As I alluded to in the last update, there was a bit more work required on the outline after reviewing it with the publisher. After a couple more weeks of staring at the screen, frowning and jotting down notes, I was able to break out of outline jail. Getting back to the writing has been a joy. Nonetheless, the time spent on the outline helped me to really get to know the characters.
It’s still the same 1950s noir murder mystery with detective Jack Waters investigating the death of a scientist at Blakely Labs. However, there’s a stronger historical component this time around. There’s a new character Jordan Waters, Jack’s twin brother and partner in the detective agency. There are also some important new scenes that show the brothers back in Germany, 1945 at the liberation of the underground Mittelwerk factory. This is a pivotal scene that explains much about the characters and Waters’ connection to the dead scientist.
The outline has 70 scenes, some of which are explained in a paragraph, some are a half page or longer. Although revising the outline was difficult, it has made the writing process quite a bit easier. So far, there has only been one minor deviation from the outline and that was to delay one scene until after a couple of others. Generally speaking, unless I’m waiting for feedback, I’m writing 7 days a week. Sometimes it’s on an airplane, sometimes it’s late at night, but there are no days off. On a good day I can clock between 2,000 and 3,000 words.
Currently, I’m about 42,000 words (roughly 150 pages double-spaced) into the new draft, or 42% of the way through the outline. At this rate, this draft should be complete by the end of June. The publisher asked me to do a check-in before getting too far, so I’ve submitted the completed portion of the manuscript. However the writing starts up again tomorrow morning. The next batch of scenes resume in 1950 at the site of the murder as Jack Waters learns more about what the scientists at Blakely Lab have been up to. As to be expected, it’s pretty dangerous stuff. And weird.
Meanwhile I’m passing along a book for other aspiring writers called “Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story” which I heard of on the British Podcast “The Bestseller Experiment.” This is a very well written analysis of story structure by BBC TV producer and script editor John Yorke. Unlike a lot of books on screenwriting, this is not a how-to formula. Instead he explains why certain structures are used and their impact on the story.
Thank you everyone who has supported this project. I’ll keep you posted on progress in the coming months. Let me know if you have questions about the story or the process.
For anyone seeking a bit of inspiration in their own writing, BXP is the best podcast I’ve found on writing: informative, entertaining and motivational. What more could you ask for? It’s the ongoing story of two middle-aged blokes in their quest to write and and publish a bestselling novel called “Back To Reality.” They’ve done some great interviews with a number of authors I admire, including Ian Rankin, Joe Hill, Michael Connelly, Taylor Jenkin-Reid and more.
It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give everyone an update on how work is progressing on the novel. Some people have mentioned to me that they’ve been so busy they haven’t had a chance to read the book yet. That’s ok, I haven’t finished writing it.
In February, I received detailed feedback from the publisher on the draft manuscript that I had submitted. This is what’s known in publishing as an “editorial letter.” This was an extensive (20 page) and thoughtful critique with many good ideas. The good news is that almost all of the input is actionable. The bad news is there are many months of writing and re-writing required in order to incorporate these ideas and create a truly top-notch novel.
The publisher asked me to create a new outline which strengthens the characters and gives more of the historical context of some events during and following World War II. In particular, I have been researching the liberation of the Mittelwerk slave labor manufacturing facility by the 104th Infantry Division of the Army and Operation Paperclip, the US Government program to recruit German scientists to the US after the war. Both of these elements feature in the background of the novel.
So that’s been the focus for the past month. I’m glad to report that the new outline is complete. It’s quite a detailed document (approximately 35 pages) which describes all the characters and every scene. While it’s still the same noir detective murder mystery, there is a more ambitious middle section and an overall faster pace.
I’ll be reviewing this new outline with the publisher in the coming weeks, and no doubt there will be some back and forth as we try to determine the best way to tell what has become a more complex story.
In the meantime, it’s been a long winter in Northern Michigan. The snow is finally starting to melt, but I’ll keep the snow tires on for a few more weeks, just in case. Thank you everyone who supported this creative project. I’ll keep you posted on progress in the coming months.
PS. For those who are curious about Operation Paperclip, I highly recommend the book of that name by Annie Jacobsen. She provides a detailed account of many famous scientist and doctors who were recruited to the US, including Wernher von Braun, who was instrumental in developing the Saturn V rockets which powered the Apollo mission to the moon. He also ran the underground slave labor factory which made V-2 rockets at Mittelwerk and was both a Nazi party member and a Sturmbannfuhrer in the SS.
It’s a little late for Happy New Year, but nonetheless, I wanted to provide an update on my progress with “Gumshoe Rules.” My goal was to finish the fourth draft in January. I am happy to report that I met that goal and submitted the manuscript to my publisher Inkshares last week. There are a few other books in the editing hopper ahead of me, so I expect it may be late February before I get feedback.
The fourth draft is much improved over earlier versions with more developed character arcs, stronger atmosphere and faster pacing. I received especially valuable input from my editor and a couple of beta readers. Most of these changes occur in the second half of the book when things get, ah, a bit weird. I have also made minor changes in the first twelve chapters that have been posted online at Inkshares.com under the READ tab. These changes help establish the 1950s noir mood and hint at some of the strange things that happen later on.
I knocked and was greeted by a shapely silhouette in a black dress lit from the hallway behind her. “Well if you’re not the fuzz, I don’t know who is.” She said the word fuzz with a few extra Z’s on it and the effect was like Lana Turner blowing a kiss at you. She tipped me for a moment, but I was all business.
