Finally heard back from my writing coach, who thinks my sample chapter is a “damn fine chapter”. I responded by asking how I could strengthen the first and last stories, and mentioned I was considering taking out one of the stories entirely because I didn’t think it was as strong as the others. Here’s what he said:
No. No. No. It’s working fine. That first scene is good, not because it’s a big dramatic fight but because it brings out a story that is touching, frustrating, maddening and ultimately almost noble as these two struggle through their stuff. And it brings us into the whole scene–a place where people are, on one hand fighting for their very survival, and on the other finding some deeper place in themselves that is ennobling, compassionate, etc. Dave is a wonderful mirror, of course, of the whole scene, as you saw it, a guy in recovery from a very dark, dark existence, and who’s making the most of whatever life he has left–and making a difference in the world.
Focus on what your message is. As I see it, the message you convey in this chapter is quite dramatic, from the start–and the whole chapter lets us see the potential for goodness in everyone. William Faulker said that it is a writer’s duty to remind us of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which are the pillars of humanity’s existence. I think that may be the sort of thing you experienced on the ride and which has inspired you to write this book–and you captured it in this chapter. Don’t mess with it. And I think if you can see what it is that touched you about this experience and see your mission as being the expression of what you experienced, you will see that this chapter works extremely well.
We often get bored with our own writing. That’s just part of becoming a writer. But when you can see your very individualized mission, and then ask yourself if you are meeting that sense of mission, you’ll let all the rules of the craft fade away.
I like this idea of keeping in touch with the “mission” for the book; I’ve been focusing so hard on the left-brain publishing/business side of things that it’s been hard to keep track of why I’m writing it. (I’m not going to make a cent off this thing, and I’ve put several thousand dollars into it to date; this is not about the money, at least not for me.)
I’ve also started gathering more material. I’m getting in touch with a number of people who’ve been on the “remember to interview” list for awhile: Ginger the drag queen, Cookie Woman, Scott the Cheerleader, and so on. I should be doing a couple interviews next week.
I’ve started doing more writing on my ultralight. Unlike the main computer, it doesn’t have games on it, nor does it have bookmarks to interesting Websites. The net of it is that it’s easier to concentrate on writing using the ultralight than it is using my desktop computer. The only downside is that the battery sucks: about forty-five minutes total without electricity, even with the screen at the darkest setting. That’s common with old laptop batteries; I’ve ordered a brand-new one.
I have now completed the outlines for the first three or four introductory chapter and Days 1-4, and am working on outlines for Days 5-7. The later days are harder because there isn’t as much new stuff to introduce–but I think with this next round of interviews I should have more material, so I’ll have more to say.
This is really just the first draft of the outline–it’s going to have twenty or thirty lines per chapter, so it’s significantly longer than outlines I’ve done in the past. The challenge is that I’m still missing much of the material–I haven’t done all the research yet–so I’m having to guess at the content for some of the chapters. Then, of course, I’ll have to revise the first draft to make it more attractive to publishers.
I forget if I mentioned that I sent my sample chapter off to River Walk Journal a day or two ago–the publisher, the fiction editor, and the editor-in-chief are all going to review it and get back to me. I’m waiting eagerly to hear back from them as well.
Whew! It’s been a busy couple of days.