Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009, a writing year

And now the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
Something do-dah, dum-de highway...

With the year about to become history it's time for some reflection, I guess, on the stuff what I wrote in 2009. I had two novels out this year. Riders of the Barren Plains came out in July and gathered a few positive comments, which was warming as I didn't think the book was very good, but perhaps with hindsight I was a bit hard on it. It told the action tale I set out to write, so I couldn't ask for much more. On the other hand The Treasure of Saint Woody came out to deafening silence. I don't know anyone who has even read it, so it might be gathering quiet approval or it might have missed the mark entirely. But the publisher reckoned I should enter it for a Spur Award and even though I thought my epic tale of pig rustlers might not be literate enough for the judges I've given it a whirl. I've written my acceptance speech and it starts, 'WTF...'

Early in 2010 Sharpshooter McClure comes out, although I actually wrote it in 2008. I still think it's a fairly decent story. It has some good action scenes and the plot twist at the halfway point was one that I agonized over a lot. Even if I didn't quite go the whole hog as I'd intended to on first draft, I think that makes it a slightly different tale, for me anyhow, with a good balance of character and good-natured plotting.

Of the novels I wrote in 2009, Railroad to Redemption is out in August. I thought this decent when I'd finished it, but then shortly afterwards I received the galleys to Riders of the Barren Plains and I realized that both stories had a similiar plotting point as well as some similiarities in structure. It might have been nice if that'd occurred to me while writing, but I guess it's hard to be completely original every time. Bleached Bones in the Dust will be out around next Xmas or perhaps into 2011. I've found no reason yet not to like that one, although that's mainly because I can't for the life of me remember what it was about. I also sent The Miracle of Santa Maria to Avalon early in the summer, but I have heard nothing yet. I have an idea for a follow-up book so if they accept Maria, I'll get writing that up, otherwise I won't.

On work-in-progress I have the usual collection of half-written efforts sitting all over the place at various stages of abject failure. The nearest to coming out of redrafting hell is The Prairie Man. I wrote this under the title of The Redemption Trail, but it was only when writing the final line of the third draft that a character said the words 'The Prairie Man' and suddenly the story came into focus and stopped being a tale of redemption and became a tale about The Prairie Man. Hopefully when I've neatened things up some more it'll make sense.

Less developed is The Secret of Devil's Canyon. I've written only the first draft of that and in the end the secret turned out to be really dull and it wasn't even found in Devil's Canyon. Also the murderer turned out not to be the man I thought did it, the dead person turned out to be someone else too, the hero changed half way through, the bad guy disappeared half way and a new one appeared then he got forgotten about and the sidekick turned out to be the evil genius behind all the events even though he wasn't about when everything happened. Oh and the leading lady changed her name at some stage and became someone else, which was doubly confusing as she was living under an alias anyway, except her secret alias was accidentally the name she'd started with. So that one's going well.

Also on the going well front is Devine! featuring the return of the cuddly lawman Marshal Jake T. Devine. This one had several false starts this year and in the end I just banged down words to complete a first draft that on reflection is as unpublishable as anything I've ever written. Devine solves a mystery that I didn't know the answer to until the final chapter by the simple process of killing off everyone in the cast until the one left standing did it. So on the way he kills all the bad guys, kills the person he was supposed to be rescuing, kills the hero, kills the sidekick, shoots up a horse, the mayor, the state governor, two monks, three nuns and a passing saloon owner who only came in to give him someone to talk to. I think in hindsight this might be a bit too cynical and violent for anyone to read, including myself, so I'll let it sit for a few months then set about reworking out its excesses.

Even less developed is the long delayed Bermuda Bi-angle a non-western that's stalled twice. First at 10,000 words because I had no idea what on earth I was writing and then the second time at 30,000 words because I couldn't decide if it was a romantic comedy, an action thriller, or a cosy murder mystery. I still don't know the answer, but after putting it aside for a while I don't care any more so I'll just write to amuse myself and get to an ending then worry later about how I can get it into a state that can get rejected.

Anyway, that's my writing year. Happy Hogmanay, everyone!


Laurie said...

God, I don't know how I missed The Treasure of Saint Woody - it's right up my alley. I'm ordering a copy right now and will review it on my blog. Happy New Year, Ian.

I.J. Parnham said...

Thanks, Laurie.