After fiddling with it a bit this morning and cleaning some things up, I sent Trigger Switch off to Jason and I can officially say it’s done. The final word count was 60,102, which is about 22 words shorter than Riot Load and more than 8,000 words longer than Murder Boy. My trunk novels, oddly enough, all fall in the 72-75k range, but these books work better shorter, I think. According to my records, I started this book April 11, 2016, which gives us a writing timeline of a little over 16 months. That’s shorter than the 19 months it took to write Riot Load and far shorter than the three years it took to write Murder Boy.
I mentioned in a previous post that back in March I considered this book dead in the water and had moved on to other projects. On the four hour long drive to Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, I thought a lot about this book and finally had to admit to myself I couldn’t find a way forward with it and when I arrived at the conference, I sent an email to my publisher telling him as such and floating to other options for what we could do next. The problem was, I had originally conceived of this book as my take on Death Wish where a man who is not violent by nature becomes violent and turns into a vigilante.
It made for a nice pitch, but as I got deeper into the writing of the book, I realized it wasn’t going to work because after the events of Riot Load, Dominick was not a naive goofball anymore, he was a violent man with a raging temper. All my fixes for that flaw turned the book into varying versions of a pulpy revenge novel. All well and good, but there were two problems: 1) pulp revenge novels are even shorter than what I’d been writing and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the word count higher than 45k, which would never fly for a publisher, even one as inventive and forgiving as Polis and 2) it was not the book I wanted to write. I wanted to write something that worked as a standalone novel but also brought the three-book arc of Dominick’s life to a satisfying conclusion and this book was not doing that.
So I put the book away, started working on something else, and a week later I had the perfect idea for how to fix it. I talked with Jason and told him it was working again and asked if he’d be interested. He was and we set a July 31 deadline for me to turn in the manuscript. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and threw away about as much as I wrote trying to get it right and it was moving forward. And then suddenly it was approaching the end of July and I wasn’t quite done yet. I knew how it all ended, I just needed to get the typing done and to do that I needed a couple of incredibly large blocks of time and quiet to be alone and to work. That wasn’t going to happen at home with three kids, a paralyzed dog, and the general miscellany of the chaotic life I love. I meekly approached Becky with the idea of using some hotel reward point to get a room for the night to give me the space and quiet I needed and, God bless her, she was on board with it.
I’d always wanted to do a writer’s retreat where I checked into a cabin in the woods and spent the day writing and talking walks and reading by the fire at night and this was almost as good. I’d also wanted to push my word count endurance and see if I could do a binge session of 5k or more in a single day. To that point, 3k was the most I was ever able to do in a single day. So I checked into a moderately priced Hilton hotel, and spent the day writing and dipping in the on-site hot tub to ease the strain on my back and arms, and I spent the night drinking absurd amounts of caffeine and writing to the sounds of screaming teenagers staying on the other end of the hotel. And it worked. The first day I was there I wrote 8,000 words and the second I wrote 7,000. I went home with a huge chunk of the book written and the momentum I needed to finish. After it was done, I took a shot of my Johnny Walker Blue, went on Facebook to gloat about it, and then feel asleep.
I was impressed with how much I was able to write and with the quality of what I wrote under those conditions, but I can’t say this is something I want to make a habit of. The first few hours, I was averaging 1,000 every hour, but by the end, it was 1,000 words every two and half to three hours. And my brain was mush. I much prefer the steady clip of 1k – 2k a day, but I do think story ideas and plot developments came to me in that sort of hyper-awareness of the book that wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise.
I have some editing projects I need to finish up this week, so I won’t be doing any writing, but next week I want to start work on a short story to submit for the Mystery Writers of America anthology and then next month I want to start work on my next book. Something I’ve been noodling and outlining for more than a year and something I hope will be my breakout book.