I finished a vampire romance about a year ago and set it aside…mostly because I hated it. 18,000 words and countless weeks of work—and it was garbage. The characters were unmotivated and there was really nothing interesting at stake.
A buddy of mine kept asking me what I was going to do with it, and I told her about my reservations. She asked to read it, so I sent it to her. She said the writing was “outstanding” (blush), but the story—yeah, what did these people want??
About four weeks ago, I pulled it out again and remembered a writing method I’d heard of called “phasing”. It took me forever to remember the name of the girl who wrote the article, but I finally did! Then, I found the article. (to see it, go here: http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2015/phase.htm)
The basic idea is this—and forgive me, Lazette, if I’m taking some license here—you write the whole book in shorthand scenes. This happens, that happens, etc. Then you take each of those shorthand scenes and turn them into a fleshed-out story.
The outline ended up being 8,000 words, but now I had a complete picture of the story. I knew what these people wanted and why, and I now knew how they were going to get it. I have been writing the draft based on these phases ever since, and I’m having a blast!
Here’s a sample:
It’s Friday and they go for some drinks. We see Gray is single and he’s a nice guy and a good detective. A young woman in the precinct who is a statistician notices the change in abduction statistics and tells Gray—she is Gray’s kid sister. Gray is a detective but isn’t convinced this is an abnormality although he puts a lot of stock in her abilities. The guys around her say they are both crazy. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern—men, women, children, all different ages and races. She is celebrating her daughter’s, Gray’s niece, getting into a private school. She leaves, then Gray follows her to make sure she’s all right and he witnesses her abduction. The guy has blood all over his face and her neck is bleeding. He chases them down, but the guy is so fast he’s out of sight almost instantly. What the hell just happened?
Gray Walsh held the door as the couple stumbled into the street. Might be close, but they didn’t feel twenty-one to him. Harry, dammit. Probably half-assing the IDs again. The smell of liquor rose on the night air and swirled around them.
“You guys driving or taking a cab?”
The guy glanced at Gray with half-open eyes. “What’s it to ya, pal?” The girl giggled, pulled a set of keys from her purse and jingled them.
Gray was off duty, but he couldn’t let either of them drive home in this condition. Still, he wasn’t in the mood to arrest anybody, even a mouthy drunk. He stepped closer to the guy. “Well, pal, public intoxication is a crime. Driving while intoxicated is fucking stupid.” He lifted his badge from his pocket and let it peek from behind the opening of his jacket. “And cabs are cheaper than bail.”
The guy took the hint. He righted himself and turned to the row of cabs lined up along the curb. “Yo!”
Gray waited until they drove away to go inside. Harry was already tapping Gray’s usual as he approached. “What’d you say to that guy?”
“Use condoms.” Gray pulled his wallet out of his jacket. “And take a cab.”
“Figured.” Harry handed over the frosty mug and smiled. “I sent Jerry out to make sure they did. They were plowed, but good tippers, especially the girl.”
“She’s a minor, Harry.”
He shrugged. “ID looked real. And girls mature faster than boys.”
Gray dropped a five on the bar. “I come here every Friday, with most of the department. Need lessons spotting fake IDs? We close the place down a few weeks, we could conduct a seminar.”
Harry nodded and smiled. “I’ll check closer from now on.”
“Fantastic. Later, Harry.”
“Gray! Finally! What took you so long?” Bailey waved him toward their usual table in the back. “I’ve been arguing with these guys for half an hour! I need somebody on my side. Sit over here.”
Gray pulled out a chair and dropped into it. What a long day. Week. Year. Depended when you started counting. The detectives on the far end of the table were having a loud disagreement on last’s name football game, and Hector was staring at a woman dancing alone beside her table. Just another Friday night.
Gray took another swig of his beer and swiped his fingers through his hair. “Okay, Bailey, who do I have to beat on for you tonight?”
“Tell him, Pete. You speak geek.” Gerard motioned to the waitress for another pitcher to join the three empties on the table.
