This past week I passed the twenty-thousand-word mark for my work-in-progress, the book whose title makes up most of the title of this post. I haven’t yet reached the 2K word-a-day groove that I had when I was writing THE DREAM THIEF, but I’m still doing pretty well. I’ve been using two albums from The National as a soundtrack for my writing: Alligator and Boxer. They provide a nice window of time for writing in, and inspiration as well. The National’s music is dark and brooding and, often, about loss and relationships. Which, of course, makes perfect listening for a young adult novel.
In terms of writing, I’ve been doing something a little different with this novel. Specifically, I’ve been revising as I go. On one hand, this is inspired by the other people in my novel-writing group. In that workshop, I’m the only one with a completed manuscript (2008’s GOD’S TEETH) and the rest are putting chapters of their works-in-progress under the electron microscope. What they’ve been doing is using the feedback of the group to help with the conceptualizing of their novels, both going back to revise in ideas that make sense and using comments to build the novel forward.
One the other hand, I’m revising (sort of) as I go because I’m having such trouble getting myself to revise GOD’S TEETH now that it’s so long from my hands. And because I’m bad at getting myself to revise in general. With the work-in-progress, it’s a little easier for me to revise because it’s all, mostly, still concept or freshly minted. I’m hoping that working on JOSEPH WUNDERKIND this way will help me with revising my other two novels, giving me practice and/or tools to work with.
My main help in this regard is my girlfriend, Megan, who is also the first reader (sometimes the only one) for my writing. She knows my style, knows what I’m (often) trying to achieve, and is able to guide me towards making whatever I’m working on a Better Something I Would Write rather than trying to remake it to the specifications of her own imagination. Mostly, she provides one or two questions/points that I go back and address before moving on.
This next scene wouldn’t exist except through her prodding.
“It seems we have a spy,” the voice said.
Joseph took his ear away from the door, just narrowly avoiding falling into the next room as the door opened inward. Just inside the room was a tall man, taller than anyone Joseph had ever seen in his life, over seven feet tall at least. The man was thin, too. Well, thin for his height, even though he was still wider than Joseph, but his bones were visible through his skin. Of course, if he was like Cindy, then he wouldn’t have any bones. The most disturbing thing about the man though, was that he glowed. Light came from the man’s skin and through his eyes. It was like when Joseph had held a flashlight behind the palm of his hand in the dark. The bones of the hand show up as darkness and the skin around them melts into orange light. Except with this man the light was yellow and there were no bones highlighted against his skin.
In the room beyond were Cindy and Michiko. Michiko was perched on a stool and Cindy was looking at Joseph mischievously, clearly entertained, though when she noticed him looking, her expression turned neutral.
The Lantern bent down so that his eyes were almost level with Joseph’s own.
“What have we here?” The man’s voice was thick as dirt. He asked the question as though he expected an answer. Joseph didn’t understand the question, so he kept quiet. After a minute of uncomfortable silence, The Lantern continued. “What is that?”
The Lantern reached out to touch the drill that was still in Joseph’s hand. He pulled at it, yanking Joseph’s hand up as he did so, and seemed utterly flabbergasted when the drill did not instantly come away into his grasp.
The Lantern spoke over his shoulder to Cindy. “This is what you brought for me to see, correct?” He tugged at the drill harder. He glared at Joseph as though the drill had been his, to begin with, and Joseph was the one trying to take it away. He tugged and tugged and, eventually, when it became clear Joseph wasn’t going to let go, he bent down further to inspect the drill in Joseph’s hands as if that had been his plan all along. Of course, Joseph probably would have handed over the drill if The Lantern had asked at first, but he surely wouldn’t now. He was positive that he’d never get the drill back.
“What is it?” asked The Lantern. With one finger he touched the end of the drill bit, and with the other hand he felt the entire shape of the drill as though he saw through his fingers rather than his eyes. Joseph had to block the trigger so The Lantern didn’t drill a hole into himself.
“It’s a drill, sir. A tool.”
“Ah. Ah. I see,” said The Lantern, but it was clear he didn’t really see at all. “May I borrow it?”
“No. Sir. It’s my father’s.” Joseph pulled the drill back from The Lantern’s hands and The Lantern let it go, his fingers caressing the air where the drill had been as though he could still feel the shape of it in the air.
“No matter,” The Lantern said. “But how exactly am I to help you if you won’t let me see the… drill.” Cindy whispered something to The Lantern that Joseph couldn’t quite make out. “Ah. Ah! It’s you I’m supposed to help. And you are…” The Lantern paused, his head cocked to one side, and Cindy whispered again. “A Joseph Wunderkind? What kind of name is that?”