Monday, March 14, 2011

A writer in the family.

Imagine being a relative to a full time writer.

He asks you to read his manuscript. You're glad to.

Six months later, he wants you to do it again. agree, not knowing how to refuse. It's the same story, rewritten but, really, was it necessary to read it again?

A year later, he's got a new work, and then another, and then another. You start to avoid him.

The only way I know how to write is to be completely obsessive. Otherwise it's just too hard to do. I have to feel that really strong urge, or it doesn't get done. But it's hell on other people. And on the work life, and the social life, and home life.

Which is why, unless I am really serious about writing, I don't start.

Anyway, I quit asking my family and friends to read my works in progress. I didn't think it was fair to them. Linda has always been good about it, but I'm careful to pick my shots. I'm more likely, these days, to read her what I think is a particularly good passage than to ask her to read the whole thing. At least, until it is completely finished.

In fact, I'm careful to pick my shots when I ask anyone to read -- so as not wear out my welcome, but -- hopefully -- still have them as a resource.

Anyway, I learned to read the signs and portents when people read my manuscripts.

Where do they leave off reading? That was a big one. Could if be that the story slackens there, or the writing becomes weak and confusing?

I learned to even watch my own behavior: Why did I choose to stop reading there?

It may be coincidence, but I would find, more often than not, that --subconsciously, just below the surface -- the story did indeed often lose its power where people quit reading.

That's why I made such a big deal out of the fact that I read the whole manuscript last night. Why I was so glad not to hit the "Oh, Shit" moment, and the story carried me all the way through.

And that's also why I was so completely reassured when Linda sat down this afternoon to read a chapter or two, and was still reading six hours later.

Before I had finished writing Sometimes a Dragon the first time, she had started to rewrite the beginning because she didn't like it. "It has loppy corners, " she said. Whatever that means. Actually I kind of felt what she meant.

So I asked her today if cutting the first six chapters had answered her concerns. "Is it still loppy?"

"No....." she said, upon consideration. "I think it was those first chapters..."

She's still reading as I type this, even though at one point she had put it down to go to bed. After talking a few minutes, she picked it back up again. "It's a feel good book," she said. Cool.

Woke up this morning, and she's back to reading it. Obviously, she's going to read the whole thing. Double cool.


Duncan McGeary said...

Linda is a continuity hawk.

It drives her crazy to find inconsistencies -- and apparently she's finding quite a few in the last 100 pages.

She tells me about them, and they seem minor, but I trust her instincts, so I'll try to correct them.

Duncan McGeary said...

I believe my tendency is to over-plot and under-write.

I was fearful of being too verbose when I started. I wanted every word to count -- but it was only when I consciously loosened up that it became more readable.

On the other hand, I spin off tons of ideas, and some don't quite fit the story, or require lots of rewriting.

My biggest roadblock to writing hasn't been the ideas, or -- I hope, the writing ability -- but my work habits.

I get too obsessive -- and then get worn out and send the manuscript off when it still needs work.

Both over-writing and under-writing.

With Sometimes a Dragon, I tried very hard to stick to the original plot and finish the book before I started missing with it.

So I'll take the opportunity when I type it into the computer to let it breath a little, without making major changes.

H. Bruce Miller said...

When I was a columnist I never let me wife read my columns before publication. She was too easy on me.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"I was fearful of being too verbose when I started. I wanted every word to count -- but it was only when I consciously loosened up that it became more readable."

Trying to edit your stuff as you go along cripples creativity. You have to muzzle your inner editor until you're done, then let him do his thing.