Lessons from week one

Cracked 15,000 yesterday, which is an acceptable pace. I full thousand less than the 2k per day I set out for, but no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. And so, I thought I’d share the observations I’ve already figured out, now that I’ve had a week of writing like a professional writer.

1. I am not a morning person.

This may not actually help you in your writing all that much, but it bears stating anyway. My plan going into this was to wake up at 6am every day and pound out 2000 words before breakfast. Then I could go about my day, and if opportunities arose to get some extra word count, well, so much the better.

Well, as it turns out, I haven’t done this once. The alarm goes off at 6am every morning, but not once have I sat down and wrote before leaving the house. Sometimes I’ll leave the house and write somewhere else before work while I eat breakfast. Sometimes, too often really, I’ll still be at word zero for the day by the time I settle into my cubicle. And on those days, I’ve had to grind the words out other ways. Surprisingly, to me, anyway, I’ve written very little while actually on the job. I’ve found that I can squeeze in 500-700 words at Chipotle on my lunch break, and I’ve found lots of places to write after work. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve even found that writing can be energizing after work, no matter how tired I might be going into it.

I’m going to give morning writing one more shot before adjusting my schedule to get up later and stay up later, writing at night.

2. You don’t know your characters as well as you think you do.

I assumed going into this that I knew my characters pretty well. I should, given that they’re based on characters I’ve known for 15 years. But as I get into this book, I’m learning that this Jeff Frankel is a very different person than the original, that this Susan Richardson is more interesting and more driven than her counterpart in Between Heaven and Hell, that this Jack Harris, introduced just 12,000 words into Revelation rather than the beginning of Crusade, is a more thoughtful and resourceful guy than I expected, and that yes, even Daniel Cho, the man who changes the world forever, who sets in motion a series of events that changes the Milky Way galaxy forever, is not quite who I thought he was. This Daniel is more somber, more tortured by the failures of his past, and yet stronger and more directed than the original.

In every case, I have stronger, more interesting characters. Characters who have already surprised me as a writer and set the plot moving in a slightly different direction. Which brings me to…

3. The map is not the territory.

I’ve talked before about how I don’t write detailed outlines anymore. And yet, the bare bones bulleted list I started this project with has already changed a lot. I’ve deleted scenes that are no longer necessary. I’ve added new scenes dictated by the actions of the characters. And I’ve also been forced to rip a major set piece out of the middle of the book when I realized that it was what was making me afraid to get past the next few chapters.

In the original book, Daniel and company find out about a big meeting of all the demons and arrange to be there and film it. It was a major turning point and thus was part of the outline for this version. I moved the meeting to Denver instead of D.C., but kept the idea. I wasn’t sure how our characters, hunted by both the demons and the FBI, would make it to Denver, but I was confident the story would tell me. Early on in the week, I felt vindicated by the fact that the characters were telling me things about the story I didn’t know going in.

But one of the things I learned was that the demons are organized like terrorist cells, with a very decentralized and “need to know” structure. In fact, in the book, modern day terrorists got that idea from demons in the first place. (why do you think we keep reporting that we killed the same number 2 al Qaeda guy over and over? because he’s immortal) So it followed from that that they would never have a big demon pow wow. But if they don’t have the meeting, then Daniel can’t go, and if he doesn’t go HOLYCRAPIAMLOSINGMYBOOK

Then I took a step back and thought about it. I went back to the end of the book. What has to happen at the end? Susan goes public with her data proving that immortals exist, that we know them as angels and demons and they’ve been messing with us since before recorded history. Jack leaves the FBI and heads up a new UN organization to root out and destroy the demons, and he recruits Daniel to the cause. This all has to happen to set up the second book, Crusade.

But how I get there is entirely fluid. I don’t have to keep anything from Between Heaven and Hell that no longer makes sense. So in order to have that ending, what do the characters need?

They need videographic proof of an immortal shrugging off and healing a mortal wound, something they can post on YouTube (and yes, Google, blogs and Twitter have already been featured in the book). Susan needs a database of all the known demons, their current identities and all the aliases they’ve used through the centuries. And they need the Lost Gospel, an ancient scroll detailing in ancient Hebrew the war between the angels and demons, including the fall of Lucifer, in much more detail than we’ve ever seen before, including details on how an immortal can be killed permanently.

As I looked over that list, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to stick to the original path, and a new way to get there started forming in my head. I had always thought the database came from the demons themselves, because it did in the original. But now I realized that not only would the demons probably not have such a record at all, but that the angels, with their almost OCD devotion to order, almost certainly would. So the database and the location of the Lost Gospel (currently forgotten under a mosque in Iraq) would probably come from the angels, probably from Uriel, the archangel who has been watching them. And when would he give them this information? After they prove on their own that they’re worthy of it by killing Batarel, the demon that’s stalking Daniel.

And poof! Just like that, the book popped back into place, the outline rewrote itself and just about everything about my act 2 got stronger. And, most importantly, I’m not subconsciously dreading going past the next few chapters, into the void in my original outline that just read “here be monsters”. Now I know that Daniel, Susan and Jeff have to run from both Batarel and Jack until they can turn the tables on Batarel and destroy him, an effort Jack finds himself helping with. After that, Uriel can swoop in (as angels are wont to do) and send them off in a new direction. I can see, in vague, looming shapes, all the way to the end of the book now, and it looks solid. It looks good.

Of course, I realize that any and all of this is subject to change if the characters, yet again, find a better way to get there. But I’m starting off week 2 much more confident in the book as a whole than I was before, and that’s a good feeling.

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