Almost two months ago I posted the first scene of my work in progress, a dark psychological thriller I’ve titled THE BEDWETTER. It’s about an abused young man with chronic secondary nocturnal enuresis who, as pressures mount, embarks on a killing spree using the tools of his dark fantasies.
I tracked my daily writing milestones with nightly Facebook page updates, and posted a progress report two weeks ago.
I finished ahead of schedule, completing the first draft the evening of April 4, 2013, at a total of 51,167 words—very close to my revised goal of 52,500. I was ecstatic! Since the beginning of 2013, I’d been spending two hours almost every weekday evening, and three to six hours on Saturdays and Sundays, plotting and writing. My all-time daily writing record was 2528 words on 3/26; my weekend writing record was 5024 words on 3/29-31; my daily average came out to be 1339/day.
I forced myself to let it cool for a week (well, almost a week) while I worked on getting DEATH PERCEPTION ready for release (next month). Today I exported THE BEDWETTER Scrivener project to a Word file and printed out the entire draft: 241 pages. I will begin my read-through tonight, making notes in the margin. Here’s a peek at the first draft. 🙂
I’ll keep you updated on my progress. In the meantime, drop me a line!
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A month ago I posted the first scene of my work in progress, a dark psychological thriller I’ve titled THE BEDWETTER. It’s about an abused young man with chronic secondary nocturnal enuresis who, as pressures mount, embarks on a killing spree using the tools of his dark fantasies.
I’ve started to keep track of my writing progress and wanted to update you in a more comprehensive way than my daily Facebook status updates and tweets.
Idea Development in THE BEDWETTER
I originally received inspiration during some time off I took at the end of last year. I got the idea about a young man being punished in a horrifying way for wetting the bed. I used those two weeks to formulate a big-picture plan for the story, filling out plot and character questionnaires, just getting to know the story.
From that point on, I began to hear this character’s voice and was often interrupted by creative “downloads” of information that I would later work into scenes and dialogue.
Plotting of THE BEDWETTER in Truby’s Blockbuster 6
I spent all of January and the first half of February doing more detailed plotting using John Truby’s screenplay development software, Blockbuster 6. The application leaves a lot to be desired, but it enabled me to draft a list of scenes and arrange them in the right order. Then, I fleshed out each scene, answering questions such as:
- My challenge in writing this scene
- My strategy for writing this scene
- The scene goal (POV character’s desire)
- The character’s plan to achieve the goal
- The opponent in the scene
- The scene’s conflict
- Any twist revealed
- The scene’s moral argument (value A vs. value B)
Blockbuster 6 also enables you to include the structures of up the three genres in your story (for example, horror, thriller, and myth); track six storylines; and monitor key words, symbols, and tag lines.
I completed a scene form for 59 scenes in the book, and included in each scene some details about what needs to happen and the information I must reveal when I write the scene.
Drafting THE BEDWETTER in Scrivener
I downloaded the Beta of Scrivener for Windows over a year ago and played around with it, but didn’t use it seriously. I got serious with THE BEDWETTER. I created folders for characters, research, and scenes. Scrivener 2.0 isn’t perfect either, but it offers scads of cool project management features geared toward writers. I love using it now and likely will continue to do so.
Starting mid-February, I began taking my Blockbuster scene sheets and writing actual scenes from them. Weeknights I would spend two to three hours in any one of half a dozen coffee shops around Pittsburgh’s east end—the same on Saturdays and five hours on Sundays—drafting scenes and making progress. I didn’t start keeping detailed stats until March 3, but here are my word count stats so far:
My initial goal for a first-person, present-tense novel in this voice was 42,500 words. But by the time I finished the beginning scenes and started writing the middle, I realized it would be longer. My present goal is 52,500. We’ll see where it comes in at when I’m finished. And I already have 45 scenes; my total will exceed 59.
