Friday, September 25, 2009

Writers' Methods. Everyone is different...

The new book is going well, but I won't mention word counts; if you've been following, you'll have noticed the increase in the side bar.

I always know things are humming along properly when I hear interior conversations between the characters when I'm supposed to be watching the news. I apologize to Jim Lehrer's Newshour, but sometimes it does drag, and that's when I sneak off to the computer to get that dialogue down.

Perhaps it's appropriate to mention how I write. I've discussed it before, but some of you could have missed it. We are all so different in our approach to the work, but it can't hurt to hear my take on it.

Once I begin physically writing - that is, not writing in my head, but typing - I am very fast at getting the words down. I usually do a complete chapter before I stop and get off the rollercoaster. I'll take a break, then come back and read that chapter again, correcting, amending, and, I figure, improving. I then go back to the previous couple of chapters and re-read them. Something I've just written could well upset something I'd said earlier. If I'm really on a roll, I might start the next chapter. About once a week, I re-read the whole manuscript and do another clean-up, which never - ever - ends.

In other words, the manuscript is being vetted, and added to, as I go. I am constantly inserting new snippets (which came to me while I was washing up, probably) into previous chapters and this will go on for the whole book. I could be adding something to the fourth chapter when I've reached twenty-seven. When the book is finished, that so-called first draft, which is really a misnomer, I'll give it a final overhaul, but basically it should be ready to be queried.

Some of you speak of pecking away, not really into it, suffering over it. I can't work that way. If I have nothing to say, I leave it alone. A couple of days later (even a couple of years later!) the fire's back. It's worth really thinking about your own methods. Is it tedious for you most of the time? Are you writing because of guilt, thinking that you must write something or you're not a real writer? Don't do that. Don't beat yourself up. When that little daemon critter is firmly residing in you, you'll know it.

I believe that writing should be an enormous pleasure. It shouldn't be making you miserable (although there could be some of that if you're writing a particularly tragic book, but this, too, can be cathartic in a positive way). Crying over your work is one thing, but bleeding over it (metaphorically) is crazy. It should be the reason you get up in the morning, although not necessarily every morning, because we all have dry seasons. But you should definitely know what that feeling is like. It might happen for you once a week, or just once a month. You have so many other things going on in your life - most of you work full time, for Pete's sake. Don't force it. Don't put huge demands on yourself. The writing will come when it's ready, and not before. This is how you are. Accept that. Everyone is different.

For those of you who are dejected at being rejected, take a look at Query Tracker's Suzette Saxton's posting on GOOD rejection letters. Hope you get some renewed enthusiasm after reading this.

In a couple of weeks, I'll put up the first three chapters of (tentatively titled) Summer Must End. By that time, the bulk of revising and snipping should be finished on that part of the book. Not that it will be ready as the infamous First 30 Pages an agent could ask for on a good day (knowing my constant need-to-tweak), but it will be close.

AppleFest is on here this weekend, our salute to fall. This is apple country, you know. There will be dozens of stalls all along my street, and outside my house, offering their collectibles, and art, and food, and so on. And here's me freshly cash-poor because of my cunning local antique dealer.

I got seduced into buying a vintage post office desk, about the size of a large suitcase, the sort that's meant to be attached to a wall. It has a drop down door, which becomes its work surface, and it has loads of pigeonholes and drawers. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, especially when the antique shop displays it right outside, where I can't ignore it. I tried to avert my eyes, honestly. Today I spent a good two hours trying to make room for it on my desk, moving my screen and laptop around, disrupting my dozens of paper notes, clearing an area where I think it will fit comfortably when it's delivered.

Which reminds me: that's why Macs are so good. I have the other sort. What on earth do I do with all these damned wires?

Have a great weekend.


Suzette Saxton said...

I love the title "Summer Must End." The new desk sounds really neat! Be sure to post a picture of it.

Thanks so much for mentioning me. :)

Fran said...

I'm thinking of keeping the title, Suzette. It's worked its way into the dialogue very nicely.

Melissa Marsh said...

I love how you think, Fran. There have been so many times when I've said, "I have to write tonight because, well, I HAVE to." Usually, however, it was not because I WANTED to. Lately, I've been trying to listen to that voice more because it is usually quite right and have given myself permission to not write when I know that nothing good will come of it.

However, I worry that it won't matter one whit whether I want to write or not once I get that publishing contract in my hands. So here's a question - is it better to get in the habit of writing even when you don't feel like it as opposed to just following your feelings?

And BTW, the new antique sounds lovely!

Fran said...

Well, Melissa, two schools of thought on that. Some sit down at the same time every day and just stare at the page, hoping for the magic. I can't. Why force it? I need to be pulled to the computer, as if it were magnetic. I can ignore that, but not for long. Try sitting quietly on your deck, in the bath, where ever, with no interruptions, and daydream your ideas, or those snippets of dialogue - you'll need a notepad with you for when the magic does happen. But you know all of this - you've just lost your way. Oh, and once you land that publisher, your book is going to become real work, and no fun at all. Enjoy this process while you can, before they get to you..

Retiredandcrazy said...

You have a nice easy way of writing Fran. Love it. I recently bought a new desk too and it's my excuse for not doing other things because I'm moving from one desk to another and taking the opportunity to "sort my stuff out". A never ending journey!!!

Fran said...

Oh, Retired and Crazy, It's like Royalty, having you here. (Guess the meaning of that could be taken either way.) But I am honored. And folks, she's not even a follower, but just dropped in! You've got to take a lot at this gal's avatar - she rocks! And THEN check out her smart blog.

Johanna said...

I so agree, Fran! Some authors are more prolific than others producing a book a year and yet others put out one every 5 years. If your book every 5 years is quality then that's all that really matters, right? I simply cannot force myself to write. If life is too hectic at the moment with kids and such then I just have to wait and let the ideas mull over in my mind for a while as I run taxi service. But that makes it that much more exciting when time frees up and I can write several chapters a day. So I guess even when we aren't WRITING, we are still WORKING!

Fran said...

Sounds like you and I are the same, Johanna.