Last night, I powered through the last six chapters of Brigham Plaza to get a sense of how they feel as a whole. I put a lot of work into making the climax of the book satisfying while still leaving a few stingers in the denouement to help you come down. And yet, it was the final page, after the epilogue, that I found to contain the most exciting line of the entire book. At least, in my estimation. What to know what is was? Read on…
About the Loud Draft
I can’t remember a period in my life when I had less time to work on my writing than this past year. Pardon my Texan, but I used to could spend all of my free time on writing if I wanted to. Wake up, write, go to work, come home, write, go to sleep. It was a fool-proof system. These days, however, with a toddler running around the house and a new software release looming at work, free time has become quite scarce. Even when Dom and I plan nights for ourselves, I find myself going to sleep early as often as I end up at my computer writing.
To help manage things, I bought Things. Things 3, to be exact. It’s a super-charged ToDo app that only works in Apple World, but I’ve started to love it. I set a very reasonable goal of working on one chapter a day. Sometimes the tasks would stack up, sometimes I’d get ahead, but for the last couple of months, I’ve managed to stay on pace.
The goal for this draft was pretty simple: have someone who isn’t me read the book back to me. There are only so many times you can read your own work and actually read every single word. Your brain starts to anticipate the next word in a sentence, and sometimes, if it’s wrong, or even if it’s not there, it’ll skip past it as if it were.
In writer circles, this is known as bad braining.
The Voices in My Head
Asking another human to read my entire story back to me would be ridiculous for a variety of reasons:
- The human might mispronounce names and techy words I made up
- The human might not speak in the correct accents
- The human might do their own bad braining and skip over words / errors
- The human might have poor hygiene and smell
To that end, I wrangled together three non-human readers:
- Microsoft David
- Siri Female
- Siri Female (Irish)
How did it go? Well, David couldn’t pronounce a simple name like Cyn. Siri, built for talking to you through your phone, was way too chipper during tense dialogue, putting excited or happy inflections on phrases like please don’t stab me to death anymore. None of the voices could pronounce Tanzy’s cipher den I.C.E-1, but then again, neither can a human unless I explain it to them first.
I really enjoyed Siri Female Irish, but because of her accent, some of the words would run together in ways I wasn’t expecting, which would sound wrong, but not be wrong. That wasted time.
Siri Female did most of the heavy lifting, though she did have a habit of pronouncing “window” as “win-dough” with a severe tonal shift downward on the dough. Funny? Hell yeah. Conducive to efficient editing? Not so much.
Ultimately, I’d still recommend Siri Female. She’s only available on the Mac via Accessibility, which is great because she operates outside of Word. A downside of TTS in Word is that it manipulates the doc as it reads (highlighting and scrolling), which breaks auto-save and doesn’t let you make changes without stopping the speech. With Siri reading, you can still make edits and have Word auto-save so you don’t lose everything and have to murder everyone.
Word says I made 973 revisions to Brigham Plaza during that last pass. Some of them were as simple as changing being to bring, but others were more involved, requiring the addition of a sentence or two. But nothing big. No monstrous paragraphs coming in or going out.
That’s a good thing.
This pass was about making the story feature complete, which in this sense means that it is free from continuity errors, the plot flows as it should, the words are set, and nothing other than grammar and spelling needs to be fixed.
And that’s why I pushed through the final six chapters. It’s one thing to view each chapter in a vacuum, but that doesn’t cover the desire to rush to the end, that unrelenting I have to finish this tonight feeling that I imagine readers to have.
Is it a satisfying run from third base to home plate? Do we take care of all the players along the way? Does the excitement of the climax remain, at some level, until the very final sentence, that ultimate word on the saga of Brigham Plaza?
The Most Exciting Line
Ultimately, that’s for you, the reader, to decide. I’m happy with the final chapters, and I’m proud to put them in front of you and say this is how the story ends. My goal was to provide bits of excitement for you to enjoy, even as things were wrapping up, and I’m hoping I did that.
There was one morsel, however, that stood out among the rest, a sentence so exciting I had to stop for a moment to bask in its glory. I have included it here, the last page of the book, the penultimate sentence, in the hopes it hits you as hard as it hit me.
I try not to drink my own Kool Aid too often, but as I read this text, I had myself a little daydream about a first-time Vinestead Anthology reader, someone who just stumbled upon Brigham Plaza while browsing Amazon. Because of its awesome cover, they picked it up, read a few pages, and wouldn’t you know it, started to enjoy it! And they tore through the book, not knowing any of the backstory, not getting some of the references, but enjoying the adventure just the same.
And then, as the curtains start to close, as these characters they’ve grown to know and love exit the stage, this line appears, and their eyes focus on two words in particular: book six.
Then it hits them. Brigham Plaza is sixth in a series. There are FIVE MORE BOOKS. AT LEAST, five more books.
Keep in mind, this daydream reader I’ve conjured up really enjoyed the book. Imagine the excitement they must feel when they discover there is more to the story.
How exciting. How wonderfully exciting.
I don’t know if that will happen for anyone with Brigham Plaza, but I like that the possibility exists. I’m happy to have written these stories, happy they’re out there in the world for anyone to enjoy.
The idea that someone out there, somewhere, is enjoying my stories is exciting.