“Your sister here,” Pete said, waving his half-full mug toward her, “The department’s resident math analyzer person, says there has been a…what was it?”
“Statistical anomaly,” Bailey said.
“Yeah, that.” Pete laughed. “A statistical anomaly in the last three months’ data. Gerard says it’s aliens.”
The waitress arrived, and poured Gerard another beer. “So, you’ll be beating on ET, my friend. That’s what I say.”
Pete drained his mug and held it toward the waitress. “I say she’s nuts.”
Gray turned to Bailey. “You’re reviewing the department’s reports again? I thought that damn audit was done.”
She shook her head. “It is done. I’m not talking about the audit. I’m talking about what I found when compiling data from all of the city precincts and a little digging on my own. Citizens are disappearing at an alarming rate. Over the last five years, fewer than a dozen people were reported missing. In the last three months, you know how many there are? Guess.”
Gray shook his head. “Bailey. It’s been a long day.”
“Fifty-three.” She tilted her head to the side and stared hard at him. “Fifty-three, Gray. What is going on out there?”
The question was a bolder falling from the sky into a calm pool. “That can’t be right.”
She grabbed her purse from the back of her chair and pulled out a pile of computer printouts. “I thought so too. There had to be a mistake. But look at this.”
Gray glanced over the pages in the semi-darkness. “What is all this? These reports aren’t from our computer.”
“I’m not talking about just missing persons’ reports. I compiled other data, added in suspected runaways, suddenly vanished homeless people…then I made a bunch of phone calls to local apartment complexes. The number of renters who left in the middle of the night—without taking any of their belongings, by the way—is staggering. And there’s no pattern—men, women, children, all different ages and races…”
“Bailey, go home,” Gerard said. “And try to remember that you are a researcher and not a cop. If people are missing, we’ll find them.”
Gray flipped through his sister’s notes. “There’s got to be an explanation. If people are disappearing like you’re saying, somebody would have noticed.”
“Somebody did notice.” She took the papers from him and stuffed them back into her handbag. “And there isn’t an explanation—not a logical one. Look, I’ve got to relieve the babysitter, but I want to talk to you about this. Don’t forget Ava Sophia is expecting you on Sunday.”
“I’ll be there.” Gray leaned back in his chair. “Bailey, hang on.”
But she’d already headed toward the door. Gray scowled at his co-workers. “You guys ease up. She’s doing her job.”
Pete shook his head. “Man, we were kidding around with her. She doesn’t know how to have fun anymore.”
“If your spouse died and left you to raise a kid all on your own, then…” Gray shook his head. “Forget it. See you guys on Monday.”
Gray pushed through the crowd. They were right. Bailey used to have fun with them on Friday nights. She’d returned to work too soon after her husband’s death, that was all. Pushing herself too hard. He reached the front door and jogged toward the parking garage across the street.
Her scream stopped him in his tracks. He yanked his SIG Sauer P229 .357 SIG DAK service pistol, flipped the safety and bolted toward the sound. She wasn’t far. He raced up the ramp toward the spot she usually parked. A male, just under six feet, white, 190 pounds in jeans and a navy blue sweatshirt held her body against him, his face buried in her neck.
Gray stopped and stared, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. The two of them stood beside her car on the driver’s side, her purse and keys on the ground at their feet. He was embracing her, the man’s arms almost tenderly wrapped around her waist. Her hands were at her sides. He held the pistol at eye level and approached.
“What the hell is going on here?”
The movement was so quick Gray could only process the scene in flashes. Blood around the man’s mouth. His sister’s body lifted into his arms as if she were a child’s doll. Then, a streak of color, and they were gone.
I started with 154 words and turned it into almost 1,200. And I don’t have to worry if the story will make sense anymore because I already know where all of this is leading. And every morning when I sit down to write, I know what I’m doing—very little time wasted any more worrying that I’ll write myself into a corner. Of course, it’s still first draft stuff and needs fixing, but it’s finally going to do something besides collect dust.
If you ever feel stuck, give this method a try. Thanks, Lazette!