How to Rebuild a Car Chase in one Sketch – Progress Report – 24/6/13 3


What kind of cars will there be in Elite:Dangerous?

What kind of cars will there be in Elite:Dangerous?

Week 3 of editing and it has been another week of stop-start action. The week started well but then stalled dramatically for reasons I’ll delve into shortly. Firstly though, the metrics:

Page Count For The Week: 28.

Finally, I hit my target of 4 pages per day. It only took three weeks to get up to speed. Next weeks goal is to blast past this and see if I can match my age. That’s the only clue you get for now 😉

Total Editing Page Count: 72.

Blasted past the first plot point back at page fifty odd. Old news, but a very important part of the novel. I harp(er) on about it, but I keep talking about the first plot point because it’s the moment that can make or break your novel.

The protagonist has recovered from the first plot point and set himself on a course of action which throws him splat-bang into his past. Ouch. He isn’t a happy man. And this is where progress has halted.

The reason?

The car chase.

Come on, admit it. We all love them. Bullit? Gone in sixty seconds? The French Connection? The Bourne Identity? Who doesn’t love a bit of hooning around a tight city, wheels squealing on the road, rubber burning, mixing with the exhaust fumes to make you giddy with . . . something.

I love car chase scenes. Just because they are awesome. And because sometimes you just have to get away from the badguys. You’re not ready for the confrontation yet. You have to flee, gather your forces, gain intelligence and then return to strike. The protagonist is not yet ready to strike so he needs to make tracks, and quickly.

But Frontier Developments have rules to follow. My novel must fit into their vision. And so a redesign was called for. This called into question my design of the city itself. So instead of editing when I should have been, I pulled out my writing journal and started sketching. The city, certain details about how the city works, where everything is, even the countryside around it.

Only when I had a firm vision in my head of the city layout and how the transportation system worked could I then dive into this set piece of the novel. I haven’t actually got to the car chase part yet, but just visualising the city and how the characters get from one place to another has improved the story dramatically. The draft read like an ‘anywhere’ city. This edit shows a very specific city.

Updated Total Page Count: 244

And a mean 118,630 words. Is this thing blowing out? I hope not. I’m not bothered terribly. As I’ve mentioned before, I give myself free reign on the first edit to add whatever I want. If I see an area that could benefit from further value then I add more detail. It’s the job of later edits to then judge this addition against some internal and stringent criteria.

So this increase in page number means that my actual percentage progress doesn’t really stack up. A quick calculation shows that to meet my goal of finishing this edit on the 31st July then I need to up the ante and get FIVE pages per day of editing done. This is going to be a lofty goal and I’m not sure whether I will be able to sustain it – some pages don’t need any editing, some pages need serious revision – but if you are going to have goals they might as well be lofty in nature, wouldn’t you agree?

So here is this week’s progress chart for “EDITING – PHASE 2:”

 

72/ 244 (29.5%)

 

Repaired Faux-Pas of the Week:

Just the above mentioned car chase. Not exactly a faux-pas as it was written before the instructions on transport became available, but still something that requires a serious revision.

Edititation of the Week

This is an interesting one this week, which will reveal a little bit of where my head is at. I came to a part of the novel where the protagonist is at a low point. Everything seems lost, his drive, direction and faith has been shattered and he has enemies all around him, closing in for the kill.

Although his first reaction is for escape, he thinks of how the enemy has taken everything from him, destroyed everything that meant anything to him, and then they top it off by invading his homeland, and taking away that one last link to his past.

At that point he stops thinking about escape.

Escape no longer interests him.

Want he wants to do is take down as many of the bad guys as he can. He wants to stand his ground, and go down fighting. He wants to die, and take as many of them as he can with him.

So there is a big mental shift there, from a common sense ‘lets get out of here’ to the angry, but resigned sense of ‘bring it on’. My job as the author is to bring that emotion alive.

I wrote an article on bringing this emotion alive at Kami McArther’s blog . The skills I discuss in that article are something I usually leave until the first edit, i.e where I am now. The draft will be weak in this area and then I go through later and tune it up.

So here is the draft. it is semi-spoilerish so I have blanked out some details.

DRAFT

The ______ had chased him across star systems. They had scattered his fleet. They had _______ his _______. They had _______ his ______. And now they were here, on his turf, interrupting his __________.

Robert pulled out his Colt Diplomat.

He was happy this was a dead end.

He pulled out the L&F from behind his back.

He was happy he was in the heart of the cemetery.

He checked both weapons, powered them on and stepped sideways to give himself a clear, unobstructed view of the passageway entry. He raised both weapons up to eye level and held them
shoulder width apart.

Because he was going to die here, right now. He was going to die a warrior, a Scotsman. But he was going to take all of the ______ with him.

#

As I read this, I thought to myself, I’m not showing enough of Robert’s thoughts, his emotions, how he is processing what is going on around him. I decided I would need to go in, add some details:

REVISION

The _______ had chased him across star systems. They had scattered his fleet. They had ______ his ______. They had ________his _______. And now they were here, on his turf, interrupting his __________.

They had taken everything. The grey granite of the walls had once been a source of comfort. Solid, dependable, home. Now the grey was speckled with betrayal.

