I’ve felt a little uneasy. That’s the best way I can put it, uneasy. MURDER BALLAD started out as a story called the Chronicles of Gavin Gayle. It was a story about a man I imagined in my head. Really it all started with a picture.
That’s a picture of my son, Gavin, at 6 years old. Gavin has always been a character. I don’t mean that in a condescending or belittling way, I mean really, he was destined to be a character in a story, even if it was his own. There is a lot about Gavin that is larger than life and you cant help but see an epic journey laid out before him, and that’s exactly what I did. I had just taken this picture and I thought is spoke volumes. The wavy dirty blond hair, the square jaw, the strong nose, the flat grin.
I was driving home from work and I saw him in my minds eye. I saw him in his twenties, sitting in a smokey bar (because you could still smoke in bars then), well dressed in a pressed white linen french cuffed shirt. I saw him as beautiful but intimidating. Well liked by those that knew him, but mysterious to those that didn’t. I saw a character, and in the 90 minutes it took me to drive home in Chicago rush hour traffic, I saw a story build around that character.
I cant tell you how many times I’ve written that story. It started in a small Moleskine notebook that I lost in a movie theater in Indianapolis. I was probably 100 pages in at that point. I was heart broken and almost quit, but the story wouldn’t go away. I started again, and again and again, making more and more progress as I went along until I had something that I was pretty proud of.
I bought a domain and started posting what I had written. I found twitter and grew a community of authors who supported me and gave me critical feedback, and I kept working, kept writing, kept dreaming.
There’s always a but.
There was a flaw. The story was good. I thought so and so did everyone I told it to. The problem was I never told anyone the end. That’s because, while I knew how it ENDED there was the subtle problem of how it got there. The climax eluded me. It eluded me because the way I had written it didn’t really make sense. There were plot holes, motivation errors, things that made me feel… uneasy.
So that’s where I was. Feeling uneasy. I had gotten to the point where I needed to explain why things were happening. I needed the puzzle pieces to fit together, and they just weren’t. I spent hours staring at my computer, at my notebooks, at my timelines. I tried looking at it in the morning, or at night. I tried drinking a lot. It just wasn’t coming.
I read a quote recently attributed to Harry Potter from the Lord of The Rings quintology I think. Anyway, the quote was
“If you’re struggling with the end of your story, it means there’s something wrong at the beginning.”
That little nugget stuck in my brain. It nagged at me. And then there was a moment. Alcoholics call it a moment of clarity. There was a moment yesterday when I was rewriting a scene and, as any author will tell you happens all to often, my characters just did something I wasn’t expecting. I was writing and the words that were popping up on the screen were as surprising to me as I hope they will be to my readers.
Suddenly I stopped. I looked at what had happened and I said out loud “Yeah, but that can’t happen because…” and the revelation came pouring down on me like I was a welder dancing in legwarmers. It cant happen because of how I set it up in the beginning, but my characters were telling me that I hadn’t written it right. I had not seen the story from the right angle. I had missed an important beat, or more precisely, I had misunderstood it, and because of that, I had been shoving the rest of the story together like forcing jigsaw puzzle pieces into the spot that almost works.
Once I saw that scene. Once I heard what my characters were trying to tell me it was like I got the long straight piece in a game of Tetris. All my obstacles vanished and the rest of the story just fell into place. It was an amazing experience. My heart started pounding and I couldn’t stop smiling. My story was done, conceptually anyways, and now the words poured out of my hands like I had smashed the cap off of a fire hydrant. It was exhilarating.
There is a downside though.
Not so much for me, but for you my readers. The puzzle piece I had to change, the piece that was in the wrong spot, it was big. It was important. It was early in the story and affected a lot of the narrative throughout the prose. In short, everything you’ve read is wrong.
I pondered what to do about this for a while. Do I go back and fix it and tell everyone to start again from the beginning? Do I just summarize what has changed and let you keep going knowing what is new? Ultimately I made a much harder decision.
I’m not going to post chapters anymore.
That was a big decision for me. My readership has been growing and I’m very proud of the work that I’m doing here, but I want the story to be one cohesive work, and I want you to be able to read it all at once and get the full impact of the events. I cant do this if I’m asking you to go back and read the changes as they happen.
If you’ve been reading and enjoying MURDER BALLAD thank you. I promise the finished product is not far away. Hopefully you will be able to pick it up in hardback at your local bookstore sometime in the not to distant future. If not, well, it will be available in one way or another for you to read from beginning to end, and it will have the same wonderful dark tone and deeply flawed characters you’ve come to love, but the story is going to be a little different, and the ending will blow you away.
In the meantime, I’m going to be posting here more. Short stories, writing prompts, and outlooks on life. I’ll continue to play the wonderful #1linewed game on twitter. If you’ve enjoyed the opening chapters of MURDER BALLAD don’t go anywhere, there’s so much more like it right here now, and more to come. If you are just dying to know what happens with Gavin, well, stick around for an announcement when it’s finished and follow me on twitter for updates at @writegavingayle.
Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me and given their feedback. I look forward to giving you what you want very very soon.