Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Time

Is running out.  For me.  To not write.  Six more days before I try to start a story.  Back to a routine.  Going to bed early.  Hitting the keys by nine. 

Nervous?  Yes.


 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Commitment

I’ve been thinking about what I should write if I’m going to try again.  The news from the world of publishing is not helpful.

I think that at this point in my life the commitment of writing a novel is too great.  And I do think of it as a commitment. 

When I begin a novel it’s as if I’m beginning a new relationship.  I have to meet it everyday.  I have to spend three or four hours a day with it.  I have to give it love.

I have seldom said, I can’t see you anymore.  The relationship changes and grows.  If it takes a turn I don’t like I don’t give up.  I work on it until I’m satisfied.  And a great many months or years are devoted to this affair.  Most of all there’s an expected outcome for me.  My secret romance will be shared with others.  First reader, agent, editor, critics, public. That’s the way it goes.  Or went.  I have expectations. No matter how I try to deceive myself, ignore those expectations, they’re there.  I can’t help it.

So I’ve decided to try writing short stories.  I have absolutely no expectations.  Yes, I’ve sold a few, but it’s not the same as a lifetime of writing and publishing novels.  There’s practically no market for shorts so I can’t hoodwink myself.   

Writing a novel means publication and money for me.  Writing a short story means neither of those things.  Even though I need money, like everyone else, I feel no pressure.

And then there’s the idea that any story I write will be a fling.  The commitment is so much shorter than writing a novel.  Surely I can make one.  And if I want to try another commitment I can.  Or not.  A story will have been written with my fidelity in tact.

So come January 5th I’m going to try to get engaged.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quote

"Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none."

Jules Renard

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free

All my outside obligations are over.  So now I have time to write.  Do I want to?  Maybe.

When I go to bed I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll start something.  And when I wake up I don’t do it.

Knowing that whatever I write probably won’t sell makes it hard.  I’ve never had to worry about that since I started publishing in the early seventies. 

I’m lucky, you say.  Yes, I know.  I was writing at a great period in publishing history.  Now it’s not so hot.  And I’m not on the wanted list.  I’m not at an age where some editor will feel he/she can mold my career.  So what to do?

Should I stay in the crime field?  Or should I write whatever comes into my head?  I have a better chance if I stay in my genre, but only a tiny one.

I don’t have a book in me that I’ve been dying to write for years and years.  I’ve already written that book. 

I can only hope that more will be revealed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quote

"Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, for it is a dangerous and a contagious disease."

Peter Abelard

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Attitudes

Today I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for about a year.

She said to me, “Are you still writing?”

I’ve had this question put to me many times in my life.  I don’t think the question is asked of anyone but people in the arts.  Sometimes it even comes from people who are in the arts.  An actor once asked me this.

But the best one was an old editor of mine who I bumped into in an elevator.  The elevator was in a building where the publishing company was located.

Are you still writing, Sandra?”

No, Roger” I said.  “I’m a brain surgeon now.”

He didn’t blink because I don’t think he was listening to my answer.

Why do people ask this question?  I think if you’re a writer, painter, etc. people don’t take what you do seriously.  They don’t think it’s work.  They view it as if it was a hobby.  They can’t equate arranging words on a paper or putting paint on a canvas as work.  Especially writing, because everybody writes. And an awful lot of people think they can write more than a letter if only they had the time.

A man I know who had been sick said, “I wouldn’t have gotten through my illness if I hadn’t had mysteries to read.  Now that I’m better I’m going to write one to give back what I’ve gotten.”

I wanted to pop him one, but I didn’t.  Even I have restraint at times.  Afterall, he’d been sick.

Today when I was asked the question I said, “I’m taking a little break now.”  And I didn’t ask her if she was still practicing law.  

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote

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

John LeCarre

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reading

I may never read a book again.  Is it me or is it the books?  I know I’m having a terrible time focusing because of conditions I can’t control.  But that’s getting better.  I have less to do.  So why hasn’t my desire to read returned?