He was sick of running. The red fury settled into glacial coolness as Robert pulled out his Colt Diplomat from his belt. This was what he had been born for.

He was happy this was a dead end.

He pulled out the L&F from behind his back, gripped the cool, hard steel.

He was happy he was in the heart of the cemetery.

He checked both weapons, powered them on and stepped sideways to give himself a clear, unobstructed view of the passageway entry. He raised both weapons up to eye level, ready for whatever came next.

Because he was going to die here, right now. He was going to die a warrior, a Scotsman. But he was going to take all of the _____ with him. And he was going to enjoy it.

#

Initially, after I added this detail I clapped myself on the back for a job well done. Then I read it again and realised I had actually made it worse. Sure, there was more information for the reader and it was crystal clear what was happening in his head, but the flow and pace of the scene suffered terribly for it. It no longer flowed like a tense piece. I reflected further and thought that in this case, actions speak louder than thoughts.
I wanted this bit to punch. Dance and Jab, Butterfly and Bee. So I went ahead and put it back to how it was with some slight improvements.

FINAL REVISION

The _____ had chased him across star systems. They had scattered his fleet. They had _______ his ______. They had ______ his _______. And now they were here, on his turf, interrupting his ________.

He pulled the Colt Diplomat from his thigh holster.

He was happy this was a dead end.

He pulled out the L&F from his belt.

He was happy he was in the heart of the cemetery.

He checked both weapons, armed the L&F, primed the Colt and stepped sideways to give himself a clear, unobstructed view of the passageway entry.

Because he was going to die here, right now. He was going to die a warrior, a Scotsman.

VERDICT

On final reading I had decided I had made the right choice. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Am I 100% happy with? No, but I think my gut made the right call when I was writing the draft.

The next question I had to ask myself was: Do I stick around and make it perfect or move on?

Again this is a gut question. And my gut said ‘see you later’. I could spend time perfecting it right now, but to get that last little bit of goodness requires intense time and effort and right now I’m just trying to bring the manuscript from 60% quality at the draft to say 75-85% for this edit. I have at least two more edit passes to go, and they will be taking me up to 100%.
Additionally I’ve spent so much time on this one little bit that I have become too close to it again. Its too familiar. I need some distance. In a later edit I would have hopefully forgotten about it slightly and I’ll be in a better mental position to make harsh judgements on it.
So for now, I’ve moved on.

Cover Art for the Commander's Log Podcast

Cover Art for the Commander’s Log Podcast

Commander’s Log Podcast

Episode # 7 was released last week. Thanks for the feedback. I went for a more ‘conversational’ approach with this episode and will probably carry this on depending on how feedback goes. The next episode will likely be released mid July. This is for two reasons. 1) That ties in with the availability of my next guest and 2)To allow me time to try and get on top of the editing of the novel. No other news at present.

But don’t worry. Commander Harper will be back and hopefully not getting in to any trouble on Reidquat. We will see. . .

Haven’t listened to the latest episode? Click here to find all the episodes. They are also available on itunes and up to episode 5 on Youtube.

Writer’s Forum

A big, BIG week at the writers forum. Frontier Developments have been busy and their latest fiction guide was greedily consumed by all writers, invoking debates and further questions. There is never enough information. We need more! MORE! Writers are hungry for specifics and how they can relate to their stories.

The great thing is that now the writers can really ‘Elite:Dangerous-ify’ their stories. Particular descriptions and designs will be standard across the fiction and this has made me really excited.

I have been asking a whole bunch of questions as well, relating to, of all things, the car chase. Did I mention how awesome car chases are? If you watch a movie or read a book that does not have a car chase in it, you should hang your head in shame.

Well, not really, but as I mentioned above the generic set piece of the protagonist fleeing from the antagonist early in the story because the protagonist is not strong enough or not ready enough to face him is a very powerful part of fiction. You have to run and hide to lick your wounds before you can regroup, gather intelligence, procure (or develop) strength and counter attack. Star Wars (original) trilogy anyone? Minority Report? Thrillers and mysteries do this a lot. The reader has to follow the protagonist as they try to figure out What Is Actually Happening And Why. Normally you need to be free of the antagonist to figure these things out. (Unless of course your name is Matthew Reilly, in which case you force the protagonist to figure things out WHILE they are being shot at by the bad guys).

—–
So it’s been a big week with a lot of news. Thanks for coming over to share this writing journey with me. I hope to see you around next time.
Remember to sign up your email address to receive all updates straight to your inbox. I have a host of dodgey marketers paying me good money for this mailing list.

Just joking. Does it qualify as a joke if it is that un-funny?

Well I’m having fun. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Cheers,

John


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3 thoughts on “How to Rebuild a Car Chase in one Sketch – Progress Report – 24/6/13

  • T. James

    Hi John. One of the eternal questions: pace or depth, in this scene or the next? There are no easy answers and this is so subjective – I’d have to read the surrounding passages to form an (uneducated?) opinion. Instead I’ll say this: I think your plan of not getting bogged down at this stage is the way to go. Get it done. Sort the big picture and then the minutia will become clearer upon later revision. Mine’s still as rough as a bear’s __________ (did you see what I did there? 😉 ), and it’s all about moving forward.

    As for car chases, I always go with the Blues Brother’s (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMagP52BWG8). 🙂