Being a Writer!

man pushing a boulder up a hill

The writing process

Because I took off a day here and there, or because of holidays, I haven’t gone to work (I mean the one where I get paid) five days in a row for the last month. Which is how it should be. This isn’t the Middle Ages, damn it, and we shouldn’t be working more than four days a week.

With all that lovely time off, I’m so dedicated to my writing craft that when I wasn’t sleeping, or thinking about sleeping, or eating, or staring out the window, I was assiduously working on the current novel. Man, I was like a serf with a pencil.

It was fortunate to have an opportunity to work for uninterrupted hours, as I had reached a point where the book I’m revising required analyzing what I have and how I want to move forward. I’m taking the current text, cutting it into random pieces, and rearranging them to tell a somewhat new story.

I’m also throwing away at least half of what is already written, so much of the second half of the book will be entirely new. Given this much change, there was a lot to think about. Most importantly, I wanted to think about the pacing of events. If a dramatic interaction between two characters is moving the action forward, but it ends before the book is over, what is the reason to keep reading?

Well, why don’t I just figure that out before I write the book for a change? So I worked on all this, and you’re probably bored just reading about it. Imagine doing it. It was exceeding tedious. If anyone tells you how much fun it is to write, how the writer just sits there throwing off sparks from inspiration, you can say to them, “Liar, liar, sings in the choir.”

I have the impression—maybe I’m wrong—that some people are natural story tellers and plots just pop into their head. I’m certainly not like that. It takes me tremendous effort and thought and rethinking and at least one nap and two snacks to work out a story. OK, more than one nap.

But at last I rolled that stone up the hill and shoved a log in front of it, so it stayed there, and I was able to get back to the “writing” part of the writing, the part that has some pleasure in it, using words, creating things. I’ll give a little sample below of what I did this week. This is a flashback scene in which the protagonist, who is mostly in her 70s during the book, visits her father’s grave and remembers being 14. The work below is still just a first draft, but I’ll show you anyway.


Eve looked at her father’s side of the grave and vague images of his funeral floated through her mind. She thought about their life above the hardware store, near the downtown square where she had just been driving, and she thought about the girl who she had been then, the serious girl who read so much, who studied hard, but who also liked to go to movies. Her father had always freely given her money to go to movies, and a memory of telling him about one of her favorite movies came to her as she stood in the cemetery.

They had just finished dinner, of pork chops, cornbread, and green beans. Richard Elfweather had taken one last small piece of cornbread to eat with sorghum syrup, as he liked to finish off a meal with something sweet. “Did you like the movie?” he asked.

“It was so funny!” Eve exclaimed. “You should go see it.” She had just been with Amy to see the new Marx Brothers movie, A Night at the Opera.

“Maybe I will,” her father said. He always said that, but he never went to movies.

“You know who they are, don’t you? Harpo never says anything, he just blows a horn.”

“Then why isn’t he called Horno?”

Eve laughed and said, “He plays a harp, too. That’s why he’s Harpo.”

Eve stood a few more minutes looking at the grave, then went back to her car. She was going to go home and call Lucette, to see if she would come over in the evening. It would be good to see a friend.

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Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming)

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