WRITING LESSON EXAMPLE
THIS WRITING LESSON EXAMPLE BLOG IS GOING TO MAKE YOU A BILLION DOLLARS AND MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN STEPHEN KING!
Yeah, that’s a lie.
This blog has been about teaching writing the past couple of weeks. Here, I’d like to feature a writing lesson example.
I’m using an unpublished chapter from the upcoming Crawler.
If you don’t know, I specialize in the vigilante thriller. I currently write the Douglas Gage Vigilante Thriller novellas, the Take It Back series.
Today’s blog edition is also a companion blog to a writing lesson concerning first drafts. We spoke about how important it is to get a first draft finished, so a writer has something tangible to work with.
The main feature of the lesson was Stephen King’s genius way of conquering the first draft.
I wanted to share the chapter to show that getting out of your own way and just writing can produce efforts better than you might think.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve had someone tell me not to help them. To stay away. Not to look into anything. Not to bother them.
To get the hell away from them.
But, it wasn’t the first time I ignored the requests either.
I sat in my rented Nissan Altima in the parking lot of the Spring Harbor police department. The building was concrete and metal. Functional. Grey and plain and intimidating all at once.
The building was part of a complex that included a newer, fancier courthouse. It was an off center structure, three stories tall, with overlapping flours. The outside walls featured tan and light blue bricks, large windows, and an impressively elaborate lobby.
Another building housed various city and county agencies and the offices of a large range of social services. A courtyard connected the buildings. The courtyard included a coffee cart and a bunch of wire tables and chairs with large umbrellas. There were brick benches and other flat surfaces for sitting that contributed to a relaxed social atmosphere that I could feel even in my car a couple of hundred yards away.
I was waiting for someone. They didn’t know me yet. And I didn’t know them. But I knew he or she would be here. It was just a matter of time before they showed themselves.
After I’d met Ruby and her niece with attitude last night at the retirement home, I spent of the evening doing research. The niece was a good kid from all indications. She was arrested for protesting the ongoing conflicts in the middle-east while in college, but that was the only blight on her record I could find. And I didn’t consider that much of a blight.
She’d moved to Spring Harbor from Newark, New Jersey, when it was determined no one else in her extended family had any intention of helping her great, great, great aunt. It couldn’t have been for the money, because the money was all gone, except for just enough to keep Ruby in a decent home for two years. It Ruby lived longer than that, there were going to be problems, depending on her health.
So for the moment, I was giving the niece the benefit of the doubt. I could understand her suspicions of my intentions.
Just from searching through public records I put together how Ruby’s financial situation had deteriorated. (make sure that before this we know Ruby got screwed somehow)
Just two years ago Ruby had owned 100 acres right outside the Spring Harbor city limits. At about $3,000 an acre, the total value was, uh, carry the 3, and, um… There’s a calculator on my phone…. Got it!
Ruby had never sold any of the land because it had been in her family for a couple of hundred years. And because Ruby was a child of a generation of West Virginians who believed having land was the most important thing in the world.
Ruby’d never had kids of her own. Her only brother hated Spring Harbor, and made a run for it before he even graduated high school. The family became more and more estranged until Ruby was just a Christmas card to her relatives. The only reason Ruby’s situation had to come to light was because her brother still happened to be on the deed for the house, and when Ruby tried to sell it, her brother’s children were contacted, because her brother had long since passed.
I glanced over toward the courthouse and saw the person I’d been looking for all morning. He stood at the top of the steps, slowly taking in his surroundings. The man was calm. From under his left arm he took his hat and fitted it on his head.
He was a little over six feet, much shorter than me. He was solid, obviously in great shape. But not as solid or as in great shape as me. And he wore the uniform he kept for testifying in court. It was pristine. Starched, dark blue, no lint. His silver badge could reflect enough light to bring down a 747. His black shoes were polished so well they reflected their surroundings like a mirror.
The officer began walking a straight line to the police department building from the courthouse. I got out of my car with the intent of meeting him at the entrance to the police station.
Didn’t happen. As I crossed the street, the officer changed course. He began walking straight toward me. He stopped three yards away from me. His nametag said J. Vann. Up close he was bigger than I thought. Still not as big and strong as me. But bigger than I thought.
“Yeah?” J. Vann said.
“Leo Putt,” I said.
“Yeah?” J. Vann said.
His fluctuating moods and disparate use of vocabulary were keeping me on my heels.
“Local developer that bought $300,000 worth of land from Ruby McTyre for about $25,000,” I said. “Ended up buying her house for pennies on the dollar too.”
“Asshole,” J. Vann said.
“Lunch?” I said.
“Yeah,” J. Vann said.