I can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc.  But not books.  I read fiction almost exclusively.  Occasionally a non-fiction book will peak my interest.  But nothing interests me now.

At the moment I have two new novels from the library.  I put them on a request list months ago.  I was anxious to read them because both are written by authors I like.  I’ve started both and stopped both.

Before that I read about 385 pages of a 400 page novel and stopped.  I had no idea what I’d read and, of course, didn’t give a damn about the ending.  This has never happened to me before.  I give a book about 25 pages and if it doesn’t grab me I don’t read it.  Sometimes I can tell in 10.  But 385?

I don’t actually think it’s the books.  It’s me. Reading is one of the great pleasures of my life and not being able to do that leaves me feeling empty.

This is great: I can’t write and I can’t read.  Daytime TV?  Not yet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

An Excuse I Don't Want

I’m home but I have certain responsiblilities that make it not only impossible to think about writing, but untenable to write.  It makes me sad.

I think I want the choice to be mine.  Not something that is imposed on me.  It will be six weeks before I can focus on myself and make some sort of stab at what I want to do.

There’s a flash fiction project going on and I can’t even do that although I’d like to.

From time to time I’ll try to write things here that pertain to writing even though it’s not my personal struggle.  This and that as they occur to me and I have a moment or two.  Maybe no one will read it but it’ll be good for me if I can do it.  I guess I don’t want to be out of this altogether.

 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Musing

I hope my regular readers don’t abandon me while I’m in this state.  I hope one day you’ll drop in and read that I’ve begun something.

Meanwhile, perhaps this tells you what can happen to a writer at my stage in a career.  The fact is I don’t have a career at this time.  I have lots of work behind me, but now … nothing.  And no publisher is waiting for me to turn in anything.

As this stage has gone on and on I realized I’ve been derailed by many things.  Not all of them my doing.  We all know that the state of publishing is a mess.  So this doesn’t make me want to knock myself out trying to get back on track.

I’m a writer and my natural state is to be writing.  Still, knowing that probably nothing will happen to anything I write is depressing.  This isn’t my imagination.  I have a track record and you’re only as good as your last book.  In other words, how much money you made for the publisher.

This is understandable.  Publishing is a business.  My career has not been a splashy one.  Pretty steady though.  Once I started publishing only one book of mine was rejected…never published.  So it’s hard to think of writing knowing it might end up in a drawer.  I’m not used to it.

Yes, I put 200 pages in a drawer a year ago, but that was by choice.  I’m talking about a finished manuscript.  Anyone who tells you they write for the sake of writing is either a liar or a fool.

If and when I start again, the knowledge that what I’m writing may never be published will always be with me.  During most of my career I wondered, never sure I’d sell a book, but this is different. 

I’m nearer to the end instead of the beginning. Or even the middle.  It’s harder here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The New Year That Wasn't

I did say that I’d know by now and I do.  Things have turned out to thwart any new beginning at this time.

I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be unable to consider writing.  It looks like six to eight weeks.  I’ll be away from home for about five days and with lack of concentration or focus no writing will occur except for email and this blog.  And I’m not sure how that works in a hotel.  The wireless thing, I mean.

I’d be foolish to think I could begin something during this period.  And when I get home I’ll be very busy doing other things.  So two months more or less before I consider writing again.

Yes, I’m relieved in a way, but I don’t admit to that.  I tell myself I would’ve come up with something good and I’d be back on track again.

It could’ve happened, I guess.  But this isn’t the end of the line.  It’s a postponement. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A New Year


A writer friend wrote me, after reading this blog, to wish me the “September Fever.”   

I knew exactly what she was talking about because after all this time I still think of September as the beginning of the year.  A time to start new things.  An excellent time to start writing a new book.

For many years that’s exactly what I’ve done.  But this year, for various reasons, starting a new anything is not in the cards.  It’s out of my control, a state I’ve never been comfortable with.

