Tag Archives: writers

My Messy First Drafts

(Originally posted on eightladieswriting.com)

skier2I’ve been playing around with a contemporary story (inspired by a ski trip to Utah over the holidays) tentatively called The Lesson. I don’t have much to it yet…just two chapters, one of which I hammered out while on the plane flying home. I thought it’d be fun to throw it out there for the world to see, and also to get your comments (critical or otherwise — I can take the heat, so long as you’re polite).

I’m also putting it out in the internet-ether to demonstrate what first drafts can look like…sorta clunky, not-much-making-sense kind of things. There are a few good lines, but as my CPs have pointed out, there’s plenty of stuff that needs work, a few things that are confusing, and some useless stuff.

However, as Nora Roberts once said, “The only page I can’t fix is a blank one.”

So happy reading and do give me your feedback in the comments section. Seriously!

***

I’m going to make this mountain mine.

Jennifer Pringle played with the edge of her napkin. She sat at a small table inside the restaurant overlooking the pool and courts at the five-star hotel in Beaver Mountain, Utah. Her bosses’ words rang in her ears and an uneasy feeling quivered through Jennifer’s body.

For the first time, she wondered whether she should move on. Twenty years ago, the job of reporting to Geoff Standish seemed like a dream come true right out of law school. She’d been his aide, then his sole counsel, doing all the legal work for The Standish Group as he took over Southern California one multi-million dollar home, strip mall, and tract of land at a time.

For a reason she couldn’t quite explain, his proclamation of owning the ski resort outside Beaver Mountain felt wrong, like a tag that rubbed against your neck or a rock in your shoe.

Maybe it was because Beaver Mountain was in Utah? Geoff hadn’t ventured into Utah…yet. He was quickly making his way east, though, having just bought up some broken-down retirement communities outside Phoenix and a few small hotels on the wrong end of the strip in Las Vegas. His intention, of course, was to revamp them, stamp them with the Standish name, and charge exorbitant prices that would more than make up for his initial investment. It had worked like a charm for years and Jennifer had been the sole legal representation for Geoff during most of it.

But a ski resort?

Jennifer’s initial concerns — that it wasn’t a buy/rehab/sell, that he’d have to manage employees and customers, that establishing a casino at the resort was impossible — were all shot down like tin targets at a BB gun arcade. It will work, he’d said. You’ll see.

Geoff’s loud baritone wafted from the front of the restaurant and Jennifer steeled herself. Why was she so nervous, anyway? She’d never had a problem telling Geoff that one of his ideas was off base. He usually took her advice, too. So was she anxious because he wasn’t taking it this time?

She watched him walk from the reception area past the bar and rose as he drew near. “Good morning, Geoff. How are you today?”

Geoff nodded and held out her seat. “Splendid. Just splendid. How about that snowfall, eh?” He gestured outside with nod of his head at the six-plus inches that had fallen overnight, then took the seat to Jennifer’s right.

A server came up immediately. “Coffee, sir?”

Geoff turned his coffee cup upright. “Yes, please. Black and hot.”

“Right away. Please feel free to help yourself to the breakfast buffet or perhaps you’d prefer to select something from the menu.” He pointed to the cardboard list of à la carte offerings laying on the table.

“Thank you.”

The server nodded and left to fetch the coffee. Geoff turned his attention to Jennifer.

She mentally steeled herself. For what? “So, you’re still interested in pursuing an opportunity here.” It was a statement more than a question.

Geoff nodded. “Absolutely. However, I’ve been thinking about your concerns and there may be some merit to them. Particularly the one about employees. Never really had to deal with that, except for the peons we have in the office.” He chuckled and took a sip of the fresh-squeezed orange juice on the table.

Jennifer offered up a wan smile. “I hope I don’t fall into that category.” Jennifer gingerly sipped her coffee.

Geoff scoffed, making a pooh-pooh motion with his hand. “Of course not. You know how invaluable you are to me. The fresh pair of eyes I need.”

Jennifer’s coffee cup clanked as she set it down. May as well be direct. “This fresh pair of eyes is telling you that taking on Beaver Mountain may be more than you bargained for. It’s not a strip-and-flip.”

The server returned with a silver carafe and poured Geoff a steaming cup.

“Leave the carafe, please.” Geoff tapped the left side of the table. The server placed the carafe where Geoff indicated, then left. Geoff leaned in towards Jennifer. “I know it’s not a strip-and-flip. But I want this mountain. And the ones in Idaho and Wyoming. Snowflake Resorts has already bought up most of Colorado and California. Hell, they bought up California right under my nose. That’s my state. There isn’t much else left in the way of independent resorts, unless you go east, and I’m not doing that.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “But skiing? Since when do you even care about skiing? You’ve never been skiing a day before in your life.”

Geoff’s eyes drilled into hers. “Marla skis.”

Jennifer’s eyebrows shot up and she gave a punctuated laugh. “Marla skis? You’re doing this because Marla skis?” Marla was Geoff’s current mistress. Not girlfriend. Mistress. Calling her a girlfriend would imply that there was some sort of reciprocity, that Marla would give something — anything — to the relationship besides sex. But sex was all she gave, and she took plenty for it. Clothing. Jewelry. Cars. A stunning beachfront home in Malibu. Cash.

