Thursday, October 21, 2010


            “Water for me please,” I said to the waitress as I organized our printouts for the meeting.
She turned to Larry, “Sir?”
“I’ll have coffee.”
I looked up to see if he was joking. Larry never drinks coffee. We had an extended conversation once where he told me that not only did he not like the taste of coffee, he didn’t really care for the smell of it, either.
“Wow, you must’ve had a hard day if you’re ordering coffee,” I said as the waitress scribbled on her pad.            
“What? No. Wait. Did I order coffee? I don’t even like coffee.”
The waitress looked up.
“Coke. Regular Coke.”
Oh, great, I thought. His head’s not in the game, and mine has been pounding all day, so I planned to rely on his mental prowess—my plan spiraled downward, crashing into flames, scattering little charred bodies and rubble. On the upside, at least I didn’t have to cook my own supper.
            The waitress walked away shaking her head, and he said, “You know, I haven’t had a Coke all day. Maybe that’s what’s the matter with me.”
            “Well, I hope that fixes it. We can’t leave here until Chapter 24 is done.”
            “What did you just send to the critique group?”
            “Chapter 23.”
            “So we’re not ahead at all?”
            You know what, folks—this whole idea of getting ahead was a good one. And we both really, truly meant it. It’s just been a tough month for both of us in different ways—maybe him worse than me, what with the whole coffee incident and all.
            Knowing the work we needed to accomplish, we didn’t even bother with small talk. We had four newly written scenes, some previously written scenes, and we had to shuffle the mess together into some kind of logical order.
The challenge for us at this point is that so much happens to so many people in these last few chapters of the book, that some of the scenes could be—and are—happening at the same time, which is challenging to write. Chronological is the comfortable way to go, but we’re fighting the chicken/egg question in a few places. So, what order do we put them in?
Finally, after an enormous amount of discussion, we decided, in places that order is less important than pacing, we'd intersperse lighter scenes among murder and mayhem to allow readers to breathe. We also deleted some of the older scenes that didn’t really forward the story.
After making another big X across a page, Larry said, “Wow. Un-writing is easy!”
Agreed. A little too easy, considering how difficult it was to come up with those scenes in the first place.
We broke up the meeting with a plan—we need to write two more scenes before the chapter will be complete. I deleted about 5 pages worth of old, useless scenes, and added a new scene, about ¾ of a page, back in. We're not getting very far very fast.
Larry, maybe you better take up coffee.

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