Prepping for Camp NaNoWritMo

Recovering from the aftershocks of the Transcription Follies, subsequent thoughts lingered to how to make sense of the 17,000+ words written way back when (or if, in fact sense can be made from it). As the April session of Camp NaNoWritMo is fast approaching, it seemed the ideal time to use that quasi-structured challenge [quasi-structured only in the fact that one can set the goal word count in Camp NaNoWritMo, as opposed to the strict(er) 50,000 word count for the main NaNoWritMo] as a way to formally tackle this monumental task.

So, back into the Land of Exposition I went – the snow finally (!) melted away to water the lavish Plot Bunny Garden – wherein I booked my (usual) suite in the Character Development Inn. I quasi-promise one of the days, I’ll get around to writing a story series about the goings on in the Land of Exposition, its surroundings and the various Muses that reside there.

But not today.

Anyway, amid the plotting and pondering, lingering thoughts strayed to other archival research, musings and other writings (most of which were handwritten) related to The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery, most of which were interesting and unusually detailed (though not too much of it made much sense, but I suppose it did at the time). Moreover, the chapter summaries of the proposed ending seemed trite and a tad melodramatic, so the odds of finishing the novel as intended seem to be nil. Streamlining the various plotlines, as well as extricating the blatantly stolen borrowed elements is the paramount task, to the point at which the exact story told in that (very) early draft will most likely be shelved for the moment, and paced accordingly over several stories in the second series in the three series saga of the MASC Chronicles, where the initial story was to reside in the first place.

Of course, the exposition for all the various (aforementioned) plotlines need to be fleshed out and expanded upon, wherein the (relatively) new tale is quasi-born: the story that I will (no doubt) write as my novel for Camp NaNoWritMo, instead of the (intended) revision of The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery. Whether or not that tale will be a pure mystery novel or not is debatable, though the one thing I am (rather) sure about is that it will be a tale structured around a notion I’ve been pondering ever since I started reading (and watching) mysteries: after the culprit (murderer, blackmailer, thief, etc.) is apprehended, and the loose ends are tied up in any mystery story, what happens to the people who were involved in the case afterwards? How do they move on (or do they)? How does the specter of crime affect their lives? Most mystery novels (especially if they’re stand-alone stories) end with the arrest (or perhaps death) of the criminal, and the detective(s) and their associates reflecting on the events that have occurred, sometimes with those involved with the case. I’ve always wondered what happens after the “end” of the novel (or, in the case of a TV program, what happens after the end credits).

While most mystery novels (almost) always have a good amount of narration of the events directly before the crime, there aren’t as many (to the best of my knowledge) novels that devote the same amount of narration of the events directly after the crime. There may be subsequent stories that might reference those events in passing, or characters might reappear for various reasons or under certain circumstances, usually as a quasi-antagonist or catalyst for the next case.

Then again, writing a mystery novel that deals with the events directly before and after the dénouement, with the case itself in between, will inevitably be a very long story, a story the average reader might not want to read.

Maybe the average reader might not care about what happens to victim’s family, friends, associates afterwards, and presumes they go on with their lives as normally as possible.

Maybe the average reader might not care about the ultimate fate of the criminal, and presumes the Law will punish them accordingly.

Maybe the average reader might not care about the emotional, mental, and physical toll the case has upon the investigators (private or otherwise), and presumes they just move on to the next case.

Well, I care.

I’m sure there’s more to learn about these characters after the last page, and after the fade to black.

And I plan to write about it.

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The Transcription Follies

So, last week’s entry (the 111th, according to the WordPress stats) dealt with the (then) ongoing saga of transcribing the first (albeit unfinished) mystery novel I wrote about 20 (!) years (!!) ago, entitled The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery. It took almost exactly ten days (or rather nine evenings and one long afternoon) to transcribe that manuscript, of which the word count totaled 17,796, by far the longest actual!writing ever written thus far. Whilst transcribing, I noticed a wealth of inconsistencies in the overall story (aside from the initial revision that resulted in the deletion of the first three chapters mentioned in last week’s blog entry – thankfully at the time, I had the forethought to summarize each chapter, so there’s the off-chance I could possibly reconstruct what I had foolishly deleted) – more unnecessary dialogue tags, passive voice, inconsistent verb changes and other illogical plotholes, not to mention a lack of knowledge of English geography and dialogue vernacular more akin to the (then) present day (mid 1990’s) as opposed to dialogue spoken at the time the story was supposed to take place (which shifted from the Victorian Era to the Interwar period).

It took a LOT of chocolate covered espresso beans and several cups of coffee to resist the urge to edit/revise the text while I transcribed it – another aspect I noticed is the (over) use of the word “well”, mostly in dialogue – that total word count ended up at 107; as well as a very sequential “telling” narrative of the action. Not to mention I shamelessly most certainly stole borrowed elements for the plot from Phantom of the Opera  – using a falling chandelier to kill the victim during a New Year’s Eve celebration (thankfully, I had the sense to not have that celebration be a masquerade ball…)

But I digress.

Now that the transcription portion of the project is complete, the editing/revising/completing of the story comes next. The story (as it stands now) desperately needs to be edited and revised before I can contemplate finishing it. I actually have (handwritten!) chapter summaries of how the story should end – an ending which makes quasi-sense if one presumes the narrative that preceded it has a shred of plausibility.

Sadly, it actually doesn’t.

Oh well, so much for that ending.

Nevertheless, I kinda, sorta have an inkling of what I had intended the story to be – I just jammed too many subplots and (melodramatic) plot twists that left the overall narrative a mishmash of… stuff. Looking at the unfinished manuscript with a quasi-objective eye, it has the potential to be an interesting mystery (or rather two separate mysteries – one that can fit somewhere in the first series of the MASC Chronicles and the other somewhere in the second series). There are expository elements that could be elaborated upon, and character exposition that could be refined and reused for the aforementioned series saga.

After completing the transcription, my initial impulse was to begin the editing/revising process, but as the next session of Camp NaNoWritMo is (literally) just around the corner (in April), the process has now shifted to start the actual!rewriting of The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery next month. I can use the rest of this month to ponder the plot and clarify what the actual story should be, and sift out the extraneous, melodramatic and ridiculous elements, as well as decide upon when this story takes place, both time-wise and also within the grand scheme of things in the MASC Chronicles – or if  this tale should have a place in that series saga.

While reading/transcribing this (very) early work has been a trial (amid the absurdities in content and grammar), it was also a useful reference into how I used to write, and an interesting look into my mindset at the time (as I recognized the stolen borrowed elements from Phantom and the blatant (melo)dramatics which most likely originated from my devoted viewership of daytime soaps General Hospital and One Life To Live). Thankfully, my writing style has improved over the years/decades, and will (hopefully) remain improving as time goes by.

Then again, the fact that I actually spent a summer writing this draft (at least I believe it took me one summer to write those 17,000+ words, via a word processor – yes, that’s how old that story was, hence the need to transcribe it in the first place) and wrote all of that is astounding (even if the story makes little to no sense).

Anyway.

I’ve got a whole lot of pondering and sifting to do, in this (brief) editing/revising/plotting period before I embark on the actual!(re)writing of this mystery. I’m (almost) 96% sure the dropping of the chandelier will be removed, replaced by a more plausible (yet not as dramatic) method of disposing of the victim.

And for those asking (if any) this transcribed (unfinished) manuscript will NEVER grace anyone’s eyes except mine – no one deserves to be inflicted with this nonsensical story, full of grammatical errors and plotholes large enough to drive a bus through. Nevertheless, I’ll keep one version of this transcription as I originally wrote it as a reminder of how far I’ve come as a writer.

Upwards and onwards!

The Ghost of Novels Past

In quasi-honor of that triad of quasi-holidays this weekend – Friday the 13th, Pi Day and the Ides of March – a look back onto that early novel, albeit unfinished, I had wrote written roughly two (!) decades (!!) ago, entitled The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery.  The origins of this first attempt at novel-writing came about one summer, borne out of an idea to expand upon a short story (which bore the same title), after that same short story produced plot bunnies that resulted in an adapting  the essence of that short story into a one-act play.

It’s always interesting to revisit earlier works to see what was written, the pacing and such; it’s also amusing and horrifying at the same time. As The Golden Dagger Inn Mystery was written before the advent of personal computers (or at least before I owned one), having been written using a word processor, the first task at hand is to transcribe the narrative into Word, having printed out a hard copy from the aforementioned precursor to the personal computer. Printed out this initial (unfinished) novel is 50 pages long (single spaced), divided into 25 chapters – the longest example of actual!writing I’ve ever produced.

As I began the transcription process, I discovered that at some point in time (I’m not quite sure) I had embarked on revising this early work, revising the first chapter and removing the three subsequent chapters, resulting in a significant gap in the narrative flow (not to mention the sudden change in character names). Foolishly, I neglected to keep the original draft of those chapters, yet I had the wherewithal to write (and retain!) detailed chapter summaries of that novel. Though I don’t recall if I wrote the summaries first then the narrative or if I wrote them the other way ’round – it doesn’t really matter (much.)

Anyway.

As I’ve spent much of this week transcribing this early work, which will be finished, edited and revised (though not necessarily in that order), I’ve put my current WIPs on hold, though this early work will [somehow] find its way into the MASC Chronicles – where exactly remains to be seen. So far I’ve transcribed 20 (printed) pages, with the word count (thus far) sitting at 7,469. I’ve noticed a whole host of grammatical errors – misuse/overuse of semi-colons, erroneous tense changes, and overly descriptive/unnecessary dialogue tags; the overall story meanders into mild melodrama and inaccuracies (especially in terms of basic knowledge of English geography). The temptation is to edit/revise whilst transcribing, but (thus far) I’ve resisted that temptation (as well as running this text into the Hemingway app, which analyzes readability, pinpoints passive voice, adverbs and such). Aside from improving my typing skills/speed, transcribing this work (and that one-act play) helps recall the mindset of my past writer self, and serves as a marker of how my writing style has changed over the years/decades.

Perhaps one of these days I’ll write that meta story about the mystery writer attempting to write a novel series and include the Ghost of Novels Past (or in this case, novel and one-act play).

Perhaps that one-act play will be expanded into a full length play or screenplay.

Perhaps this nascent first attempt at novel-writing will be the first actual!novel completed and published.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

Meanwhile, onward I transcribe (and attempt not to cringe too much at the inaccuracies and inconsistencies). I’m also curious to know the final word count of this unfinished novel, and whether or not it’ll actually make sense.

After all, novel-writing and story telling is a grand adventure.

Springing Ahead

As time marches into… well, March, Daylight Savings Time is nearly upon us.

Clocks are set an hour ahead.

We lose an hour of sleep.

We gain an extra hour of daylight.

So, on the eve of this wibbly-wobbly shift in the space/time continuum, it seems an ideal time to get things in order before things get timey-wimey.

Hopefully this (minor) acceleration in time travel will herald a change in seasons. Spring will finally (!) arrive, banishing winter for a few months. It shouldn’t be snowing in March. Seriously. While it’s pretty to watch (from within the comfort of  one’s home), snow is a bother, especially when you have to shovel it about. As the temperatures fluctuate, causing the snow to either melt into slush or freeze into black ice (or any combination thereof), its troublesome nature exponentially grows.

Then again, the snow is a kind of metaphor in (almost) any writer’s journey. Each snowflake – large or small – is unique as they drift and swirl in the air. They can accumulate into massive piles or melt before they touch the ground. Snowstorms can last for a few minutes or for hours on end. Shoveling the snow can be an easy or arduous task – finding a place to deposit the accumulation to clear a path can be a challenge as others shift their snow piles about, sometimes obscuring the path you have cleared. When the snow freezes into ice or turns into slush, maneuvering through those obstacles proves to be equally challenging, if not more so. The potential pitfalls and p(l)otholes can/will leave you frustrated and wary, as you move ever so slowly and carefully to avoid losing your balance and falling. Hacking away at the ice is strenuous and time-consuming but necessary to clear the roadblocks to resume your usual pace. Traipsing around the slushy puddles is also time-consuming as you are forced to keep your eyes to the ground to avoid getting your feet soaking wet (whilst remembering to look both ways before crossing the street).

I think I’ve pretty much exhausted the snow as a metaphor for plotting/pondering/writing, so as (hopefully) the last of the winter storms has befallen the Northeast region of the USA, we can look forward to warmer weather. As the snow melts, nature will be reborn: the grass will be greener, trees will regain its leaves and the flowers will bloom once more. The cold chill will yield to milder winds – the shades of white and grey will give way to (mainly) green and a rainbow of color.

Winter will (soon!) turn into Spring, and with the advent of spring comes the usual (inevitable) task of spring cleaning – clearing out the dust (plot) bunnies, deciding on what (if any) things to throw out, things to rearrange or things to keep. It’s another arduous, time-consuming task that (usually) needs to be done every now and then, if only to keep things in an orderly fashion in order to move ahead.

So, as I (once again) sit in the coffee lounge in the Character Development Inn, extending my stay (again) in the Land of Exposition, I plot and ponder upon the order of things. Eventually, I’ll venture out to hack away at the icy pavement in an attempt to clear a path towards the Road to Actual!Writing without slipping or falling into the various slushy plotholes that reside quasi-hidden along the way.

Hopefully it won’t take too long to clear out the snow/ice/slush – at least with the arrival of Daylight Savings Time, there will be an extra hour of daylight to complete the job.