Well, I finally have the time now that I don’t work nine to ten hours a day for a newspaper. What I used to do for an hour or so at 5 a.m. if I was lucky, now can fill as many hours as I want. It’s an adjustment for sure and a blessing. So, as this blog’s title suggests, I have started a new novel and am heavily rewriting another.
First: the new novel — No. 6 in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, tentatively called Following the Lead. This one starts immediately after no. 5. If you’ve read Working the Beat — thank you very much — you will know what I mean. My goal is a minimum of 500 words a day, a very manageable pace, and at this point I am 14,000 words into it. I like where this book is going. The goal is about 75,000 by the way.
Without giving away too much, here’s a hint from the opening paragraphs:
The manila envelope’s contents have been on my mind since he handed it to me in his office and said, “It’s your next case.” And there it sits on the back seat of my car, bugging the heck out of me to stop and rip it open.
“Do you think it’s another unsolved murder?” my mother asks after she gives the fat envelope another glance.
“No clue,” I answer.
Second: the old novel. Actually, it is the first one I attempted. When I showed it to the person who became my first agent, he was far more interested in another, one of my hilltown novels that has yet to be published. It is inspired by my experience working and living in a psychiatric half-way house. I did that when the state was in the process of shutting down its mental hospitals, as they were called, and putting the ex-patients in half-way houses.
Here is the synopsis:
Bia Fernandes leaves a dead-end job to work and live at Swanson, a psychiatric halfway house, where she learns more than she expects from its ex-patients. Meanwhile, it is 1974. The Watergate scandal, a craziness of national proportions, is coming to a head.
Swanson House is an old mansion that will be torn down for a highway coming through a dying mill town in Massachusetts. Among the ex-patients living there are: Lane, who compiles his observations in small notebooks with titles like Twisted People; his silent sidekick, Kevin; Angie, who claims to have been a groupie to rock stars; Jerry, the ultra-hip ex-carnie; and Carole, who says doctors stole her baby. They work factory jobs, take their meds, and interact like a family. The three other staff members at Swanson have their own problems.
Although the Swanson Shuffle is fiction, it was inspired by my experience as a live-in staff at a psychiatric halfway house. But Bia has her own story to tell, and she handles the situation much better and with far more humor than I did.
Anyway, as I reread the manuscript, I’ve found simple editing — changing, adding or deleting a word here and there — and complex editing — a scene that should be eliminated, added or drastically changed. I am on my second round since I restarted, printing out 50 pages at a time so I can go at it.
I am glad to have the time to do both.
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