“Girlfriend” would also imply that she might someday be “fiancée” or “wife.” But Geoff had no intention of marrying her. He couldn’t, with his estranged-but-not-yet-divorced wife of 25 years still living in the first house Geoff had owned in Beverly Hills. Apparently, keeping his wife and paying her bills was cheaper than a divorce, or so his divorce lawyer had advised him.

“Marla skis, and so will you.”

Jennifer had taken another sip of coffee, but at this remark, she choked, nearly spitting it all out. “Me?”

“Yes, you.” Geoff pushed his plate aside and leaned on his elbow, his head close to Jennifer’s. “I want this mountain and I need your help getting it. I need you to be able to wine and dine the locals on the slopes. I need you to get a feel for the folks who work here, who run the place. I need you to understand what it takes to manage a ski resort, and the first place to do all that is with private lessons.”

Jennifer stared at him. He had to be kidding, right? She wasn’t the sort of girl who did physical activity — at all — which probably explained why she was a five-foot-five size 14. And it wasn’t like she was young and agile. She’d spent her entire career with The Standish Group and was on the downhill slide to 50. It was a little late for this bitch to learn new tricks. “Geoff. I understand your goal here. But to be quite frank, I don’t ski.”

He shrugged. “Neither do I, but I’m going to learn. And so are you.”

“Geoff—“

Her boss raised his hand to silence her. “No. You’re going to do this.”

Her shoulders popped up imploringly. “But I don’t even have ski clothes.” Okay, so that was kind of stupid, but she was kind of desperate.

“You have your corporate Amex. Use it.” He stood. “Your first lesson is today at 10 a.m. I suggest you high-tail it to the ski shop and get yourself outfitted.”

Jennifer stared open-mouthed while he finished off his cup of coffee. “Geoff, I have several important calls and a meeting with a potential client this morning.”

He shrugged. “Reschedule. Now, if there’s nothing else, I am supposed to meet Marla for a spin class.” He turned and strode out of the restaurant.

Unbelievable. She had to take a fucking ski lesson to help her boss buy a mountain he shouldn’t even be on.

Jennifer looked at her empty plate. She intended to survive on coffee alone this morning. She’d done it plenty of times before, but always when she was busy on the phone. Interacting with people. Distracted. But now she had to ski. In the cold. She hated the cold.

She hated feeling hungry even more.

Fuck this. If she had to ski, then she would damn well do it on a full belly. She spun around in her chair. “Waiter?”

The young man came to her table immediately. “Yes, ma’am. What can I get for you.”

Jennifer looked down at the menu and smiled. “I’ll have eggs Benedict, please, atop the fried chicken.”

Things I Like: Scapple

Another nod to the folks at Literature and Latte (creators of Scrivener, which I’ve already raved about)…this time, for Scapple, a brainstorming, white-boarding, mind-organizing free-form tool that uses boxes, lines, and arrows to help you organize your thoughts. Or, in the case of my book, to help me organize my character’s actions and reactions.

What I like about Scapple (aside from the 30 days-of-use — not 30 consecutive days — free trial) is that Continue reading

Focus Hocus-Pocus

Oftentimes, I have trouble staying focused. For example, I was cleaning up the kids’ play room today and went downstairs to return a few cups to the kitchen. I wasn’t finished cleaning their play room, but a large stack of “stuff” littering the kitchen counter distracted me. So, play room forgotten, I started sifting through everything, making neat piles of mail, receipts, old newspapers, things-to-go-upstairs, things-to-go-outside, and God-knows-what-else in an effort to clean off the counters. In short order, I had a stack of “office things,” so I grabbed the stack and made my way to the office, where…you guessed it…I got distracted by a mess there and promptly forgot about the kitchen. Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand I can wave to finish cleaning the rooms I abandon, so I have to backtrack, and it often seems I’m never finishing anything. Continue reading

Flashes of Inspiration

Everyone has flashes of inspiration. Mine happen usually when I’m head-down on something and my mind takes a detour. However, there are time when I NEED a flash of inspiration…I mean, I really need it, and it’s nowhere to be found.

I’ve been struggling with my beginning for awhile now. Not that I’ve done anything about it. The beginning hasn’t changed as I keep plowing through pages and pages of new material. But it’s been plaguing me. I know it’s wrong. It’s unnecessary. It’s not where the story starts. And that’s my biggest frustration.

I know the story starts where the action begins, but I’ve had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to manipulate my characters so that my heroine and her hero get introduced after the action begins, yet under the Right Circumstances. That’s required, or there is no conflict, and if there’s no conflict, I may as well start the story anywhere, because what I’ll have is no story, just a bunch of events.

Anyhoo, my muse usually helps me with this stuff. I refer to my muse as The Girls in the Basement (like Stephen King’s “Boys in the Basement”). Most of the time, they’re on top of things, delivering ideas to me, helping me get words on the page. But they are also good at stringing me along for prolonged periods of time. Apparently, they’ve had something better to do any time I’ve thought about how my story starts. Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe they’re grouchy.  Whatever the case, the Girls have clearly been on hiatus…until tonight.

I must have fed them right this evening (was it the Oreos?) because while posting comments for the class I’m taking, inspiration flashed. It was big. It was Bright! It was GREAT! I know what to do!

So thank you, Girls, for coming to the party, staying awhile, enjoying some cake (Oreos?), and leaving a lovely hostess gift. I owe you one. Soon. I promise…but please, can it wait until we get through the first act?