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.

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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