First, thank you all very much for the feedback.
Second, I agree with almost everything. Here’s a discussion of the comments as of midnight last night:
SANDY: She’s such a nice person and yet you wanted her cut back. You were, of course, right. What I need to do is figure out what I want her there for. She’s there to establish Nita’s relationship with the community and Nick’s impact as a newcomer, and she’s there to sling hash. But I can do that in one pass. The person who’s a real player in this is Daphne and I’ve got her stuck behind the cash register. And there’s a bit that was in the lunch scene that I should probably transfer in here, Dag and Rab coming in for breakfast, too, just a couple of sentences. All of that is actually setting, not part of the scene which is Nita vs. Nick. So I need to figure out a three-beat there, and it’ll probably be Sandy/Daphne/Sandy, just delivering food with Daphne in contrast to Sandy because she’s mad at Nick. So pull out the three food-deliveries so they’re not beats, they’re just breaks between beats maybe.
BACON: I had no idea the bacon was an issue. So first, what kind of diner only gives you two pieces of bacon? The diner here piles it on. I eat some and take the rest home for the dogs and there’s always at least three or four pieces for them. So Sandy piles it on, but yes, I have to go back and count the strips. Should have done that once the discovery draft was over. Discovery drafts can be sloppy. Truck drafts, not so much. Also, bacon and eggs are not carbs, plus I think the way I used it was wrong beyond that, I don’t think Nita would think that, so that goes. Three eggs; I think maybe our diner only has two but I can’t remember. The reason I thought the spread with the French toast was lavish was because when I order it at the diner, it’s two orders, one full order of French toast, one full order of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns with toast. People have been known to make comments. It’s important because Nita eats like crazy and doesn’t gain weight because she’s burning energy like crazy just trying to stay warm while . . . other stuff. It’s actually a plot point. But I can cut the food talk back some. The other thing is that this is the second (hopefully subtle) foreshadowing that Nick’s subconsciously remembering being alive, and when he remembers something, he automatically develops that sense again, in this case, taste buds. When he remembers something and wants it, that part of being human comes back to him. The first beat was sleep, which he managed to reject, this second beat is tasting food, which he gets caught by. So I need that, but I can cut a lot of this way back.
SUNGLASSES: I think that what Lani calls a vestigial tail, something that was important in an earlier draft that lingered after it wasn’t needed. I had a whole thing about sunglasses, but it’s just extra stuff and I don’t need it. So I can cut the sunglasses.
LUNCH CHAT: Yeah, that can go.
JOEY’S CELLPHONE: I have no idea why I put that in there. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I need to figure out a way to make that work or it can go.
GRANDPA’S BAR: I’m not sure about this one. I know it’s important, but I agree that it doesn’t really belong here. For one thing, it makes Nick too human too quickly. I think I can have her negotiate this with Rab later that morning. So cogitating, but I agree it doesn’t fit and should be cut.
JOEY AND THE AGENTS: I think this is really what both Nita and Nick would be focused on. The food stuff should be happening, but I think it’s stronger if it happens without them realizing it, they’re antagonists on the information so they don’t notice they’re bonding over the food. I had Nita repeating the Joey question because I wanted that sense that she was implacable, but it just comes off as repetitive. So what I need to do is look at the beats in that conversation, cut out all the repetition, and then match them to the background beats of the food. I can do that.
And then miscellaneous stuff:
• Let my editor make the cuts: Nope. I send Jen a mss. that’s a perfect as I can get it. Then she tells me the weak places, the same way you all just did, and I fix it. This is my book, I’m responsible for every word. Yes, I am obsessive about that. Anybody here who thinks I’m sane about my writing obviously hasn’t been paying attention.
• When did Nita find out Vinnie was e-mailing with Mr. Lemon? When she questioned him at the bar. It’s in the last couple of rewrites. You haven’t seen them, but I promise, it’s there.
• Does Nick eventually stop giving off heat? Yes. But he also figures out what’s making Nita cold and fixes it. So they recalibrate each other.
• Nita’s awfully calm about him not having a pulse. Yeah. I might just cut that. It was a late addition, and I’m thinking it happens too soon. She shouldn’t be touching him that casually that quickly. So there’s a chunk that can go.
• Two “cutes” for Daphne; I’ll get rid of one.
• Why would Nita tell Nick about her mother? Huh. I hadn’t thought about it. It was mostly efficiency, and I wanted them struggling over something, but what Nick really needs/wants to know is if both of her parents are human. Since she obviously thinks they are, questioning her about them is non-starter anyway. What he really wants to know is the agent/hellgate stuff. Must cogitate, but that’s probably something else than can be cut.
• Why does Nick sound so modern? Because he is modern. That is, he didn’t go to sleep yesterday in the fifteenth century and wake up today in the 21st, he’s been here all along, five hundred Earth years and fifty Hell years. Plus he’s been to Earth, all over it, many times as Satan’s agent. I look at it this way: I left home at 17 which was fifty years ago. I have a vague recollection of those years although pictures of them are always a shock, but the only thing that’s really vivid in my mind is the music. I have little recall of food, for example, except for the egg salad sandwiches at the Dairy Bar, which was the diner behind my dorm. (They had “Different Drums” on the juke box.) I have almost no recall of drugs I did except for the mescaline trips. I don’t remember the clothes except for one blue calico mini dress that was so short I had short shorts that I wore under it. That’s the thing about the passage of time: you LOSE stuff. And Nick’s dead, he doesn’t even have sense memory left. I’m not even sure he can see color although he might need that to function as a fixer. So the fact that his language is modern and his clothing is modern seems to me to be more logical than anything that would hearken back to fifteenth century Italy, especially since as Satan’s con man he’d be adapting to whatever environment he had to work in. The problem will come in that other readers might have the same question, but I don’t think it’s logical that he’d be a throwback. I just have to find some way of getting that on the page.
• Lack of physical variation: This is a problem for me because I don’t see these stories, I hear them, so I have to really work to get physicality on the page. In this case, though, I think I want Nita and Nick on opposite sides of that table. In the earlier scene, the first time they’re together, they’re on opposite sides of the bar, first he’s behind it and she’s in front, then later she’s behind it and he’s in front, and then at the end of the scene he goes around to her side behind it because he knows she’s going to pass out. So now it’s six hours later and she’s sober, and they’re on opposite sides of the table, but they don’t really have reason to move. They’re eating breakfast; musical chairs makes no sense. So the physicality becomes the food. She has a spread in front of her and he has a single egg-white omelet. By the end of scene, they’ve divided two breakfasts and he’s eating her French toast. I think in this case, that’s enough, since they’re also swapping food. That is, she flips a piece of toast over to him, he takes a strip of bacon from her, he dumps half of his toast serving on her plate . . . they’re concentrating on what they’re saying, they both live the life of the mind, but their bodies betray them, first because bodies need fuel, and then because even while they’re in conflict, they’re collaborating on the food. I agree that the beats of the scene should be played out in the physicality, but I’m fine with them staying in their seats and doing it all with the food.
Here’s something I’m still struggling with: Nick’s appearance. In general, I’m not crazy about the Super Hot Guy unless there’s a reason. Cal had to look like a prince in a fairy tale, Phin had to look like the blond frat boy, etc. Nick’s idealized because he’s not real, he’s what he remembers, and he’s going to change as he remembers more and gets more real—I have him getting shorter, for instance, and his ears start to stick out—but he was a con man back in the day from a family of grifters, all of whom were beautiful, and he really is strikingly handsome. I have a couple of placeholder photos that really aren’t Nick any more but that give me a touchstone for description, but I am just not comfortable with what I’ve got yet, it’s too over-the-top-bad-romance-hero. I’m trying to undercut it with Nita’s resistance to it because she knows there’s something wrong there, but I think it’s going to take me awhile to get that right. When I was doing the collage search, I found an article that quoted the placeholder’s straight best friend who said that when he’d first met the guy, he’d thought that he was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, and I wanted that kind of reaction, but it just seems clunky on the page. So I need to figure that out. Up side: I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of a great-looking guy.
The big difference between the Discovery Draft and the Truck Draft is that now that I’m in the Truck Draft, I can be spare. That’s Krissie’s favorite writing word, and it basically means that once I know what that scene has to do, and I can slash everything else, once somebody points out to me what slows everything down. (Congratulations, you are all now beta readers.) I’ll still be tweaking it forever, but I know that I can cut pretty much everything that everybody mentioned, and tighten everything else.
I’m feeling much better about this. Back at you tomorrow with a rewrite. Probably.
After talking about breakfast here, i was hungry, so I went to my diner and had the eggs over easy (with bacon, toast, and hash browns) and the french toast. Please note the bacon:
Daphne’s head scarf: