Category: get cupid

An Ode to The Sting

I can’t remember how old I was when I first watched The Sting. Probably around ten, though perhaps a bit older. For years, it became a yearly tradition: my cousins and I would all watch The Sting together up at our family cabin in the mountains of Utah. Why The Sting?

Because it’s an awesome movie.

(I’m assuming most or all of you have watched this movie. It won Best Picture and a slew of other Oscars in 1973. Paul Newman and Robert Redford stage a long con to cheat Robert Shaw out of a bunch of money during the Great Depression.)

The Sting was the first time I remember watching a film and just being blown away by the plot. The first time I watched in sheer confusion as everything that was supposed to go right suddenly went wrong, only to discover that I had been completely taken in by a long con of the movie itself. That type of film remains one of my favorites–any movie that’s smart enough to be able to say quite clearly at the outset, “I’m going to trick you,” and then proceed to do just that over the course of the film. Movies like Ocean’s Eleven, or The Thomas Crowne Affair. To me, it’s like a magician. You know they’re going to trick you, and so you resolve not to be tricked. The magic is when they take you in anyway. The Sting is awesome because it doesn’t even have to hide its artifices–it throws certain scenes in that make no sense at the time (What is Redford putting into his mouth?), knowing that we’ll forget them just a few minutes later–until it all becomes clear at the end. (Aha!)

The Sting is also the first movie where the soundtrack made any sort of a dent on my consciousness. It singlehandedly introduced me to ragtime and made me love it. I bought the soundtrack and listened to it over and over again.

The Sting was the embodiment of cool for years to me. The sheer confidence of Paul Newman throughout. How cocky and smug Redford could be, while still clearly unsure of what he’s doing a lot of the time. The way they dressed. The secret signals. It was all just so much fun.

Why did my cousins and I keep watching it year after year? I think it was because (honestly) it was complex enough that we didn’t get it. With each repeat viewing, we’d get a bit more. Understand another angle. But most importantly, we had younger cousins–The Sting was the first movie I would watch again with new people just to see how they reacted when the finale came at last.

As I start my fourth draft of GET CUPID, I’m taking the time to delve back into heist/caper movies again, and my love for the genre all goes back to The Sting and that first time I watched it. Every time I start to watch another caper, it’s because I want to recapture that feeling I had more than twenty years ago.

Writing Update: Plotting a New Book

It’s been a while since I’ve given any sort of a real update on my writing. Not because I haven’t been doing any, but mainly because I’ve been in sort of a switched mode from my regular routine. I finished a draft of THE MEMORY THIEF a month or so ago, and my agent is currently reading it closely for another edit. Still some issues to iron out. I have some ideas on how I’d like to revise GET CUPID, but I’ve been purposefully giving myself some time away from the novel before I start in on them in earnest. And then this is the time each year when I write my Holiday Newsletter to go out to family (and be posted on the blog later–they just (finally!) went out yesterday, due to some snow we’ve been having up here, which messed up our mailing plans).

So my current projects that I’ve told you all about are all in various stages of “waiting”ness. (Don’t get me started on TARNHELM. I still love the book, and most of the editors I heard back from enjoyed it, too. But they had similar books in the pipes, or they worried the audience would be too small, or they just haven’t gotten around to reading it, or they didn’t like it, or–or–or . . . Perhaps this is a book I’ll just epublish. I haven’t had that conversation with my agents yet, and I’m not sure if that’s something I really want to do. Wait a minute. I thought I told you not to get me started on TARNHELM? Where was I?)

Ah yes. The waiting game.

So that means that it’s time for me to be starting a new book. and starting one I am. (What will hopefully turn out to be my 12th finished novel. There are four others that were started but set aside in varying degrees of Not Done.) I’m still in the plotting phase right now, and that’s a process I still struggle with. Of the 15 books I’ve worked on, 11 of them were written off the cuff. I just sat down and started typing. All of those were my earlier efforts, and they all were such a huge pain to revise that I swore never to do that again. What this means is that I don’t have nearly the amount of practice plotting that I should have. Such is my lot in life.

