beside her husband. What did anything matter, now? And if they had someone from the police on their side, what chance did she have anyway?
Then anger came to her aid, a wave of it so strong, she was sorely tempted to storm through the door with her wimpy hammer and the element of surprise and take at least one of them out. She knew what the odds of that were — very nearly zero.
On the other hand, what were the odds of her ever avenging her husband’s death? With Griffith having the police in their pocket, and her not even knowing what it was they had killed him for? Also very nearly zero.
But better than if she too were dead.

Very rough first draft, any and all comments welcome. Especially if you have any cool ideas what kind information or cover-up or whatever could be going on here. I have NO experience writing mysteries! 🙂

More from A Wasted Land for #WIPpet Wednesday

I’m not getting around to much blogging these days other than WIPpet Wednesday, it seems! I feel dreadfully behind on just about everything, like I will never be able to catch up. But at least I can post an excerpt. 🙂

On WIPpet Wednesday, a bunch of us writers post something from a Work in Progress, a passage that is somehow related to the date. You can view the other excerpts here, and you’re welcome to join in the fun!

My math for today: 9+25+13=47. I’m giving you a short excerpt from page 47 of A Wasted Land. In this scene, it’s about a week since Kustennin was elected Pendragon, and he, his family, and some of his closest comrades are discussing what needs to be done:

“Speaking of horses, you might want to consider appointing a new Master of Horse,” Bedwyr said.
Cador threw up his hands. “Do not look at me, I beg you! I will of course go to war with you, but I do not want a role again that will take me away from my family for long stretches of time.” Riona had abandoned her own chair to climb up into her father’s lap, and Cador was doing his best to push his wine glass out of her grasp.
Kustennin smiled. “I think it would be in my own best interests not to take you away from my mother. Or my little sister.” He reached across the table and chucked Riona under the chin. She batted his hand away with a spoon, laughing.
He glanced around the table, wondering who he could appoint as Master of Horse. None of those he most trusted had the same knowledge of horseflesh as his stepfather had, as Cai once had.
Except perhaps Cai’s daughter Celemon.
For whatever reason, not even Celemon’s brother Garanwyn knew horses the way she did. Perhaps it was because Celemon had been hanging around in the stables while Garanwyn was training to become a warrior. Or perhaps it was because Celemon had been in fosterage with Cador, while Garanwyn had been fostered with Aircol in Moridunum — and now knew boats better than he knew horses.
It was unfortunate Kustennin couldn’t make Celemon his Master of Horse. Or could he? Who was to say that the person filling the position had to be a warrior? Wasn’t a knowledge of horses more important?
But before he made any decisions, he would speak with Bedwyr. He was somewhat worried that a desire to have Celemon by his side might be clouding his judgement.