Lunch was at Stephanie’s Place, a hoity toity restaurant thirty minutes north of Spring Harbor. Stephanie’s was the restaurant in the Harbor Tree Escape Lodge, a hoity toity resort that catered to people with a lot of money and time on their hands. The place smelled of lilac and weed.
Through the lobby I caught a glance of small parts of the pool. Shrubs, flowers, and kudzoo cut the pool area into private sections, where it felt as though there were no other souls around.
Officer Vann motioned for me to follow and we went directly to a table in the restaurant. Menus were already in place at each setting. Vann hadn’t spoken at all since the last “yeah” in Spring Harbor. After that, he’d motioned for me to follow him, just as he’d motioned me to follow him to the restaurant. I’d gotten in his squad car, and he’d driven us here. Silence the whole way. I’d asked questions, commented on the scenery, called him some names just to get a rise out of him, threated to pee in the floorboard, but he never opened his mouth.
He did hand me a tissue when I threated to pee in the floorboard. But I don’t believe he thought the tissue would absorb all the liquid.
Anyway, I have to tell you, I was worried about Officer J. Vann’s ability to communicate. He’d only spoken two different words so far. Lunch conversation was looking like a dry wasteland of boredom and futility.
“Goddamn you’re ugly,” Vann said.
Careful what you wish for.
“I’ve been described as The Rock’s ugly brother,” I said.
Vann stared at me face. He put his hand to his chin and rubbed it.
“You’re somebody’s ugly somethin’,” Vann said.
He took the small menu from his plate and looked it over.
“I have no idea what any of this shit is,” Vann said, softly tossing the menu back where it was.
A smile attached to an enthusiastic woman of about thirty years of age came toward us. She wore a flowing light blue tunic and gold pants, along with sparkling white walking shoes. Vann stood to greet her and they shared a familiar hug.
“Good to see you, Melanie,” Vann said.
Melanie pulled back from the hug to look at Vann’s face. He held her as she did, and something passed between them. They mustave some kind of powerful unspoken communication tools because when Melanie turned to me she looked me square in the eye, smiled, shook my hand, and said, “I’m Melanie, nice to meet you.”
She didn’t flinch. She didn’t look down or away. She didn’t register pity or embarrassment. Melanie greeted me. That’s all she did.
“I’m Gage,” I said.
Melanie took Vann’s menu. “Did he already say he didn’t know what any of this shit is?” I could only smile.
“I’m gonna go cook up two steak sandwiches with fries,” Melanie said. “Already got some coleslaw. Drinks?”
Vann got coffee and I ordered a Cherry Coke IV.
“Cherry Pepsi okay?”
Usually, those three words would get a scathing response from me. But today, all it got was an Aw shucks, sure!
Melanie seemed delighted to go cook our orders, and hurried off with much enthusiasm. Vann watched her go, a smile on his face.
“Wife, daughter, baker, candlestick maker?” I said.
Vann didn’t answer. He moved his menu off his plate and put it on top of the menu on the setting to his right. We were at a four top, sitting directly across from each other.
“When you said Leo was an asshole,” I said. “Could you elaborate?”
A waif dressed in green and cold drifted by our table and left coffee, water, and my Cherry Pepsi. She left in her wake the memory of her blonde hair, and the scent of the ocean at dawn.
“A call came through the switchboard this morning,” Vann said. “Said to look out for you.”
“Niece’s name,” I said. “Very skeptical last night.”
Vann took a sip from his coffee. He liked it like I liked by liquorice: black.
“I can’t see any reason to look out for you,” Vann said.
I thought about shooting him. It’s one thing to call me ugly. It’s another thing to imply I am not big and strong and threatening. ‘Cause I am gosh darnit.
“Asshole,” I said. Vann gave me a look. I smiled innocently. “Leo. You said he was an asshole. Can we talk about that?”
Vann had some more coffee. “You already know everything. IT guy said someone was rootin’ around in the system last night. You probably know more than me.”
“How’s he get away with it?” I said.
“Smart,” Vann said. “Ms. McTyre all alone. No family around. Good health. Church sent someone over a couple of days a week to help, but other than that she’s there at the house by herself. Hours and hours a day.”
“It’s fraud,” I said.
“Nope,” Vann said. “It’s Ruby McTyre selling pieces of her land to little Leo Nutt who used to deliver her paper when he was such a cute little boy.”
“That didn’t sound like a sentence a macho cop would say.”
“Who’s watching your bridge?” Vann said.
I called him a lot worse things than asshole for about three minutes straight. He spent most of the three minutes texting on his phone.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IF YOU WERE LIKE REALLY IN SCHOOL
What did you notice about the draft?
Did you see anything that jumped out to be edited?
Did you see anywhere I obviously kept going just to get the story out? Did you also see it was more important to keep going than to stop and worry and fuss?