The worst part of this is that I’m not sure I want to start a new novel.  How many months have I been saying that I’m finished writing?  It’s only in the last weeks that I’ve been suspicious of that stance.

Herbert Gold says, writers never stop writing, are “always on the lookout for the next book.”

“Writers can’t serve 30 years and then earn release to play golf, wear a baseball cap, enterain themselves by negotiating shopping carts down the aisles of the local supermarket.”

I’ve always believed this, but I know I won’t be sitting here hitting the keys on September 2nd.  That’s a given for a reason out of my control.  And after that things will depend on what happens on September 2nd.

For anyone who has been a constant reader of this blog, you know that even if everything turns out all right, I won’t start on September 3rd because it’s a Wednesday.  Whoever heard of starting anything in the middle of the week?

If I’m lucky I might want to begin writing on Monday September 8th.  And if I want to I can only hope that circumstances allow me to do so. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quote

“My advice to writers just starting out? Don't use semi-colons! They are transvestite hermaphrodites, representing exactly nothing. All they do is suggest you might have gone to college."

Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My life goes on but my writing doesn’t.  I think it was Freud who said that to have a happy life you need both love and work.  I have one but not the other.  I’ve had both and I was happier.

So sit right down and go back to work, you say.  It’s not so simple.  I keep thinking that I’ll do that in the fall despite my insistence of retirement.

It’s true that I was tired of the routine, but I’ve had a rest and now I feel I want to write.  Perhaps that’s because at this moment I can’t. I may be fooling myself.  Once I can I might not want to.  That remains to be seen.

The point is that at this moment I feel I want to write, feel I would if I could.

Friday, August 01, 2008

One Step Forward

I can read again.  I’ve almost finished a novel.  And I think my not writing might have something to do with a situation I can do nothing about.  The situation will change, but I don’t know when.

It’s not magic and I know it doesn’t mean that when the situation changes I’ll plunk myself down here and bat out the first chapter of something. 

But I do notice that I have a sense of longing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Arrrrrghhhh!

No second line has come to me.  I have no desire to find one. 

I thought about going back to writing YAs.  My agent has suggested it and so have friends.  I’ve published 5.  But the thing is that would require writing.

I did have a heady moment when I thought it would be okay to write one with another person.  And then the idea deflated like a sick balloon.

Since then (about a week ago)  I’ve felt hostile toward the act of writing.

Worse than that is that I can’t read.  I start something and then I put it down.  I’ve had periods like this before but somehow this one is making me mad.  Everything is making me mad.


 


 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Tiny Conundrum

I’ve had a first line for about a week.  I think it’s a great first line.  So? What am I doing writing first lines anyway?  I’m the retired writer.

But what to do when a beauty of a line comes buzzing into your brain?  Dodge it?  Black it out?  Give it to someone else?  God no.

I went to Word and typed it on the blank page making it no longer blank.  And that’s where it is now.  One line.  No company.

Is it lonely?  Maybe.  But I don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.  I think of that line a lot.  I’ll be making the bed and the line pops into my mind.  It makes me smile.  I wash a dish and I say it silently.

It’s no big deal to have an opening line, you say.  You’re right.  So why am I blathering about it?  You tell me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quote

"Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument."

J.B. Priestley

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flash Fiction

” With gas prices rising they had to change their plans.”  This was the sentence given for this particular piece of flash fiction.  One had to use it somewhere in the 750 word piece.  Mine is below. Links to the other writer’s pieces can be found here. 


———————————————————————


     With gas prices rising their plans had to change.  They had little money to begin with and getting away by car seemed impossible now.


     Betty Rae wanted to push Kenny’s head through the windshield because he was ready to give up on the whole thing. 


     “What are we supposed to do, B.R., go by donkey cart?”


     “You’re not funny.  This is serious.”


