Saturday, November 7, 2020

Do You Save Excised Text ?

Scott D. Parker

When it comes to deleting text from you work in progress, do you up and delete it or do you save it?

I’m revising the existing chapters of my current work in progress before I hit that mark where I’ll be crafting brand-new words. As of yesterday’s writing session, I realized that a chapter/scene I had written really isn’t necessary. Actually, I’ve already excised two scenes because I think they’ll slow the pace. I can get the same information across with a tweak to an earlier chapter.

So what to do with the now deleted text?

I am using Scrivener for this particular book. If you’ve never used this program, it’s a little like Windows Explorer (or Finder for Mac folks) with each scene/chapter its own unique folder. There is also a ‘research’ folder at the bottom of the file structure. Typically this is used to house whatever research a writer needs to craft the book.

I have a folder I call “Excised text” and I’m pretty sure you can guess what that is. It is the folder into which I place all the content I will not be using.

Sure, I could—and do—simply delete it from the main sections of the book, but I also want to keep a record of it. In my comp book, I note that I’ve removed certain scenes. On my notecards, I’ll note that I’ve remove the scene from the main flow—but I keep the card in its original spot. I guess that’s the historian part of me. I want the record to show that on such and such a day, I removed a scene. It’ll also act as a road map if, when I’m finished, I go back and reconsider if the excised text/chapter really does belong. I’ve got all that text at the ready.

It’s a pattern I’ve always adhered to, going back as far as my grad school days.

How about you? Do you merely delete text/scenes you don’t need, or do you save it…just in case? I’m a process guy and I’d love to know how other writers treat text they don’t want to use.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Beau tackles Lou-Lou and Big Bobby Joe

This week, Beau takes a look at GUILLOTINE by Paul Heatley.

After suffering a lifetime of tyranny under her father’s oppressive rule, when Lou-Lou sees a chance to make a break with the man she loves, she takes it. Problem is, daddy’s also known as Big Bobby Joe, a dangerous and powerful man in the local area—powerful enough to put out a sixty grand bounty on the head of the man she’s run off with, who also happens to be one of his ex-employees.

With every criminal affiliate out looking for them, making good on their getaway doesn’t seem promising. Even their so-called friends are on the take, willing to pull a double-cross if that’s what’s going to turn them a quick buck. But Big Bobby Joe hasn’t counted on his daughter’s resolve to distance herself from him. No matter what he throws at her, no matter what he does, she’s going to get away—or die trying.

Praise for GUILLOTINE:

“A missing girl, a father who wants her back, a hitman. You think you know where this story is going, but in Paul Heatley’s masterful hands, Guillotine never takes the expected path. Full of crackling dialogue, characters whose actions surprise you at every turn, and an ending you’ll be thinking about for days after.” —Hector Acosta, author of Hardway

Praise for PAUL HEATLEY:

“Paul Heatley is one of the most compelling writers currently working in the UK.” —Tom Leins, author of Repetition Kills You

“Heatley has an adept ear, and he’s got the writer’s chops to translate what he hears.” —Matt Phillips, author of Accidental Outlaws

“Heatley has this genre down pat and few others can top his style. Step into the dark and enjoy the fun.” —Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Mysteries of Chess

I just started watching The Queen's Gambit on Netflix -- I'm one episode in -- but so far it's excellent.  I read Walter Tevis' novel several years ago and loved it, and I've been glad to hear such positive things about the show from everyone posting about it on social media.  It really does tell a fascinating story and have a compelling central character.  Though I would hardly call myself a superlative player, I've liked and played chess since I was a child and have read up quite a bit on the game's history, and that Tevis, who called himself "a class C" player, had studied and acquired lots of knowledge about the game is obvious to any reader.  Among his other novels are The Hustler and The Color of Money, so if there is anyone who knows how to tell a tale based around the drama and tension of games, it's Tevis.  He does it in a way that's riveting in The Queen's Gambit, a novel that's part game/sports story, part psychological thriller, part coming of age novel.  My bet is that anyone who hasn't read the book and loves the series will like the book a lot.  

Among chess novels, Tevis' book ranks among the best ever written, and I'd put it among my top three fictional chess stories.  The other two aren't surprising picks by any means, but they're worth noting, nonetheless. 

First, The Defense (or The Luzhin Defense, as it's also called), by Vladimir Nabokov. 

Nabokov's third novel, first published in Berlin in 1930, is about the life of the title character, Luzhin, and explores the link between genius and madness.  Though he's not an orphan like Beth Harmon, Luzhin has a few similarities with her.  As a child, he's a solitary sort who finds it difficult to connect with people.  Even his parents don't understand him.  He winds up turning to chess as a -- yes -- defense against ordinary life with its attendant anxieties.  And at first he succeeds, rising in the chess world swiftly, but at some point, his obsession with the game becomes all-consuming and works against even how he performs at the board.  No doubt, and unsurprisingly, this theme of obsession is a common one in chess stories, and Nabokov himself describes The Defense as "the story of a chess player who was crushed by his genius".  In part, he based the character on a German chess master he knew, a man who, shall we say, came to an unfortunate end.  As with Tevis, it's obvious Nabokov knows the game well, and anyway, it's a Nabokov novel, so you know it can't not be good.

My other favorite chess story is the classic Stefan Zweig novella, The Royal Game (also known as Chess Story).  It was written in 1941, a year before Zweig, an Austrian in exile in Brazil, distraught about the state of the world, committed suicide.  He sent the story off to his publisher a few days before he killed himself, and the novella was published in 1943.

This story, to be honest, is one of my all-time favorite stories of any kind, not just a favorite chess tale.  It's masterfully told by a writer who knew how to weave psychological complexity into tightly plotted and humane tales. Though, again, the story deals with obsession, what's striking about The Royal Game is that chess here, for the most part, serves as something that saves a person's sanity rather than destroys it.  The plot centers around a man who is put in a Nazi prison and kept in isolation.  He feels himself falling into madness, but the one thing that keeps him somewhat sane is a tiny chess book he manages to steal and hide away in his cell.  He memorizes all of the grandmaster level games in the book, every variation of every move in the book, and begins playing games in his head hour and hour, day after day.  Not unlike Beth Harmon as a child in The Queen's Gambit, he plays games on the walls and the ceiling.  The story climaxes after he has gotten out of prison and left Europe and is traveling on an ocean liner going from New York to Buenos Aires.  On the ship, he encounters a number of chess enthusiasts and the person who is the current world chess champion, a man named Czentovic.  They play, and what ensues is a battle told with great psychological insight and suspense.  I've read The Royal Game three or four times and always find myself enjoying it, as well as learning from its pacing and construction. As a sheer chess yarn, which has a subtle but strong emotional heft, this one is hard to beat.

Anyone have other particular chess stories, in fiction, that they like?