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Saturday, June 14, 2003

For once I managed to do some work on Deserters during the day, instead of in the evening when I'm usually pretty tired. It was mostly just the tidying-up of the Nov. 22 scene, but it went fine. Having ripped the whole Maddy plotline out of the story a few weeks ago, I've now managed to recover the lost ground--I have about 23,000 words plus the isolated chunk of story involving Jack and Jen--so it's close to 30,000 words altogether, or about a third of the total.

Beginning to think of submitting what I have to a couple of publishers--McClelland & Stewart have the early version and ought to get the revision, but a Vancouver publisher might also be interested. Well, we'll see what happens.

Also reflecting on Henderson, and still not sure how to get through the techie chapters immediately ahead, when he and his colleagues are cobbling together a set of nanobots that will do what they're supposed to, but then go far beyond their specifications. Well, it's mostly a matter of doing some research, so I'm just being perversely disorganized about it.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Another night, another 500 words. The Nov. 22 scene is almost finished. That is, I've come to the end of it, but it needs small detail work here and there. It ends with Jack's training company double-timing off the firing ranges to the Fort Ord parade ground, where they'll get the official announcement about JFK's assassination.

I want to intensify the last paragraph or so, describing the recruits scrambling up a hill, very tired, but screaming at the guys ahead to hurry up. I also need to find a way to heighten the irony of all these guys learning to use rifles on the day JFK gets shot--without beating the reader over the head with it.

Thinking about what should happen next...Jack's gone through some very intense flashbacks between dinner at Astrid's and then the memories of Nov. 22. I suspect he needs to talk to someone, and maybe this would be a good time for him to invite Jennifer to lunch. Well, let's see how that works out.

Interesting how just writing about writing leads to useful thinking about writing.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Got quite a bit done today, mostly on the November 22, 1963 flashback. Writing it was quite a flashback in itself, a trip 40 years back in time. Oddly consoling in a way--20 years earlier, Hitler and Stalin and Roosevelt and Churchill bestrode the world, but in 1963 only Churchill was still alive. JFK had dominated the previous three years or more, and suddenly he was gone. The people and regimes that seem eternal are mere spindrift, gleaming for a moment and then vanished. Now we have the arrogant jerks in Washington, and they too will pass.

Tomorrow I should go back through the present version and make it more kinesthetic--I want readers to see and hear and feel what it was like to be in the US army on that long-ago day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Five hundred words a day...that seems to be as much as I can do. Not a great output, but night after night, it all adds up. Deserters is moving along pretty well. The next flashback will be to November 22, and there it should go faster since Jack and I had the same experience on that day.

Meanwhile I'm also making some progress with the communications textbook, making occasional corrections or changes. The report chapter will be the biggest chore, so I'm putting it off until the small stuff has been cleaned up. All in all, not a bad day.


Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Well, last night's post did me some good...I've just got going on a scene involving Stackley's account of seeing gassed trenches in April 1915, with Jack's recollection of a much tamer gassing in basic training in 1963. The diary will go on to describe the death of a highly admired officer in Stackley's regiment, a man who Stackley thinks might have become a Canadian prime minister. That will set up the flashback to November 22, 1963. I have to go back into my research about the first gas attack in 1915 (which the Canadians endured with astounding courage and few defenses), but we're well started on this part of the story.

Monday, June 09, 2003

This was another textbook day, full of the kind of dull, detail-oriented work that I perversely enjoy: typing URLs, correcting typos, making minor changes. (But I did remember to write to a textbook publisher who's been considering this book since January...maybe this project will make a little money some day.)

Also got the page proofs of an article that will appear this fall in Writer's Digest. It looked pretty good, with a change or two needed that the editor agreed with. So that was nice too.

But now I need to think hard about where Jack Auslander goes after his dinner with Astrid. He should be tempted to explore Sid Gardiner's papers, having learned about Sid's possible CIA past. Or will he just think about that for a while, and carry on with Stackley's papers?

I need to maintain a lot of resonance between all these wars and causes, so I don't want to neglect Stackley. And I don't want to let Jack's own military experience slip away. Sometime soon he'll flash back to November 22, 1963 and the Kennedy assassination. Watching Old Jack wandering around Fort Ord on that day, warning everyone about what's going to happen next, should be fun.

All of which is to say I'm not sure which strand to pick up next. That's one reason why I'm making this entry in MetaWriting--to goad myself into making some decisions. It would be easy to do the Nov. 22 passage; it would be a kind of set piece, almost too easy to do well. But maybe I should find something in Stackley's letters and diary that will prepare us for it...maybe the death of an officer who (Stackley thinks) might have made a wonderful prime minister in postwar Canada?

Well, I'm getting there...

Sunday, June 08, 2003

This was a chore day...but not a bad one.

Instead of working on the novels, I spent most of the day on a revision of our communications textbook, which three of my colleagues and I have put together and revised many times over the past ten or twelve years. For a few years it was commercially published, but then we took the rights back when the publisher didn't want to bring out a second edition. Now we print it on campus.

This project is going to try to create a multimedia version, with a lot of extra material available on a Web site. But the first step is to go through the whole thing, correct the inevitable errors and typos, do some updating here and there, and add a chapter or two of new material. It's going pretty well, at least for the first five or six chapters. I'm adding a lot of new URLs to guide students to additional information--for example, on proofreading and editing.

I've also promised myself to rewrite many of the sample sentences, which at present sound awfully stilted because their only purpose is to illustrate some usage point: "Yes, it was he/him who delivered the presentation." Ugh. The subtext of a book on good writing ought to be consistent with the explicit assertions of the value of good writing.

By the way, in the stilted example, it should be "It was he who..." But it should really be something like:
"Yes, he gave the talk."

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