Letters from the Battlefield, Part VI
Huh. I have to tell you, doing these Letters is enlightening for me, even if it’s not for anybody else. For example, I feel like I haven’t done a lot this week. However, looking at last week’s letter, I was at 39.2K on the book (thanks to going back and revising), with my eye on a goal of getting back up to 55K, which is where I’d stopped and had to go back and fix things.
I’m at 70K now, which includes a bunch of material I could more or less fit right back in, and a bunch of new material I’ve written over the past week. So, in fact, despite not feeling like I’ve accomplished much, I’ve actually done a pretty good job.
Now, however, we face a bit of a parting of the ways. I’m going to San Diego Comic Con next week, and I have a bunch of stuff I need to do before then. Realistically, the next week is not going to involve any more work on this book. *Obviously* SDCC week isn’t going to be productive in a word-count sense. So my goal of finishing this by July 18 isn’t gonna happen. I’ve got about two weeks of work left on this thing, probably, so it looks like I’ll be turning it in around mid-August instead of mid-July. All things told, I think that’s not bad.
Anyway, so there might be a Letter next week, but it’ll be “what I’m doing when I’ve got a zillion small writing tasks to take care of”, and since I fly back from San Diego on the 28th/29th, I can’t guarantee anything for a Battlefield post on the 29th except maybe a snapshot of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (look, *somebody* here’s gotta appreciate that, right…?)
All right, enough of that. This week’s actual Letter starts out with a humiliating discovery of an early-stage URBAN SHAMAN draft….
- *laughs* Oh my God. I just found what must have been *very* close to the original first chapter/character sketch/getting the feeling thing for the Walker Papers. It’s about 800 words long, and it’s *awful*.
Yeah, oh my God, created April 17, 2000, at 6:01pm. Oh my God. It’s awful. *laughs more* Here, here, let me share my humiliation with you:
Being a cop wasn’t exactly the glamorous day job I’d envisioned having when I grew up. Everybody knew cops were the enemies, even kids who didn’t get in trouble.
I was not trouble, as a kid. Well, I didn’t think I was trouble. There are people who would disagree. Most of them would be people I beat up. I wasn’t a bully. I was incredibly pale-skinned and green-eyed on a knot of a reservation where the Cherokee people had gathered.
Lots of kids had been abandoned by their fathers. I was practically alone in the running for having been abandoned by my mother. All my father ever told me about her was that her name was Maire Maconohy, that she was straight-off-the-boat Irish, had black hair and green eyes, and when she showed up on his doorstep nine months after their one night stand, she said my name was Sion, and walked off without a glance back.
My birth certificate says Sion Walkingstick. My name is Joanne Walker. Dad Anglicized the first name, I Anglicized the second. The only thing I get with the name Walkingstick is people saying, “Geez, you don’t look Indian.” By the time I was ten I was sick of it. By the time I was fifteen I swore I’d never hear it again. When I turned sixteen and left the rez, I started using Joanne Walker on everything. My law degree says Walker.
It wasn’t so much that I was turning my back on my heritage as I never felt like it belonged to me. I ddin’t really grow up on the rez. We spent about six years there, when I was a teenager. Well, from puberty to sixteen, which isn’t technically the same thing as being a teenager. I think I would’ve been more comfortable if I’d just grown up there. Instead I got stuck into a culture I’d been indoctrinated to regard as primitive and never quite lost my superior little sneer.
Which is probably half of why I got in so many fights.
But man, I had big dreams. I was going to be the first woman president, win the Nobel Prize, dispense justice and kindness all around, and basically save the world. I got a scholarship to the state university — in Virginia — and then to the Omaha School of Law. Overall, those were the most boring years of my life. I didn’t party, I didn’t date, I didn’t do much of anything but study. Passed the bar on my first try and came back to Seattle, where I’d spent the first ten years of my life. Got a job as a baby lawyer . . .
. . . and hated it. Yeah, the paycheck was satisfying, and dressing in classy clothes and wearing a sharp haircut was great, but it didn’t feel like I was making the slightest fucking difference. It took seven months and three days for me to walk. Out of law school into a police academy. I got my badge on my twenty-fifth birthday.
I was a good cop. I’m big, just a hair under six feet tall, and guys who wouldn’t be terrified of a man my size or bigger just sort of freak out when I face them down. My partner was a little guy, about five six. We used to play good-cop bad-cop and argue over who got to be which. It wasn’t the greatest job, but it was better than being a lawyer.
Only then there was a gunfight and Miguel got killed. We’d both thought we could handle it and hadn’t called in backup, but I was the only one left to explain that, and it didn’t look so good. It might’ve gone over, except then my mother called up out of the blue and wanted me to come to Ireland because she was dying and she wanted to see what she’d wrought. Not that she had much to do with it, but I went anyway. We spent about four months going all over Europe, and then she decided she was done and died in Venice. Traveling overseas with a corpse you barely knew is not my idea of fun.