What’s this next book about? I’m not entirely sure at the moment. I know there are some psychics involved, and I’m leaning toward the inclusion of a sinister investment firm and some spy hijinks. I’m also looking at doing two viewpoint characters again–something I haven’t tried since book #3 (WEAVER OF DREAMS). And one of them would be a girl, a POV I haven’t written since . . . books #1 and #2 (INTO THE ELEVATOR (Worst. Title. Ever.) and THE BLOOD COUNTESS.)

But at this point, it’s really just at the brainstorming stage. Putting ideas down on paper. Looking at building block basics of plots and how to tie them together to make a cohesive whole. If any of you out there have some schweet plotting tips, I’d love to hear them. I’m all for learning from others, especially if it saves me from some floundering.

Anyway, I’ll keep at this until I hear back on MEMORY THIEF, and then I’ll do another draft of that. At that point, I’ll shoot for finishing the plot of this next book, and then either move right on to writing it, or else move over to a GET CUPID revision. I feel bad that it’s been three years since VODNIK was accepted for publication, and I have no other books heading to a bookshelf near you. I only have one that’s been on editors’ desks. My hope is 2014 changes that statistic a fair bit. I’d like to have two more floating around the offices of New York before the year is out.

Let’s see if I can do it!

Third Draft of THE MEMORY THIEF is Finished

That’s right–it’s done. I cut abut 6,000 words from the draft. Tweaked a few characters, but it was mainly a tightening pass through. For those of you who are interested, I updated the chart for the book. I don’t know if these are interesting to anyone but me, but the charts are *dang* interesting to me, and so I inflict them on you periodically. It’s just fun for me to see how the book clipped along (or didn’t, as the case may be).

So the next question is “What does Bryce work on next?”

As I posted a few days ago, I have some ideas on how to fix GET CUPID, and I ran those ideas past friends and agents alike, and they think they’re pretty solid fixes, too. (Or at the very least worth giving a whirl and seeing what happens.)

But.

As I looked over the novel, I started thinking it was all too familiar to me. Too fresh still. Ideally, I’d like some more space between me and it before I go back to revise it once more. Since I (hopefully) have a different book that’s almost ready for submission (cross your fingers for MEMORY THIEF), I’m not in any real rush to get a second one ready to go out the same month or anything. So I think I have some time, and I’ll let the book mull a while longer.

So what else do I have on tap? I’ve sent my agents a number of ideas, and we’ll see what they think sounds most intriguing. I had a concept for a dystopia a while ago, but I’m kind of thinking those are played out at the moment. I’ve got an idea for a horror story that might be fun. (More horror than MEMORY THIEF, which turned out to not be that horrific, after all.) Then there are some other revisions I could look at, or some older ideas I’ve had for a while.

While I mull that over, I’ll likely work on this year’s Christmas short story that I send out to family members as part of my yearly Christmas gift. Not sure what I’ll do this time. I’ve had talking mice, talking groundhogs, a Christmas trap, Buttersby saving Christmas . . . part of me would really love doing a VODNIK Christmas, and it’s early enough in the season that I might be able to have enough time to pull it off. Tomas sees some of the Slovak Christmas traditions, and a few of them get more up close and personal than he’d really like them to get. Something on the short side, and fun. But can I write it, plot it, and revise it in time? (I don’t think I could publish it online for all of you faithful readers, alas. That might tromp on some contract’s toes. Maybe first I’ll see how it turns out, and if I stick with that idea at all. One of these days I’d like to lump all the Christmas short stories I’ve done and sell ’em as ebooks or something fun. In an ideal world, I’d commission a Buttersby Christmas illustration to go with it all. Because nothing says yuletide cheer like an alpaca in a Santa suit.

Anyway–that’s all I’ve got for you today. Catch ya next week!

Revising: Knowing When to Stop Cutting

I’m finishing up the last few chapters of my revision of THE MEMORY THIEF right now, and I’m very much in “cut” mode. I realize that I have a tendency to write more than is needed in my prose, so I typically go over what I’ve written and try to cut at least 10% of whatever’s there. It’s scary how easy it is, really–and it helps in a whole lot of different ways. First off, it helps me be less repetitive. When I’m cutting, I notice tons of places where I’ve said the same thing twice–just in different ways. Or where I have the action repeat itself. All of those things can just get snipped. I pick the description that’s strongest, and that stays.

Then there are the junk words that I pepper throughout my writing. The “justs” and the “thats” and the “thens.” Those all can go. Same with a bunch of adverbs that snuck in when I wasn’t looking. Cut cut cut cut. Passive voice needs looking at. Descriptions need tightening. And all of it’s for the better.

In the end, I believe it makes a big difference. The pacing feels tighter. A book that was 48,000 words long is suddenly 42,000 (roughly)–that’s a chunk of words, really.

But the trick is that when you get down to it, there’s never a spot where you just have to stop. You can always say things in fewer words. Instead of having something happen in scene, you can put it in exposition. You can simplify the sentences. You can cut all the way to the bone, and then just keep on going. A 48,000 word story could end up a one page summary, if you get my drift. And clearly when someone’s wanting to read a book, they’re not in it just to find out what happened as quickly as possible. Much of the fun is the journey.

So you need to cut, but not cut too much. Keep the voice. Keep the things that make the story unique and fun. Some scenes might not do much to advance the plot, but they do tons to advance character or setting or description. So you’re in a constant state of deciding what needs to stay and what needs to go. That’s why I like the 10% rule. If I find myself going much over that, I take a look at what I’m cutting, and I try to ask myself if I’m cutting too much. If I’m cutting less than that, I’m almost always just being lazy–or it’s a scene I’d already worked on a lot.

The good news is that I usually only do this when I’m about done with a book. After I do the 10%, there’s not much more for me to do until I get notes from an editor (or my agents, if they still have things they’d like to see changed). So THE MEMORY THIEF is getting very close to being sent out to editors. Yay for that.

And in other good news, I’ve been thinking more about GET CUPID, and I might have come up with a way to really kick the book up a few notches. It’s an idea that potentially fixes one of the last big problems I know is present in the book. I’ve got some people reading it for me now. When I hear back from them, I’ll ask about this idea and see what they think. If it works, I might be revisiting that novel sooner than I’d thought. We shall see.

Back to editing!

Writing Update: GET CUPID and THE MEMORY THIEF

I finished the third draft of GET CUPID on Friday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s got some issues. Well–it may have some issues. It went from 108,000 words down to a svelte 70,000–just as I’d planned. But anytime you make such drastic changes, it becomes problematic to be able to accurately tell if they were good changes or not. There are some things about the draft that I know are bad. Conflicts that pop up, are emphasized, and then totally forgotten. Characters who are major players at one point, only to all but disappear until the end.

I know the book isn’t ready for primetime yet.

But I also think it’s going to be great when it is. While I changed a lot in the draft, I think it’s a much quicker, snappier book because of it. It’s streamlined in a very good way. But what I really need now is for someone to be able to look at it with an objective eye and iron it out to the point where I’m happy with it.

That someone is me, in this case. I could send it to my agent, but I already know it has issues, and I don’t want to have him stuck with telling me the same things I already know. The key is I need to know how to fix those issues, and for that, it’s really up to me.

So what am I going to do about it? Simple. I’m going to leave it be. Just let it sit on my computer and get a month or two of virtual dust on it–at least. Once I’ve stepped away from it and gotten a bit of distance, I’ll print it out and read the whole thing through fresh. My theory is that through that process, I’ll be able to accurately tell what needs help and what’s already strong. Then I’ll do a fourth draft and send it off to my agent–once I’m at least happy with it myself.

What will I do in the meantime?

First up is a third draft of THE MEMORY THIEF. I heard back from my agents on this one, and they’re happy with it. There’s a couple of parts that need to be more fully fleshed out, and I want to give the book a bit or a trim–10% tightening, really. Some word smithing level stuff. So for that, I’m giving it a fresh read through right now. I don’t think it’ll take much to get it up to snuff. My hope is that it could go out on submission before the end of the year, which would check off that goal. Ironic, that the book I thought I’d end up submitting will be the one sitting around (GET CUPID), while the book I came up with and wrote really quickly will be the one going out. But that’s how it goes with writing sometimes.

After THE MEMORY THIEF, I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I need to write my yearly Christmas short story and newsletter. I might do that while I hit some story ideas back and forth with my agents. I have two or three new book ideas, and I might look through some of my other novels to see if any of them might warrant a revisit. We’ll see. There’s also some slight rumblings of another project that could be really exciting, but nothing more than distant tremors at the moment.

Anyway. That’s the update from here for now. I’ll keep you posted as I find out more.

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