I'm probably a surprised by this news than anyone because just five days ago, I wrote a post saying I hoped to have the first draft finished by the end of August, and here we are a day before the end of July, and I've already reached my goal!
It all started yesterday morning when I stumbled into my office at 6:11 a.m. (I usually write for 1-1.5 hours before breakfast) trying to solve a problem I'd left for myself on Saturday. Suddenly, inspiration struck, and I was off. Incidentally, I love it when my characters surprise me, because that means it's almost guaranteed my readers will be surprised, seeing as I couldn't possibly have subconsciously steered the story in a certain direction, dropping hints along the way. Unless my subconscious mind was already doing that for me . . .
At any rate, after that flash of inspiration, I started writing, thinking I would knock off a chapter or two. But, as with the final few chapters of The Water War, I just kept going--and going--until my typical quitting time of 4:30 p.m. By that time I had written just over 10,000 words, effectively bringing my story to a conclusion. I still need to add a bit more to the denouement to tie up a few loose ends, but for all intents and purposes, the first draft is complete. A huge load off my mind. Now the fun part begins--editing! I'd say I plan to have that process complete by the end of August, but I know I'll have it done sooner than that. Then it's off to my merciless beta readers--my wife (Heidi) and my oldest daughter (Gretchen). Once I get their feedback, I'll make a few final tweaks, and then we should be good to go. Meanwhile, Kierston is doing preliminary sketches for the cover. It all goes well, we are looking at a September release date.
I will say one thing: although I always knew roughly how the story would end, this book takes a much more serious turn toward the end than the previous three books in the series, with something happening that will change Milligan Creek forever. In this way, it mirrors some of the real-life events that happened while I was growing up in Foam Lake that inspired the story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it at that. The next time you hear from me, it should be to show you a preliminary cover sketch or maybe even a brief excerpt. Stay tuned!
Once again, I let nearly a month lapse on The Great Grain Elevator. There I was with a great head of steam, hoping to finish the first draft in June, but suddenly I was engulfed by a sea of other work, including finishing up my new documentary, releasing the latest issue of Meth the Immortal (plus a compendium of all three issues), and various other side projects that I do to keep the lights on. At any rate, I started up again yesterday, and the manuscript now stands at just over 28,000 words. Typically, these books run to about 45,000 words, so I'm getting close, and now my goal is to have a finished draft by the end of August. We'll see. The good news is, I just went through all that I've written so far and did an edit, and I'm still super excited about the book. I'm also about to get Kierston started on the cover, which always offers a good incentive to keep slogging. On that note, back to my draft.
My schedule in June has finally let up a bit, allowing me plenty of time to get cracking on book four in the Milligan Creek Series, The Great Grain Elevator Incident. I just cracked 20,000 words, which means I'm almost halfway to the finish line (novels in this series are running about 45,000 words). As in previous books, my characters keep laying waste to my outline, insisting on doing all sorts of things that I hadn't planned for. Thankfully, they're all smarter than me, so I just follow them around transcribing their antics. If all goes according to plan, I just might finish the first draft by the end of this month, which puts me on schedule to release at the end of August or early September. In the meantime, here's part one of a documentary on "The Disappearing Grain Elevator" to help whet your appetite.
For the past three years, I've brought out a Milligan Creek Series novel in the fall. This year is no different, though I must admit that, until this week, I was a bit further behind in my writing than I was on previous books. However, now that I actually have a bit of free time in my schedule, I'm using it to knock out a few chapters. I'm well into chapter three right now, and my goal is to have at least five chapters complete before I head out on tour again in mid-March, which will put me back on track. It feels great to be back in the saddle again, especially considering I wrote my initial outline for the book back in October. In keeping with its title, this story is going to be epic, and I can't wait to share it with you. Meanwhile, I'm also hard at work plotting book five, which is going to take place in winter and send things in an entirely different direction. More news on that book in the months to come.
Something I've gotten a bit of flack about are how plain my character names are in the Milligan Creek series. One reason I chose to go that direction is because I wanted the names to reflect the milieu in which I grew up, where names were, well, plain. I mean, Kevin Miller. Do you have any idea how many of us there are in the world? To prove the point, on three occasions, I have been flagged by the police and US Homeland Security due to the nefarious actions of other Kevin Millers who happen to have the same birthdate as me. Yeesh. And no, for the last time, I have never been arrested in New Mexico!
Anyway, starting with Henrietta Blunt, and then continuing to Fiona Pickleberrybush, I decided to go in a more creative direction with names. Which leads me to the antagonist for book four in the series, The Great Grain Elevator Incident, which I am about to start writing (once I get issue 3 of Meth: The Immortal out of the way). I'm a big fan of NFL football, and I've often said sports is one of the best places to find unique names. Sure enough, in a serendipitous moment last week, I was watching a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs when I noticed the Chiefs' place kicker's last name: Butker. Just as I was thinking about how that would be an unfortunate name to grow up with, I noticed Baltimore's place kicker is named Justin Tucker. Suddenly, I put the two names together in my head: Tucker Butker. What a great name for a bad guy! Suddenly, all sorts of story possibilities opened up in my mind.
Once again, as a writer, you never know when or where inspiration will strike, so keep your eyes and ears open!
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life