Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Tag, etc.

First, my apologies to all of you. I know you sat around all day waiting for my usual Friday post. Workplace productivity suffered, the market took a tumble, men and women beat their breasts and tore their hair….Or not. Anyway, because I never quite pre-write as much as I want, so that posting is a matter of a few minutes of edit and voila! I ended up running out of time yesterday morning, and I was out of the house from roughly 7:30 AM until around 11:15 last night. Here, instead, is the Saturday edition.

On a second note, I missed the initial announcement, and the day, but my condolences to fellow blogger Nick Wilford on the passing of his son, Andrew. I am very sorry for your loss, and though it’s now a day late, better late than never:

Now, last week my pal Lisa Regan tagged me, and while I haven’t played along in a while, I didn’t have a whole lot else ready to go so I thought, “Yeah, I’ll play along.” Of course, it turned into a bigger production than I expected, part of why this is coming to you on Saturday instead of the usual Friday. The rules are simple: Answer four questions, tag five three people, and Bob’s your uncle.

God, no, not him!

So, here we go:

1. What are you working on?

Well, there are these four questions I have to ask, see, and…oh, right. I think just about anyone who’s been reading this space for any length of time knows I’m elbows-deep in revisions for my novel, BARTON’S WOMEN (p. 213 out of 369 and shrinking–Bob would not approve). And now you’re going to know why I didn’t get this posted. Lisa put in a nice write up of her current project, so I kind of feel obligated, as well. Plus, you’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this thing for almost 2 (!) years now, and if I  can’t summarize it fairly quickly, I’ve got a problem. (Funny, I had a sheet full of potential log lines for this monstrosity, and I can’t find it now. I’ve also got half-a-hundred query versions floating around out there. This isn’t quite the latest query, but it’s pieces of it.

Sunspots, Al-Qaeda, the government–Kevin Barton doesn’t know why the power goes out in the little town of Harpursville, or why it also takes out phones, cars, practically everything. What he does know is he’s got a family to feed, and their food and water won’t last forever.

He’s also got a problem in the form of Dina McCray, his daughter’s best friend. Stranded at the Barton house, the sixteen-year-old helps with everything from hauling water to digging a garden. She’s also another mouth to feed, and that puts her at odds with Kevin’s wife, who counts every crumb and would love to get the girl out of the house. Then there’s David Sobchuk, the man who keeps Harpursville from sliding into every-man-for-himself chaos. He makes Kevin an offer for Dina’s ‘services’, but Kevin’s not about to pimp her out for a few bundles of wood and some deer steaks. 

As pressure mounts from inside and outside the Barton home, Kevin must find the power within himself to keep his family together and keep Dina safe. Their survival depends on it.

That’s the first time I’ve ever gone quite so public with this. Gulp.

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

And here I play the special snowflake card. On the surface, BARTON’S WOMEN probably looks like Post-Apocalyptic or Dystopian fiction. I don’t read either of those as a general rule; however, my impression of both those genres is that there’s a lot of attention paid to the world. BW doesn’t quite fit neatly into that mold. The emphasis here is on family and the dynamic among the characters. It’s a little more literary in style, and I will likely pitch it as ‘commercial’.

3. Why do you write?
Because it’s fun. It’s a kick. I write for the moments when I surprise myself, for the moments when I say, “Whoa, that’s good.” (yes, even I have those moments) I write because for the moment the light goes on, and I write for the feeling I get when I push back from the desk wrung out, exhausted, weary, but feeling great.

Man, am I selfish.

4. How does your writing process work?

Slowly, hah ha. There’s an idea phase where something occurs to me. Something triggers a thought or a question–“what if?” or something like that. There’s usually a stewing period (see this post), then something kicks the idea into the front room of my brain.

Once I start writing, it’s Wingman, baby. No outlines, no snowflake sheets, no character interviews or charts, no beat sheets. BUT there is a lot of time spent in ‘headspace’, thinking about things, hearing dialogue, seeing action. When I sit down to write for the day I’ve spent a lot of time thinking things over, trying to make things fit, putting pieces together so they fit right.

And that is it. So, who do I tag? I tend to tag the same people over and over again. Let’s see….

Stacy McKitrick
Patrick Stahl

Please note, if this is an inconvenience or bother, or you don’t participate in these sort of things, you are under no obligation to participate. Otherwise, consider yourself tagged! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

5 Responses

  1. I can definitely relate to writing slowly. I'm on year 3 working on my WiP.

    Well done on your summary, Jeff. Your story sounds intriguing and different from what's on the market. I hope to read the finished novel one day 🙂

  2. Okay, I'll play. However, I probably won't have anything posted until the day after Thanksgiving. Guess that gives me enough time to have something written! Haha! 🙂

  3. Congrats on being on the revising stage! That's the part when the book and characters really come to life. Wishing you good luck with Barton's Women, which sounds fascinating! 🙂

  4. Thank you, everyone. And yes, I hope you all get to read this one someday, too. Take your time, Stacy, there's no time limit as far as I can see.

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