Book Update: When Gears Mesh

The book I have endeavored to write is coming along nicely. I am still not going to provide any excerpts because it’s too soon, but I may have something of a compromise.


The book I have endeavored to write is coming along nicely. I am still not going to provide any excerpts because it’s too soon, but I may have something of a compromise.

I will say that my approach has been to write as I go, or more to the point, make stuff up. I keep waiting to get nailed by some massive plot hole, or continuity error, or some other massive screw-up. One thing I did catch was that a character’s employer is referenced in the early pages, and around page 100 I went to mention it again and had no clue what company name I had dreamt up. I went back and re-read the reference and the day was saved.

More often than that, though, I’ll have the opposite happen. I’ll toss off some reference, or introduce a character, and about 20 pages later a puzzle piece goes “click” and another part of the picture begins to take shape.

To illustrate this, I will reach back to circa 1995, when I wrote a song called “Song for Shannon” (Lucid, that is – I heard a news report that she has set the record for longest time in space for a female astronaut, it not for any, I forget the particulars) that was meant to be a letter from the Earth’s surface, in effect saying “what are you seeing up there, because this is what’s down here?”

My favorite part of the song goes like this:

And the ones who would lead take us ’round in a circle,
and say they’ve got the country moving.
Then they promise you change, but the circle remains
– it’s only moving in the other direction.

This was circa 1995, so no, no Obama references here.

That’s largely what I was good for: Clever wordplay.

So too is the case with the book. I’ll say something like “and then there were no more tacos” and 20 pages later there will be a report of an earlier explosion at the tortilla factory. Not planned, not outlined and meticulously scripted, one led to the other organically and I went with it, then I’d lean back in my chair and say “huh.”

Shorter me: Wow, the book is coming together nicely! Hot damn!

Also: I let one of my co-workers read an old draft, and this was quite the test for the material. She prefers BuzzFeed to books. She’s not an idiot. She just prefers light and fluffy from her entertainment, usually. But she soldiered through it, and from the get-go she turned to me and said “I can totally imagine all of this.” (She described where she thought the scene might have taken place, the look, the feel, the whole 9 yards.)

Then the focal characters are introduced after the prologue, and after getting her bearings (she didn’t get it that the prologue was an isolated scene) she got into the meat of the story, and then rattled off to me who the characters were and what they might be like in real life.

THIS. This was my goal. If nothing else, when and if the book goes to print, or to free download because nobody would touch it, I want anyone who reads it to draw a clear distinction between the characters.

On the one hand, I am completely trashed, typing up on average two chapters a night, often going to bed around midnight and then having to be up at 6:00am for work, but it’s moments like these that really motivate me to press on and keep doing what I’m doing.

Author: Ethan Johnson

Words like silent raindrops.

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