Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Writers' Insecurities, and the Bravery of Bonnie Kozek

Well, my lecture on Monday seemed to hit a nerve. So many of you reacted to it, that I'm happy to say I won't be picking on you again, as it would only be preaching to the choir, yes?

My concern today is fear. There's a lot of that out there. We fear we haven't quite got our books right, that they need something else that we're missing, that we're still not quite saying what we intended. That our readers will miss the point, somehow. That we've said far too much. After suffering the fear we often feel at the moment of querying an agent, we then suddenly think - after it's gone - that perhaps, after all, it's all a load of rubbish, and no wonder we get rejections. The following are a sprinkling of neurotic fears I found in the pages of The Writer's Chapbook. Read these and realize you are certainly not alone and that your nervousness is mild in comparison with some of the Greats.
". . . I've done as many as twenty or thirty drafts of a story. Never less that ten or twelve drafts. It's instructive, and heartening both, to look at the early drafts of great writers. I'm thinking of...galleys belonging to Tolstoy, to name one writer who loved to revise. I mean, I don't know if he loved it or not, but he did a great deal of it. He was always revising, right down to the time of page proofs. He went through and rewrote War and Peace eight times and was still making corrections in the galleys. Things like this should hearten every writer whose first drafts are dreadful, like mine are."
Raymond Carver
"I do a lot of revising. Certain chapters six or seven times. Occasionally you can hit it right the first time. More often, you don't. George Moore rewrote entire novels. In my own case I usually write to a point where the work is getting worse rather than better. That's the point to stop and time to publish."
John Dos Passos
". . .By the time the thing is in typescript, it is really with physical nausea that I regard it. When the proofs come back I have to take an aspirin before I can bring myself really to read it through. Occasionally when I'm asked to correct or edit a version, I always ask someone to do it for me. I don't know why. I just have a nausea about it. Perhaps when one day I get something I really do like, I won't have to take aspirin."
Lawrence Durrell
Whoa, I guess we aren't this bad, are we? Along with those fears, I hope these guys all had some pleasure, some moments of bliss over their work. It's sad to think that their writing was purely imperative to them, and that they experienced no joy at all. I can put up with fleeting self-doubt and trepidation, as long as I remember just how satisfied I am with the occasional perfection of it (to my eye, at least) - even that one line, that one paragraph, that no one else could have written. I hope you feel the same way.

Bonnie Kozek doesn't seem to be equipped with the usual fear mechanism, or she is, but is incredibly brave. I came across her during some online writer meanderings recently, and she gave me a quick rush of adrenaline, and filled me with awe. Most women don't write in her stomach-clenching genre, other than the obvious pathology-trained Patricia Cornwell or P.D. James, and they appear tame in comparison.

From what I've seen of Bonnie's book, Threshold, it's an in-your-face, raw, unrelenting, no-holds-barred, graphically-violent, roller-coaster ride.

Now I happen to enjoy a good thriller. Harlan Coben is my all time favorite, and he can turn a terrifying phrase better than most, but it's not Stephen King horror, not too, too, disturbing, just enough to have you sweating a little as those scenes unravel.

So I'm apologizing here for not reading all of Bonnie's book yet. It will take some courage on my part to step into her tough fictional world. I have, however, come across these reviews:
“… a fast, enjoyable read. . .left me excited enough about the character of Honey to read the next in the series which will be out this year. I highly suggest reading Threshold if you enjoy suspense/thrillers with the hard-boiled edge, or even if you're not sure if you do and just want to try them. I think this is a wonderful book to try out the genre.” The New Pedler Review of Books

And this one, which is long, at Pulp Fiction Reviews

I don't promote writer's books very often, but I believe she deserves our support, published as she is through a small house, with equally small print-runs. And this isn't a one-off. Bonnie is a prolific writer.

Bonnie tells me it's not for the faint-hearted, so be warned. Check her out and get back to me. I want to read it, really I do. Perhaps one of you, or my thriller-loving friend, Judy, will vet it for me first...

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky