Maelstrom–An Exercise in Collaborative Writing

Our inmost souls encircled - Bruce Witzel photo

Perhaps I should have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. My work-in-progress, a collaboration with my dead mother’s unpublished novel – Maelstrom – has taken off. Over the last week I have written 4000 to 5000 words a day. This morning I woke up knowing I’d have to pace myself if I’m not to run out of steam before the end.

I am currently twenty-nine chapters in and sitting at 133,000 words. My detailed outline says I’ll wrap it all up in forty chapters and hopefully come in under 150,000 words. Remember – this is my first draft of the collaborative work! There will be much trimming and refining to go before this book sees the light of day. But it has already waited, hidden away in boxes and shunted from pillar to post, for decades. Another year on the drawing board won’t hurt.

Trumpeter Swans - Charles Brandt

The way in which the process of writing this draft has evolved may be of interest to some. It fascinates me. This is how it has gone, so far.

First step: I did a detailed read through of the 2500 plus pages of what my mother had written, making notes as I went – my immediate reactions, frustrations, moments of poignancy, alternate storylines, and parts of the manuscript that I believe should never see the light of day.

Second step: I created a tentative outline.

Third step: Working through sections of the manuscript, I use post-it-notes to mark the pieces of the original work I will rewrite. At the same time, I create a list of sections, pieces and transitions that I will need to write from scratch.

Fourth step: This is definitely the fun part. I write and I write and I write, weaving together parts of my mother’s story with my own ideas and style. I have ahh moments as I come across pages of her writing that I simply must have. Then there is the slash and burn times when other pages hit the cutting room floor and I whisper to myself – sorry Mom, sorry.

Turkey Vulture[ - by Charles A.E. Brandt

(Me, the turkey vulture, chomping away at my mother’s work.)

After a read through of the first sixteen chapters, this is a portion of the feedback I received from my first reader/editor:

The story is hard-hitting and gripping. I was hooked from the beginning and I experienced intense feelings of anger and powerlessness, sadness and empathy, upset and revulsion. I could picture the people, scenes and events so clearly that they ran like a film in my head. In fact, at some point I actually thought that this book would make a good movie. It is action-packed; it evokes strong emotions; and it demands a just denouement. The characters come to life. They are complex individuals who tug at my heartstrings at the same time that they irritate and frustrate me. They are all caught in a system that controls their lives; they don’t like it, but they can’t do anything about it. The title – Maelstrom – says it all. They are swept up in a whirlpool and the reader gets drawn into it as well.

To say I was thrilled with her initial reactions would be an understatement indeed. Happy dance, happy dance!

I predict, that with another ten days of intense labour, the first draft will reach that magical – The End – moment. But those ten days won’t be in a row – this is where the pacing comes in. I have to guard my own energy levels to get through the climax. But, if all goes well, this draft will be in the drawer percolating before I break for Christmas festivities. And when I come back to writing in 2015 it will be full steam ahead with the third novel in the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night (cue the drumroll) working towards a June release date. I hope to return to second draft writing on Maelstrom as I work through final edits and formatting on Chasing Down the Night. The juries out on how that type of multi-tasking will work but rest assured, my blog followers will be the first to hear.

Violet!oilmultiplex - Bruce Witzel photo

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home - google images

I got home yesterday after five and a half, jam-packed, fun-filled weeks away. Wow! Settling in and loving the North Island weather – sun for five minutes, rain for five minutes and repeat. I managed a quick walk out when the sun was shining and picked five small zucchini and three jalapeño peppers from the garden. You can’t knock a garden that is still producing in November.

Grizzley bear in Kananaskis Country - Guenette photo

My time away was a veritable cornucopia of experiences and impressions – everything from seeing my first grizzly bear in the wild (though I am a seasoned sighter of black bears, a grizzly is a different kind of thrill) to trick or treating with my granddaughters. Then of course there were the great people met and meals had. It will take me some time in the quiet of my lakeside home to let it all seep in.

Brit is Anna - Witzel photo       Emma is Elsa - Matt Keeley photo

Elsa & Anna find their Olaf - Witzel photo

On the way home, we stopped at Save-On Food in Campbell River and I checked out how Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies look on the bookshelf of a big store – pretty cool. Hope you agree.

Fran & books at Save-On Foods - Witzel photo