Author Heather Rae Scott informs me that you can’t edit a blank page—you have to get the words on the paper. It sounds like such a simple thing. Put the words on the paper. But there are days when the words simply won’t stick to the page. I stare at that blank screen in front of me and accomplish nothing. My two brain cells refuse to collide and create a spark, leaving me in the dark and feeling like a complete loser. Days like that, I try to go do something else since time in front of the computer is wasted.
However, I have found that writing begets writing. The more you do, the more you are able to do. Some days are better than others, but the words seem to come easier if I write more rather than less. It’s odd though that there are days when my head is full of “what comes next,” and yet, those are some of the days that cause me the most trouble. I seem to get hung up on how to open the chapter or where exactly to start the narrative. Then there are days when the story simply unfolds before my eyes and I can hardly keep up with what’s happening. It becomes a mad rush to get the basics down before the next part of the story pushes it’s way to the front of my brain.
When this happens, I wind up with things like this:
Nate looks to where the remnants of the event tent had been. Smoldering heaps, etc. Sees C.J. well ahead of others. She grabs a weapon. Sees the bad guys struggling to drag away Mathie and Nate runs in their direction. Sees the weapon in the bad guys hand. C.J. sees it too and shoots first one and then the other. First man isn’t dead and comes up shooting. What happened to the security patrols? The rest of the Marines arrive.
This is only a tiny part of what I got down as the scene unfolded in my head initially. It turned out to be more than half a page of bad sentences and jumbled things. But at least I had gotten down the gist of the scene. The next day, I was a little more clear-headed and constructed a reasonable scene from those notes:
Only then did Nate turn toward where the large event tent had once stood. The metal framework and canvas had landed well behind where it had been erected and was nothing more than smoldering heaps. The ice sculpture in the center of the tent was gone and appeared to be where the blast had come from. C.J. was well ahead of the other Marines running toward the last place Nate had seen the ambassador. The security detail lay unmoving on the floor. Looking past them, Nate saw what appeared to be some type of struggle going on between Mathie and two waiters. The two white-jacketed men were forcing the stumbling Mathie across the burning remnants of the tent toward the wooded area at the back of the property.
“Wrong way.” Nate realized. “They’re kidnapping him.”
C.J. paused only long enough to take a weapon from one of the downed agents before she raced after Mathie. As Nate ran toward them trying to find a path through the debris to cut the kidnapers off, he knew he wouldn’t reach them before they disappeared into the dark woods. The abductor on the right had a weapon in his hand and was already looking in Nate direction.
“Where the fuck is perimeter security?” Someone should be coming from the back or sides to help.
Parallel to Nate, C.J. was finally clear of the wounded, screaming people who had been in and around the tent. She stopped and planted her feet, raising the weapon, hollering at the fleeing men to stop. They were about one hundred feet ahead of her. The man on the right raised his weapon, pointing it at Nate. C.J. fired as soon as the gunman’s weapon came up. Her first shot hit the shooter high on the right shoulder, causing him to tumble before he could fire his weapon. Her second shot caught the other man squarely in the center of the back. Mathie jerked free as his abductor went down.
She screamed at Mathie to get down as he turned and stumbled toward her.
The first gunman came to his knees, firing at her and Mathie.
Nate was still running toward them when he saw Mathie go down. At the same time, C.J. put a round in the shooter’s head, sending him over backwards to land in the remnants of his own brains.
“Stay down,” she ordered Mathie as she moved between him and the abductor she’d hit in the back. The muzzle of her weapon was now trained on that target until she could confirm he was dead. She acknowledged Nate’s arrival with a nod toward the man she’d shot in the back. “He’s got a weapon in his left hand.”
Nate stayed out of her line of fire by moving behind her so he could approach the gunman from the other side. He checked for a pulse. “He’s gone.” Nate rolled him over and took a nine-millimeter Glock 17 from the dead man’s hand. Lenny and Baker had arrived right behind him. Lenny took the same style weapon from the man C.J. had nailed with the head shot. Baker knelt beside Mathie.
“Bullet graze on the outer thigh,” Baker said after a quick check. “Barely enough for a Purple Heart.” He patted the shaken man on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine.”
The Marines had formed a small circle around Mathie, but they were all facing outward, weapons at the ready, scanning for threats.
“There has to be more shooters.” Nate checked his weapon. “Someone took out at least ten men on the perimeter.”
Bad sentences and bad grammar, but Heather’s absolutely correct, words on paper give you something to work with and edit. Even now, I can see at least a dozen things wrong in this one small scene. This section will be re-worked ten to fifteen times before it even makes it to the beta readers.
The bottom line is – words on pages become sentences. Multiple sentences become paragraphs, then pages, then chapters, and eventually (if everything goes well) a novel.