character for what is now my novel Code
of Darkness: a mysterious loner-turned-vigilante known only by the name
Rage. I had recently graduated from
college, was living in the suburbs with my parents, and commuting on a train to
downtown Chicago. I decided the train
would be my “writing studio.”
“Rage walked into the shadowy bar with one thing in mind: vengeance.” The line contained a lot of angst, energy,
and foreshadowing for what would be the first chapter of my writing life. I wrote the chapter in a few days, happy with
the result, and moved on to write other chapters, getting about a hundred pages
suddenly found a lot of other things to do with my time. Without the long commute to give me a
“studio” in which to write, the book project was tabled for a long time.
suburbs and started a family. I was back
on the train, so I thought I’d try picking up where I’d left off. I found the old manuscript and began to put
down new material. But I decided to go
an entirely new direction. I scrapped
old characters and storylines, and wove in new ones: a Chicago cop, a rogue NSA
agent, a government conspiracy. My goal
was to make the story more of a page-turning thriller.
that centered around Rage stayed mostly intact.
That first chapter, the one in which I’d first introduced him, and most
importantly that first line, was always going to be my starting point, I’d
words. Yes – 198,000. I was advised to get it down to about half
that. Half my creation was going to be
on the chopping block? No way was I
going to do that.
going to have to. So I began removing
chapters, storylines, characters. In
some cases I was simply trimming fat. Two
revisions later, at 123,000 words, I discovered an angle that would probably
cut another ten to fifteen thousand words easily: introduce the three main
characters together in the same chapter, putting them in a perilous situation
that would set the tone for the book.
The problem with this was, what would this mean for my cherished
original starting point?
second chapter, maybe later in the story, but nothing worked. It just didn’t fit into the story
anymore. And the problem was, the new
first chapter didn’t just cut the word count, it also gave the story a much
better starting point.
to that original first chapter, and my story became a thousand times better for
it. It will always have a home in the
first draft of Code of Darkness, and
if enough people are interested, maybe I’ll post it on my blog someday.
were with your first novel: how long the first draft was, did you cut anything,
and if so how much … and most importantly, what was the biggest or most
difficult change you made?
August. You can find out more by
visiting www.codeofdarkness.com, or
visiting Facebook and searching on “code of darkness.”
Chris is also offering a FREE eBook version of Code of Darkness to the person with the best, funniest, cutest comment below. Leave your email and he’ll contact you.
or e-book edition, please check out: http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?fListingClass=0&fSearch=code+of+darkness
You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
– he’d love to hear from you. More about Chris:
Some time after returning to Chicago he began attending writers workshops at StoryStudio Chicago, where he wrote two character studies, both of which have since been developed into key characters in Code of Darkness.
Chris now lives outside Chicago with his wife Jenny and their two children, Luke and Emma. You might catch him working away on his second novel while commuting on his morning train into the city.