Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Watched Pot Never Boils....

...but maybe it's hot enough.

How do you know when you’re finished and it’s time to submit? Do you take a break or start right on the next one?

-From Frank

The first question is a trick question. A story (regardless of whether it's novel length or shorter) is never finished. It's just released into the wild at some point, and we call it done.

What do I mean? I'll tell you. But keep in mind this is only how my mind works. Your mileage may vary.

Of course, every story gets "finished" in terms of reaching the end of the initial telling. We get to "the end." And that's an awesome feeling. But then, no matter who you are, revisions come next. Even the cleanest first draft writers I've ever known (Eric Beetner, I'm looking at you) still have to make at least minor revisions to that first draft. Most of us make significant ones. Writing is rewriting, as the venerable Mr. King is wont to say.

But even "finishing" revisions is a trap. That's because if you reach a point where you think it is revised to the point of being done, and then you wait three weeks and read it again, you'll find more to revise. Typos that you and seven beta readers and an editor all somehow managed to miss. Continuity errors that slipped through. Those are the red alerts you come across. But more than that, you'll see little places where you can tidy up a bit. An overused word, an imprecise adjective, a weak verb. All things to preen and polish. Oh, and add a sly allusion, or a bit of foreshadowing. And then it's done.

Until the next time you read it.

Back in July, one of my co-authors, Colin Conway, attended the Noir at the Bar in Seattle at the Alibi Room. He read from the paperback version our collaborative novel, Charlie-316. The book had been out for a month at that point. He did a great job with the opening chapter, and was well received.

Know what he told me later that night? "I wish we could go back and make one more pass at it. I noticed a couple of things in that chapter I'd change now."

The story is never done, see?

It's never perfect.

So when do you know you're finished? When it's good enough.

Now, I don't mean that in a slipshod, "Good enough for government work" sort of way. That's not craft, nor art. But I do mean that when you feel like you've told a version that is extremely close to the story you were trying to tell, in a manner that somewhat resembles the brilliant execution you had in your head when you envisioned the thing.... well, it's probably finished.

Actually, not finished. But ready to release. Because if you don't, you'll just be "fixing it" forever.

As to the second question... what's a break?

Seriously, though, I guess I do take a break in a sense, insofar as the next/other project is a change from the previous. And I think that's important, to keep things fresh. If the writer isn't excited about the work, how can we expect any reader will be?

Blatant Self-Promotion, Brought to You By Me

My novel At Their Own Game will be re-issued by Down and Out Books on October 14th. It's available for pre-order at a significant discount.

Jake Stankovic has been flying below the radar for years, dealing safely in stolen property crime with his two-man crew. But times are tough, so he decides to step up to the big money with a drug deal. Everything that can go wrong, does. The deal goes bad, a vengeful detective sets his sights on Jake, one of his crew might be a turncoat, and a woman from a long past affair suddenly reappears. All of this would be complicated enough on it’s own, but for Jake, it’s even worse.

The woman is the detective’s ex-wife.

And Jake Stankovic used to be a cop.

Now Jake must face new problems and old vendettas in an all-in proposition with lives on the line. He has to find a way to get his money back, keep the girl, and beat everyone involved…At Their Own Game.

It is the first book in a new series called SpoCompton. These novels take a look at things mostly through the eyes of the criminal element rather than the police. They are noir-ish, especially this first one, and have a few surprises. The second, In the Cut, is told against the backdrop of an outlaw motorcycle gang and will be out in January 2020.

A special deal for readers of this blog:  I will give you an audio download version of At Their Own Game if you a) share this post, either via the 7 Criminal Minds FB page, or by direct link on Twitter, and b) email me at frankzafiro@msn.com with the link you shared. That's all ya gotta do. Then, while supplies last (and they are limited, so be quick), I'll respond to you with a download code for this book, narrated by Peter Husman.

Thanks for the support!

1 comment:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's true, Frank. I've found things I would do different once a story's printed.