Author Arc

There are only two days left of my novel writing month. Unlike the National Novel Writing Month in November, which is about writing 50,000 words in a month, I had no goal except to work on my book every day. The first four days of March were dedicated to editing and reading what I already had written — it’s impossible to finish writing a book if you don’t know what it’s about, and I’d let the poor thing lie fallow for so many years, I’d forgotten many of the details.

Two days of the month were wasted from a novel writing point of view as I celebrated Jeff’s death with tears and sorrow (though not, of course, wasted from a purely personal point of view). I did open the manuscript and stare at it for a while both those days, which has to count for something.

It is interesting that I should be working on this particular book around the anniversary because it was the last book where Jeff offered any input — he always helped with making sure the men thought and acted like men. Some people were disappointed with my last two books —  Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished — both of which were written long after his death so they lacked the male point of view that kept my first four books from slipping into girlishness. And I have to admit, both Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished are “girlier” than my first four novels, which I doubt Jeff would have liked. But the way I figure, if he didn’t want me to write fiction geared more for women, then he shouldn’t have died.

I have a hunch my male characters in the book I am writing now are losing their edge, but I don’t think it matters. The theme of the story is freedom. How much freedom we are willing to give up for safety, how much safety we are willing to give up for freedom, and in the end, since freedom is an illusion, it’s about embracing responsibility. So, if in this third part, the characters are different from the first two parts, it can be chalked up to character arc rather than author arc.

Usually about this time, as I am sliding down to the end, I have another book in mind, but not this time. One idea I had was to write a murder mystery when/if I ever hiked long sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’d probably scare myself half to death writing about death in the wilderness on such a hike, but it certainly would give a book immediacy if I were sort of living it as I wrote it. Another idea is to do a sequel to the book I am now finishing. Two babies were born in completely different circumstances in this newly created world of mine. One of the babies is named Eve. The other Adam. It does call out for a sequel doesn’t it? And yet, this book is more or less a one-note story. Once the gag is played out, I’m not sure what’s left.

Anyway, considering how long I’ve been working on this book, I shouldn’t count my ending before it’s hatched — if I get sidetracked again, it could be years before I get back to it.

I will extend my novel-writing month into April, however, even though I only have half the month to write since I will need at least a week to prepare for my trip. (It’s not just a road trip and a camping trip and a hiking trip, but also a backpacking trip, a city trip with a fancy night on the town, and various and sundry other excitements.) After that week of preparation, I will be leaving. Although I have been calling this my May trip, I will be leaving in April since I have to be back the last week in May to practice for a performance. Let’s hope I don’t lose the dances somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. They were both difficult to learn.)

Does talking about my book constitute working on it? No, I guess not. So, back to work I go, constructing a world and many dangers for my poor characters to suffer through.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Out With the Old, In With the Older

Two-and-a-half years ago, when one of the women in my dance class found out I am an author, she suggested that I write a book about our class, and even volunteered to be the victim. I thought about it for more than a year, planning the story and trying to figure out a way around the many problems I could see, such as the women hating what I’d written about them. During a pleasant interlude, a little over a year ago, while staying with a friend, I started writing the book. And there it sat, all this time. Seven weeks ago, after making a commitment to write 250 words a day, I dug out the book and worked on it.

And now it is finished! I will let it sit for a while until I can read it with a fresh mind, then go over it one more time. And then — who knows. My publisher and I are at a standstill. He thinks he should have final say about such matters as typos and formatting because he is funding the project, and I think I should. I would rather not have the book published than give up even those simple rights, so who knows what will happen. Either way, it wouldn’t be published until latesmiley next year. Meantime, I am offering to send the manuscript to folks who want to read it in exchange for noting any typos they find. Let me know if you want to be one of these first readers.

Today, I dug out another unfinished manuscript. This one is much more complicated. I started writing it in November of 2010, a few months after Jeff died. I wanted to try NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — where writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. The only way I could manage the word count was to write chapters as I thought of them. So now I am faced with a stack of unrelated chapters with a lot of repetion and no idea  how to string them together. Even worse, they are all hand written, so I also have to type them. Worst of all, scenes I thought I’d written, I hadn’t, and now I don’t remember what needed to go into those crucial scenes to make the story work. Eek.

I do have the first fourth of the book typed and in chronological order, but it shows a woman in the first throes of grief, and I worry that her many tears and screams would be off-putting. Still, that is a job for the editing process, when I’ve gotten the story into a first draft. But, mingled with the tears are hints of a deeper story. A gun hidden in a closet. A suicide note. A box with gun oil and stained rags. A file that was password protected. Oh, and a cyber affair.

The woman was married to a preacher and will be evicted from the manse, which adds even more pathos to the story, but I can’t find the eviction scene. Maybe I decided they had bought a house, and she turned it over to her daughter? I guess I’ll find out in the writing! I do like the idea of one trauma piled on another, though. The woman seems a bit weak, all those tears and whines about not knowing who she is if she doesn’t know who her husband was, and putting her through more stress than a person can handle would be a good way of seeing what she’s made of.

I’d actually planned to finish another book first, one I started the year before Jeff died. It will actually be easier from a writer’s point of view because the book is three-fourths finished, and I know what the story is, but it’s harder from an emotional point of view. The idea came from him, and it hurts that he won’t be in at the finish.

Still, it’s best to do the emotional books first, get them out of my head.

Since, apparently, I am working backward, the final book will be the complete revision of my first book. The idea still intrigues, but I started it long before I learned how to write, maybe seventeen years ago, so I will probably have to start from scratch. There is a sex scene in the book, though, and I hope that is salvageable since each book I write seems to become more chaste than the last.

Meantime, I am dealing with this mess, trying to wrangle it into a cohesive story.

Ah, the fun that awaits me!


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.