Right after the funeral I got a letter from Maggie, a friend of mine on the force, who said while I’d been gone Markson, the supe, had gotten me moved down into traffic patrols. He was trying to get me to quit: he didn’t think women belonged on the police force. He and Maggie’d been going around for years. But I wasn’t gonna quit. The fucker could fire me, but he’d have to do it. I wasn’t going to make it easy on him.
*writhes around in agony* Oh my God. *laughs and LAUGHS*
- I got up way too late Thursday and didn’t get much worth mentioning done. I got up very early Friday and got what by my (completely insane) standards I consider a good writing day done: 6400 words. I’m up an hour later today, but I’m aiming for 5500 words. That many a day between yesterday and the 20th *should* finish this book the day before I leave for ComicCon. *crossed fingers*
- Holy *matrimony* I’m tired. Yesterday I kept waiting for the inevitable crash that came with getting up way earlier than I’m accustomed to. It arrived today. *Man*! It’s 10 to 3 and I’ve only done 2000 words, which is a totally respectable number, overlooking the part where I’m aiming for more than twice that. Right now is one of those times I wish I drank caffeine, although after a 45 minute nap and half an hour of wandering around the house staring at things I’m starting to wake up again…
- This morning I wrote a scene and threw it away. Hate that, but it was one of those “yeah, it could fit”, except the back of my bran was going NO NO NO NO NO WRONG NO. I think what I ended up writing instead is a bit more poignant, and it *certainly* makes me happier with the shape of the universe as written.
- One of the things I find a down side about my Letters is that I tend to talk around the actual events I’m struggling with, because I don’t want to spoil things. Maybe for the next book I write, whatever that may be, I’ll keep a set of Letters where I actually talk about specific scenes and characters and spoilers, and I’ll post that set after the book comes out, so people have a chance to read the book and then read about how and where things changed/went wrong/went barking mad. Would that be cool?
- Completely random and having nothing to do with this book: I got a revision letter from my agent on my *last* book (THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, the 180K behemoth I turned in in May), and there was a scene she said she nearly stopped and emailed me to go AUGH! at me about. I was SO PLEASED. These are the moments we live for…:)
- Bizarre little thing: I wrote THE PRETENDER’S CROWN with my line spacing set at 1.5 instead of exactly 25pt, which is what I turn manuscripts in at, so I could see more of the page on the screen. It also did this little psychological thing with me, where I know 5 pages is about 1000 words, so with the line spacing smaller I was getting more words in and so when I’d check my wordcount I’d feel really accomplished and stuff. Those books average chapters of about 25 pages in length, which can just feel like it takes *forever* to reach, but I’d change the line spacing when I was done and POOF! the chapter was the right length!
So I figured good, I’ll do that with this book. Except now that I’m back on my writing computer with a full-sized screen (I wrote the first halfish of the book on a laptop), instead of making me feel accomplished it’s making me feel panicked, because I know a Walker Papers chapter is about 14 pages (3500ish words), and I’ll have, like, 2200 words written and it’s only FIVE PAGES. And my brain is all AUGH I WILL NEVER REACH THE END OF THIS CHAPTER WHAT AM I DOING *WRONG*!?!?
I’ve reset it to 25pt spacing. Man. I don’t need any more mental hangups on this than I’ve already got.
- I woke up enough to finish a chapter, which I wasn’t sure was going to happen. Whew. It’s now a quarter to five, and on one hand I’ve been ‘writing’ all day, as I started…before 8, but I probably haven’t actually put much more than 4 hours of real writing time in. I think I’ll stop at 6pm, regardless of what wordcount I’ve reached.
3 more chapters should get me to 300 pages. It’s reasonably likely I’ll have reached that by the time this gets posted….
- I wasn’t going to write today. I got up late, I was sleepy, I just didn’t feel like it. I said I was going to read a book. I went and looked at the bookshelves.
And, as always happens when I’m writing, I couldn’t be moved to read anything I had available. I’m already committed to a book: the one I’m writing. I can’t get involved with another story right now. I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s just not going to work. I really love you, but I can’t be with you.
Nobody tells you, when you decide to become a professional writer, just how much your beloved reading time is going to take a hit. Me, I can read graphic novels and old favorites, and sometimes out-of-my-subgenre–hard SF is usually a decent bet–or out of genre entirely, but it’s just hard to read anything at all.
So here I am at my writing computer, and I guess I’ll try to get a few hundred words done today, after all….
- I fear I’m going to disappoint all my Battlefield readers, as (short of a miracle, which I am not anticipating) I’m not going to reach 300 pages on this book by this time I post this. I’m at about…272 right now, and I don’t really see writing almost 30 pages today. It’d be swell if I did, but I doubt it’ll happen. Man. 40,000 words still sounds like an awful lot of writing to do.
- How odd. Inspiration struck and I wrote the first thousand or so words of the fifth Walker Papers novel. Handy, because it gives me somewhere to hang my hat when I write the proposal for that book (ideally *immediately* after finishing the one I’m working on, so I can turn them in together), but not especially helpful in terms of getting the last 40K of this one done.