She was a student at Miskatonic University, that never-quite Ivy league school to which the rich forwarded their less ambitious offspring in the hopes of educating, drying out or marrying them away. But there was always something a bit off about the school and Arkham in general. Amidst the bucolic colleges of literature and late-rising frat houses shaded by the city’s famous Dutch elms, there was a sanitarium for the criminally insane. Every college had it’s share of misfits and pranks, but Miskatonic always seemed to rise to the top when it came to unexplained scandals, secrets and suicides.
In the meantime, it’s been cold and snowy in Michigan. Now that I’ve put the novel aside for a few days, I thought I might see if I can create a short story about Jack Waters, set between his return from the war in 1945 and 1950 when Gumshoe Rules takes place. I have some ideas that tie to a still unsolved case set in Adelaide, 1948. We shall see what that leads to.
Thank you everyone who supported this creative project. It’s because of your support that Gumshoe Rules is being published. I’ll keep you posted on any updates from my publisher in the coming months.
Thank for all your support on this project.
PS. I don’t know why I committed to Dry January while editing my book. Nonetheless, I put an early end to that on January 30 when I submitted my manuscript. Cheers!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We had fresh snow this morning and it’s starting to feel like Christmas. Since we’re in Michigan, it’ll probably feel that way until May.
I hope that you have a great holiday and time with family & friends. I’m grateful for all that happened in 2018 especially for your help in publishing my novel Gumshoe Rules. Best wishes, stay warm and here’s to an even better 2019.
--Zack, Gregg & Roxie
We did it! The Inkshares Mystery & Thriller Contest has ended, and with your help, I came in first place. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me since I ran a 10k race, New Year’s day in Toronto some years ago and it was so cold just about no one showed up.
Thank you everyone who supported this creative project. It’s because of your support that Gumshoe Rules will be published by Inkshares. I couldn’t be more excited about this. In November, I pledged a donation of $5 per order to the non-profit NaNoWriMo.org that organizes National Novel Writing Month and then doubled that in December. I rounded up and donated $1,000 to NaNoWriMo.org, a very good charity that encourages writing and creativity.
As I understand it, the process from here is as follows: There’s still about half of the book left to edit for this latest draft, which will take until January. Then I’ll submit the manuscript to Inkshares and we’ll begin another round of editing. Depending on what input and feedback they have, I’ll have to rewrite some sections of the book. Then a cover is selected and there’s proofreading, copy-editing, marketing and so on. Eventually, many months from now the book will be formatted, printed and shipped out. Hopefully all that happens in 2019.
I’m fully committed to getting the book completed as fast and with the best quality possible. I will share updates as milestones are achieved, but communications will be less frequent. If you ever have questions about the book, you can shoot me email and I’ll do my best to respond.
Thank for giving me this opportunity to publish my book.
PS. It was a thrill to meet with Inkshares CEO & Publisher Adam Gomolin at their offices this week. He knows more about story structure and closing rights deals than I will ever know.
We’re now in the final week of the Inkshares Mystery & Thriller Contest and I’m hoping to finish strong with some more orders before December 14. In honor of the fact that I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month (also known as November) last year, I donated $5 of every order to the NaNoWriMo.org non-profit. For the final week I’m going to double that . For every new order placed until the end of the contest, I’ll donate $10 to NaNoWriMo.org. Hopefully that will encourage a few more people who might have otherwise been on the fence to order a copy. If you can help spread the word, that is greatly appreciated.
The book can be ordered at https://www.inkshares.com/books/gumshoe-rules
I’m 40% of the way through editing the third draft and there are now thirteen revised chapters available on the Inkshares site. There’s a tricky middle part I’m working on now. I’m stuck on a plane for 4 hours, so once I get through this scene, the story accelerates and it should be smooth sailing. The most recent chapters are posted under the READ tab below the cover on the Inkshares site. (Click here to go to the Prologue.)
I’d like to thank everyone who has supported this creative project. It has been challenging but also a lot of fun. For anyone who has contemplated writing a novel or any kind of creative project, keep in mind the most important step is simply to start. The best way to accomplish a daunting project is to dive in knowing that you can make progress one step at a time. It isn’t always pretty, but the more you work on it, the better you will get. And if I can do it, I know you can too.
As a reminder, if you haven’t yet mentioned this project to others, this is last call! If you can email one person and encourage them to order the book it will make my day. Please mention that $10 of every order is going to a good charity. The more orders, the bigger the check I get to write.
Thank you for all of your support!
PS. I was able to meet up with my editor, Scott Couturier of Mission Point Press at a local writer’s gathering. Scott has helped immensely with his feedback and detailed notes on my manuscript. He’s also a published author of dark fantasy fiction and an all ‘round expert in noir and weird fiction. I highly recommend Scott to anyone looking for professional editing help.
I promised the publisher I would submit the new draft by the end of June and I’m glad to report I was able to beat that deadline by ten days. The latest draft is 82,000 words or 300 pages, which seems about right. (By comparison, this is longer than most works by Raymond Chandler or Agatha Christie, but on par with more contemporary works by Anthony Horowitz or Michael Connelly.)
While the core historical fiction murder mystery is the same, there are two major new sections in the book. The scientists at Blakely Labs have been working on something called a Z-Machine since before the war. The Z-Machine is one of those odd contraptions that, if successful, enables man to go beyond the normal realm into so-called higher dimensions. Jack Waters uses the Z-Machine to travel back to 1945 to the liberation of the Mittelwerk underground factory. And at a later point in the book, well, let’s just say he travels someplace else and leave it at that.
This draft proceeded at a rapid pace as a result of a detailed outline. I also had a bit of a secret weapon with my co-author Roxie. She’s not a great typist, but she has a way with dialogue. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off writing as I wait for feedback from the publisher and do some more research. After that, no doubt another draft…
Thank you again for your support. If you have questions, comments or feedback feel free to send me email or follow me on Twitter.