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Last night’s session left me with 88,000 words edited of my 105,000 word story. About 150 pages have been through a second edit and 200 or so a first edit. This doesn’t add up to 20,000 left to edit, but I know a few things:
– my ending is wrong. It needs a complete re-write.
– the setup for the ending is incomplete. It needs more internalization, and a character needs to go away.
– the penultimate scene needs a better focus, and I think I found it this morning in the shower.

Many words need to go, many new words need to appear, and it probably adds to much more than 20,000. But I like the number, and there is a reason I like the number.

I started thinking about this story back in 1977 when I turned 16. I received a stereo system for that occasion, and I still run the turntable. I also bought a lot of records that year. My favorite, and still my favorite, was The Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet. I must have played it a thousand times since then.

One song on that album always caught my attention. I can’t say it’s my favorite tune. In fact, it’s possibly the most difficult for me to listen to. The lyrics are largely non-sensical, at least to me. But it created an image in my head, a radical image of big encounter between 20,000 grandmas and Queen Elizabeth and her Guards. The song of course is Jigsaw Puzzle.

JIG-SAW PUZZLE
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

There’s a tramp sittin’ on my doorstep
Tryin’ to waste his time
With his methylated sandwich
He’s a walking clothesline
And here comes the bishop’s daughter
On the other side
She looks a trifle jealous
She’s been an outcast all her life

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do my jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the gangster looks so fright’ning
With his luger in his hand
But when he gets home to his children
He’s a family man
But when it comes to the nitty-gritty
He can shove in his knife
Yes he really looks quite religious
He’s been an outlaw all his life

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the singer, he looks angry
At being thrown to the lions
And the bass player, he looks nervous
About the girls outside
And the drummer, he’s so shattered
Trying to keep on time
And the guitar players look damaged
They’ve been outcasts all thier lives

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh, there’s twenty-thousand grandmas
Wave their hankies in the air
All burning up their pensions
And shouting, “It’s not fair!”
There’s a regiment of soldiers
Standing looking on
And the queen is bravely shouting,
“What the hell is going on?”

With a blood-curdling “tally-ho”
She charged into the ranks
And blessed all those grandmas who
With their dying breaths screamed, “Thanks!”

Me, I’m just waiting so patiently
With my woman on the floor
We’re just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

The imagery of the song overwhelms the melancholic tune and makes it an underground fan favorite. And this image of battling grandmas has stayed in my head all these years.

In the winter of 2010-2011 I had completed my first NaNoWriMo and was searching for a new story. Of course I played this LP during that time and the image came up once again. I let it ferment awhile. I played with it. I played with current events. My coworker Bill and I went outside everyday for a smoke and a political talk. Bill and I share the same birthday and we both photograph. Our personalities contend, and we have interesting discussions. He can be uber-serious, but he always adds his friendly laugh. He’s one of my favorite people to be around.

I mulled over different scenarios that might end up with 20,000 grandmas rioting. Your mind is probably racing right now as mine did, and there are many problems creating such a scenario. I won’t discuss my options or solutions, but this song is the root of my inspiration.

Then one morning in February I woke up with a whole novel in my head, just like that. “Wow” I said to myself; this works. This really works. So I worked it. I worked it a lot, and I’m still working it. It’s an epic plot, naturally, but I think it’s balanced with a strong character and tied together with interesting themes.

*Sigh* I know I want to tell the story to people, I think. I’m still battling the ending. It’s a difficult book to end properly, and I’m sure I will discuss it with my readers and hopefully agents and editors lining up for a cut of John’s book. *wink*

Target date for completed two rounds of edits is still end of September.

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