Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Introducing Jake Killjoy

So far, so good. I’ve finally finished the first draft of Jake Killjoy, P.I. in: Dial D for Darwin, and at the risk of appearing braggadocious, I don’t think I’m too far from the finished product. Speaking from experience, I’ve become a big fan of the three-draft strategy for novel-writing. The goal of the first draft is only to get the manuscript together from start to finish. It can be total garbage from a literary standpoint, so long as it’s relatively cohesive and has a beginning, middle, and end.

The second draft is where you iron out all the wrinkles in the story. It’s at this point where you flesh out all the characters and make the imagery more vivid. The goal here is to make the text readable.

Then, after that’s been done, you’re ready for the third draft, where you check all your spelling and punctuation, and unify your formatting. A common mistake among inexperienced writers is to try to produce the finished product all in one draft. If you do that, you run the risk of over-editing, which interferes with what you need to do creatively to develop the narrative properly. The result is that a writer takes far too long to finish his book, if ever. The truth is, it’s difficult if not impossible to write and edit at the same time. Best to write first and edit later. (I found this out while writing Children and Fools, which took me the better part of ten years to finish. This first draft of Killjoy, in contrast, has taken only about 8 months—and it’s over 142,000 words, nearly as long as CAF.)

I’ve also found that it’s better to put the first draft away for a few months once it’s been completed. Don’t look at it, don’t even think about it. Then you can start the second draft, when you can look at the manuscript with fresh eyes and make a more effective evaluation of what the final product needs to look like.

So that’s where I am right now. I’ve written a detailed synopsis of the story, plus a one-page query that I can send out to literary agencies and publishers. In the interim, I’ll try to look for a agent to represent me, someone who can find me a top-notch editor and who knows the ropes for marketing a novel and getting it onto the bookshelves.

For those of you who’ve read my other two books, I should warn you that I’ve taken an entirely different tack with Killjoy. Instead of humor, Killjoy is satire, due to the more serious overtones of the subject matter, which is the worldview implied by radical Darwinism. In Killjoy’s world, the only law is Survival of the Fittest. Trying to be funny about it struck me as trite, and the message I wanted to convey deserved some degree of respect. So Killjoy will be my first satire.

Believe me, as a humorist who takes humor very seriously (and yes, I understand the irony of such a statement), I had plenty of reservations with setting my usual format aside and bounding off into new territory, but now that I’m done with the first draft, I know I made the right choice. The narrative itself is Spillanesque—Jake Killjoy representing a surly, tough-as-nails, twenty-sixth century P.I. Call him a cross between Buck Rogers and Mike Hammer. There’s action, adventure, more than a few bare-brawling fistfights, and, gawrsh darn it all, even a little romance.

Another major difference is in language. In my other books, I drop more F-bombs than Richard Pryor on a cocaine bender, but in Killjoy I’ve toned the language down considerably. To put it in the vernacular of the peasantry, I decided not to cuss so much. A certain blueness of language is fine when you’re trying to be as funny as possible, but becomes a distraction when your goal is to point out the logical implications of radical Darwinism. I’ve never been one to buy into the sociolinguistic notion that there are words you just can’t say, but, on the other hand, there’s no sense in alienating a major portion of my potential audience just because they’re more easily offended than I am. **Grumble. Wimps.**

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