Saturday, October 30, 2004

Four Day Week

That's what it turned out to be.  My partner is allergic to dust and when the cleaners come, every other Friday, we often go to the movies and that's what we did.

Nevertheless, I got Chaper One written and four pages of Chap. Two.  I've introduced the person who hires the PI and established who is missing.  My protagonist will now be tracing and interviewing people that were mentioned in Chap. One.  But as the novel progresses it'll get harder and harder. 

Still, I'm pleased with my start and thrilled that it's the weekend.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I Did It!

That's right.  I started my novel this morning.  I wrote two and a half pages.  That's not as much as I usually do, but I'm not completely in the writing rhythm yet.  It was a good feeling to be back with my characters.  This is the second in a series so I felt comfortable.  In a series you have to get in a lot of exposition without repeating yourself exactly as in book one.  So that can be tricky.  And that's part of what I was writing today. I stopped at the place where I'm introducing a new character.

I often use this little trick.  I try not to end a workday at a finished spot.  I like to end in the middle of a scene so that when I come back the next day it isn't hard to pick up.  I write cliffhangers at the end of chapters for readers and cliffhangers in the middle of paragraphs for me.

I feel very pleased that I've begun.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Slouching Toward Writing

We all know the Yankees didn't win so now I have no excuse.

Monday, Oct. 25th, is the start day.  Why do I have this cough?  My chest hurts when I take a deep breath.  Not going over, huh?

Starting for me means that on Sunday night I have to be in bed by 10 and asleep no later than 11.  I have to get up by 7. Breakfast.  Make the bed. Wash and dress. Give pills to the cat.  Empty the litter box. Go into my office.  Turn on the computer.  Do NOT get email. Power up Word.  Set the spacing, etc.  Go down the page to 4.5.  Center.  Type ONE.  Hit enter.  Hit the left hand square. Hit enter, hit tab.

And no matter what happens I  have to stay there until 12 at the earliest.  I've never stared at a blank page for 3 hours in my life.  Will this be the first time?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Copyedited Manuscript of This Dame For Hire

So it wasn't bad at all. I was pleasantly surprised. Only a lot of added commas and suggested changes that were mostly typos on my part. No dumb questions. That is almost unheard of.

The next part of the process will be the page proofs. I guess I get them in about two or three months.

But here's the thing. I'd given myself a writing start date of October 18th for the new book. It didn't happen because I had to deal with the copyedited manuscript of THIS DAME FOR HIRE. And tomorrow is Thursday. Who ever started a new book on a Thursday? I never have and I'm not going to begin now. What would be the point? I'd write for two days and then the weekend would be here and I never write on weekends except when I'm rewriting. Therefore, any rhythm I'd developed would be lost.

So the new start date is October 25th. I should have the whole five days clear. I'll start at 9 or 9:30 that morning and go to 12 or 1:00.

Of course, if the Yankees go to the World Series and play only night games, what the hell will I do? I may have to start writing at a later time. 10:00? I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Copyedited Manuscript

It's arrived.  This is always an annoying part of the process.  Much worse than dealing with your editor because your editor is usually a reasonable adult.

Copy editors are usually about 12 years old and very anal retentive.  I don't believe they ever laugh or smile.  They are endlessly questioning you about everything.  Those little yellow post-its hang off the side of many pages.

What is a rep tie? one once asked me.  What is an out building?  I could go on and on.

I've now opened the package and glanced.

I feel sick.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any."

Orson Scott Card

Monday, October 11, 2004

Editors and Egomanical Writers

I'm sure everyone has read a book that she/he thought needed an editor. And every book does need an editor. Unfortunately, editors edit less than ever before. I have never had a bad editor and don't have one now, I'm happy to say.

Today in The New York Times there is an article about Anne Rice. I quote her:

"People who find fault and problems with my books tend to say, 'She needs an editor.' When a person goes over and over a manuscript and wants every word to be perfect, it's very frustrating."

Ms. Rice also took umbrage with readers who reviewed her last book on the Amazon site. She was so incensed that she posted a 1200 word diatribe.

She told The Times: "I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me."

Having someone edit your work is very important. The writer has a stale perspective by the time the novel is finished. This is why I have a first reader before the book ever goes to my agent. After my agent it goes to my editor. My own rule is that if three people say that something isn't working I must pay attention.

The strange thing about Ms. Rice's remarks is that I've never known an editor to cut, distort or mutilate a sentence of mine. Editors suggest. In the end it's your book and you have the last word. Even I do. And I'm not a blockbuster writer.

I don't always take the suggestions but often I find them helpful and see that they make the sentence or paragraph better. A suggestion, for example, might be to shift the beginning of a chapter to the end.

I admit that at first I kick and scream. No one likes to be told that what they've written isn't wonderful. But, eventually, if the suggestion is good, I take it.

Ms. Rice talks about making every word perfect. I don't see how that's possible. No writer can make every word perfect. You do the best you can. And then an editor tries to help and often succeeds in making it damn near perfect.

Also in the article Ms. Rice says: "When you take home a CD of Pavarotti or Marilyn Horne, you don't want to hear another voice blended in."

Aside from this being an absurd analogy, Ms. Rice has put herself in very lofty company.

But I'd better be careful because she writes to Amazon reviewers: "Your stupid, arrogant assuptions about me and what I am doing are slander. You have used the site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies."

I certainly don't want to be accused of slander. I am, after all, merely a novelist who needs and desires an editor.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


"The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat's mat is a story."

John LeCarre

Thursday, October 07, 2004


One of the things that makes the Spark book so good is that the writing is economical.  For one thing she doesn't use adverbs when writing who is speaking.  This is something that took me about seventeen books to learn.  I finally did it in my book that will be published in June/July by Ballantine.  There is no reason to write anything more than: he said, she said or other variations on this. No adverbs are needed.  Ever.

For instance, to write, "I want you to get out," John said angrily. is pointless because you're reading that John is angry after the piece of dialogue.  If set up correctly you'll know how John is saying this as you read it.

Many writers use adverbs and too many adjectives because they don't trust their work to be strong enough.  And also to bulk up their book.

"Don't use adverbs after your dialogue," I said.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

What a Phony

Me, that is. Haven't read a word of research material. I do have a little bit of an excuse. My partner is in the hospital and I'm here having to do everything by myself. Hate it. Grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, feeding cats, cleaning litter, etc. It all takes up so much time.

Still, I have managed to read one novel and am now reading THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Muriel Spark. A wonderful little novel about writing, envy, jealousy and other things. Spark is 86 and keeps on writing. You might know her best for THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE. But don't neglect MEMENTO MORI or THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE which are early works and some of her best. And don't miss this gem of a book.

Ah, come on. At least I'm reading.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Day Before The Supposed Start

Not starting.  I will start reading the research material with an eye to starting next Monday.  Wait. That's a holiday weekend. I never start writing on a holiday Monday. Then Wednesday is my anniversary with my partner.  So am I going to start writing on Tuesday? For one day? No. That week is disrupted by too many things. But I can continue to read.

Sooo, I guess I won't actually start writing until the 18th.  That seems like a good day to start. I'll plan for that.

What a relief.



Friday, October 01, 2004


"After all, one knows one's weak points so well, that it's rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them and invent others."

Edith Wharton