It’s been a funny old day here in Sydney. Cold and mostly clear, full of deleted back story and birthday celebrations.
I have been writing in the living room because my brother is up from Canberra for our father’s birthday. 97. Not bad for an old fella, although he has taken to saying he is 79. Anyway, my brother is occupying the room I normally write in, so I am in the living room. And I am really enjoying it. It has the benefits of a cozy gas fireplace complete with fake coals, an excellent sound system that I can control from my phone, and a little table that is the perfect height for resting my legs on.
Having spent yesterday full of anxiety about what to do about the start of my new book, today I got to work. I have been cutting a swathe through the opening chapters, deleting acres of unnecessary backstory (some of which I was quite fond of), switching chapters around, combining some, and consigning others to the Spare folder. A kind of purgatory for scenes I can’t quite bring myself to cast into the flaming fires of the Trash folder.
All this carnage came about because of my writers group. Their reaction to what had been Chapter 3 was generally along the lines of “Sure, okay, but nothing happens.” Which was true. The only action involved a guy coming home from work and talking to his aunt. There was a bunch of back story and atmosphere (buckets of it), but it wasn’t good enough for Chapter 3, when we want to be moving things along a bit.
One of my group put it this way, “This is Chapter 3, right?”
I nodded yes, thinking that’s what it says on the first page.
“And it’s crime isn’t it? The genre?”
I nodded again, starting to worry about where this was going.
“So where is the crime? It’s Chapter 3 and all we’ve had is a prank, someone visiting his daughter, and now a guy comes home from work. I’m a crime reader. I want some crime.”
It was hard to argue with. By definition, a crime novel needs crime, and it needs it up front, not buried back at Chapter 6. So now the bank robbery (ooh, spoilers) has moved up to Chapter 2 and two chapters that were mostly back story have been deleted or smeared seamlessly across two action packed chapters. With no visible joins. That’s the theory anyway. I suspect that the surviving chapters are now a bit too long for their own good. So a bit more hacking will probably ensue.
In the midst of all this carnage, we had a family outing to visit Dad for lunch. He drank Guinness, we drank hipster beers. Eventually we all ate pizza, after Strop managed to find the only pizza joint in the area that was open at lunch time. By a happy coincidence they were also some of the best pizzas in Sydney. Then for desert it was Strop’s home made coconut-lime custard tart. El Yummo!
So if your father turns 97, get him some Guinness and some Mad e Pizza from Darlinghurst. And if you can get hold of some coconut-lime custard tart, you can’t go wrong.