Flesh and Blood: Day One
Work is finally beginning on Predator: Flesh and Blood which is a good thing since it’s already being solicited in Diamond’s Preview catalogue. When Mike Friedman initially invited me to join him on the project, it was back in the spring when he had a tight window and didn’t think he could hit the June delivery date without help. Since we have collaborated several times in the past, we were comfortable with each other’s style and figured this would be good and maybe even fun.
Mike prepped a two-page outline for 20th Century-Fox’s approval which should have been delivered sometime in the spring, giving us the two-three month window to write the manuscript and deliver in June.
20th didn’t approve the outline until August. The licensing arm of any major media company is usually understaffed and the people there overwhelmed with Work That Must Be Done Now as opposed to something not going on sale for what seems like forever. 20th, Paramount, Warner Bros, ABC, etc. all have the properties they’re pushing today because there’s a movie about to be released or a TV series about to debut. Anything not associated with those timely projects usually takes a backseat. While the Predator franchise is still a very important one to 20th, there is no movie the novel is tacked on to so things like novel proposals get read when time permits.
Mike and I have been through this before as has our editor, Rob Simpson. We figured a revised schedule would still enable us to write and him to edit and still make the pub date Dark Horse needed for its marketing and budgetary needs.
This is when life intruded. In the spring, Mike was writing and tutoring. Plenty of time. Over the summer, Mike stepped into a cocoon and emerged in late August as a middle school English teacher, now working in Brooklyn. This meant several things: he suddenly lost three hours a day in commutation time, he had to begin graduate classes that ate up two nights a week, he continued to tutor and he still had one other writing commitment…plus time for his wife and kids.
We talked about it and Rob gave us new dates which I thought could be met with a lot of effort. Mike was less certain but also recognized he’d be leaning on me a little more than he first thought. For example, he was going to expand the two-page outline into more of a fleshed out story and begin writing the first chapter to set the tone. There really wasn’t time for that. Instead, yesterday, I finally sat down and began making the roadmap.
I was taught by former Trek Editor Kevin Ryan that a good road map keeps you on track. Also, every scene had to have something at stake and had to be about something. My problem was always the middle of my stories where I tended to meander. The map, with well defined chapter breaks, has been my savior more often than not. I reread Mike’s outline, thought about what he told me he envisioned for the characters, and then looked over John Shirley’s Forever Midnight, Dark Horse’s first Predator novel. Our story would be set in that world without necessarily referring to it or contradicting so many other Predator novels that precede us. I sketched out the main characters, named others who were going to be key players. I figured out where things needed to be stretched and filled in. I added chapter breaks, mentally estimating how many words each chapter needed to be in order to hit the 70,000 words or so our book was contracted to be.
All in all, a fine afternoon’s work that made me feel a lot more comfortable. Before this, it was Mike’s notion and by adding to it, it became our story. I sent it off to Mike and Rob to make certain they were fine with the pacing and elements I added. Mike has been writing up additional notes and will now append it to the outline.
In theory, by Thursday night, I can come home, and after dinner begin writing Chapter One. We remain on a ridiculously tight deadline and I can only hope the first draft flows quickly. For the first time, I’ll be feeding Mike chapters rather than do an entire draft and hand it over. Should be an interesting ride.