Read the First Scene of THE BEDWETTER
I invite you to read a draft of the first scene. I’m warning you, it’s dark. (I’ll confide that some of it has been tough to write.) But I must remain true to my inspiration. This story wants to be told, and I’ve never before enjoyed such a flow of ideas and writing.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!
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This post has moved to http://wordsmithereens.net/2013/05/12/ferreting-out-filter-words/.
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“You are thirty-four years old and already two-thirds destroyed.” This is not just the measuring rod of today’s alcohol consumption, but the yardstick of your life.
Ron Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice (Canongate, 1987) is another text in my self-study plan for second person point of view. In this short novel, the “you” is protagonist Morris Magellan, an alcoholic whose life is unraveling, perhaps irreparably.
Following the death of his cold and distant father, Magellan dogpaddles through life as disappointing husband, father of two “accusations,” and junior executive at a biscuit company.
Drinks connect the moments of each day, accompanied by a background of classical music played too loudly. While numbly trying to hold it together, Magellan manages to alienate his co-dependent wife, frighten the children, offend his secretary, and jeopardize his position. Without the drink, he’s drowning in mud or hallucinating about snow.
Butlin’s choice of second person POV is perfect for the task, making you (the reader, that is) feel nervous, guilty, and detached all at once, as if you’re watching through a hidden camera lodged in the bridge of Magellan’s smeary eyeglasses the embarrassing minute-by-minute footage of someone too drunk to realize he’s failing at every turn.
Although The Sound of My Voice is not as excruciating as Grimsley’s Winter Birds, Butlin’s short book is self-conscious and uncomfortable, tense and poignant, with anguish made more powerful by his keen skill of understatement. Butlin delivers meaning and emotion in his spare prose like a lorry filled completely with the perfect number of biscuit boxes; no more will fit, and nothing jostles. This book is nigh perfect in its execution, and makes a lot more sense than Daniel Gunn’s over-literary Almost You (1994).
I recommend Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice. It’s a fine study in narrative and an example of a well-executed novel.
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You are Danny, one of five children born to poor Southern parents in the late 1950s. You move from one ramshackle house to another, most in ill repair and without adequate heat. When your Papa loses his arm in a farming accident, hard times grow harder.
Your saintly Mama puts up with a lot of abuse from Papa, whose moods swing deeper and darker and dangerously more violent with every imagined offense. You young’uns do your best to steer clear of trouble.
How do you feel reading the previous two paragraphs?
Jim Grimsley’s Winter Birds (Simon & Schuster, 1984) is part of my self-study plan for second person point of view. The initial effect of second person is an unsettled feeling, then a distancing: “That’s not me—I’m not ‘you.’”
But the more you read of it, the more it draws you in, creating identification with the narrator/protagonist. Ultimately, it forces you to participate in the story events against your will—probably one reason why Grimsley chose this POV.
Being held in an uncomfortable POV underscores the plight of an impoverished mother and five children trapped in a house with nowhere to escape abuse. All you have are your thoughts and each other, waiting for Papa to come home.
Grimsley ratchets up the tension with the dangers that Danny’s hemophilia pose: a misstep on a glass shard or Papa’s drunken backhand could mean a week in the hospital until the bleeding stops. Like Danny, as a reader, you continue to bleed until the final page.
Winter Birds is one of the most beautiful and excruciating stories I’ve ever read. At times it’s so intense that I had to put it down, and I’m no literary sissy.
Turning away is the prerogative of the reader; never the writer. Grimsley doesn’t flinch. American publishers rejected this semi-autobiographical work for a decade because it was “too dark.” When the book was finally published in English, it won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as being cited for a PEN/Hemingway Award. Well deserved.
The narration, the dialog, the POV, the description all blend into a cohesive package that delivers a poignant, dark dream of childhood. Occasionally, second person comes off as incredulous when the narrator describes things he couldn’t be privy to. But the floating, fantastical elements interspersed through a child’s imagination allow you to accept the tale as told.
If you’re studying narrative or second person POV, you must read Winter Birds. If you read it for any reason at all, I daresay you’ll be moved.
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