     “But how’re we gonna get away after?  We need money for food and stuff.  Can’t go paying no six twenty-five a gallon.  The way this fuckin crate eats up gas we’ll be outta money before we pass the county line.”


     “We gotta think a something else.” She knew she was the one who had to think of a plan because Kenny never thought of anything.  What was she doing with this moron, anyway? She should never’ve broken up with Bing.  Her mother always snarled when she talked about him.


     “Betty Rae, can’t you do better than a boy named Bing Cherry?”


     It wasn’t his fault that was his name.  Wasn’t like he named himself.     Wait a minute. Bing had a Vespa.  And she knew where he kept a spare key.


     “You ever driven a Vespa, Kenny?”


     “A what?”


     “Vespa.  It’s like a motorcycle only smaller.”


     “You mean like a mobed.”


     “Moped.”


     “Yeah, that’s what I said.”


     She wasn’t going to argue with him because there wasn’t time for that now. 


     “So you never drove a Vespa, right?”


     “Right.”


     “Thing is, you get a lotta miles to the gallon with them.”


     “So what? 


     “I know where we can get one.”  She told him about it.


     “And you can drive it?” he said.


     “Easy.”


     “Cool. Let’s get her then.”


     Kenny started the old Ford and drove over to Bing’s. He was in Iraq and Betty Rae knew his parents both worked.  Kenny parked around the corner and they walked to Bing’s house, up the driveway and peeked through the garage window. 


     There it was with a grey cover over it.


     “What if it don’t have gas in it?”


     “Shut up.”  She went over to the flower bed near the side of the house, dug around in the dirt and came up with the key.  She held it up to Kenny like a trophy.


     When they went to open the garage doors they discovered they were locked.


     “Now what?”


     She looked at him with contempt, took off her shirt, walked to the side of the garage, wrapped the shirt around her hand and punched a hole in the window.


     “Jesus, B.R.”


     “Nobody’ll hear us.”  She put her shirt back on, pulled out the pieces of glass stuck in the frame, climbed through, came around and raised the door for Kenny.


     They didn’t say anything and went over to the Vespa. 


     Betty Rae pulled the cover off the machine. It was a wild purple, like she remembered.  She kicked the stand, threw a leg over the seat, put in the key, and tried to get it started.


     “Bet it has no gas in it,” Kenny said.


     “Anyone ever tell you you’re a goddamn pessimist?”


     “Not so I remember.”


     “Well, you are and it’s a big drag.”


     “Sorry.”


     One more try and the engine gurgled to life.


     “Get on.” She could see he didn’t want to so she gave him her I’ll kill you if you don’t look.


     He slowly took his seat behind her and she drove out of the garage, down the driveway and onto the street.


     “Hey, my car’s the other way.”


     “Fuck the car.  We don’t need it. Listen. We’ll go to my house and get the gun.  And you’ll do like we planned.  Then we’ll get outta town on this.”


     Her fucking parents were on disability so they’d both be home.  Shithead would be watching Oprah in the living room and Pigface would be glugging wine and smoking cigarettes in the kitchen.   


     Kenny would kill her father first while she was in the kitchen with her mother.  The stupid bitch would hear the shot but before she could do anything Betty Rae would stab her and then Kenny’d come in and shoot her.  After, Betty Rae would pull the jar out from behind the pipes under the sink and take the money.


     But what if Kenny got cold feet?  He wouldn’t because he knew she’d kill him if he didn’t do like she said.


     “Waaatch ooou…,” Kenny screamed.


     They hit the car in front, bounced off and smashed into the telephone pole.


     Neither one was wearing a helmet.


 

Monday, June 09, 2008

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Those of you who read this blog know I balked at writing a short story last year. Then I did it and it was published in the anthology HELL OF A WOMAN.  From there it was picked to be included in  A Prisoner of Memory: And 24 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories.  This came as a great surprise to me.

However, in cleaning out a trunk I found a rolled up scroll which turned out to be a certificate of merit in recognition of winning Honorable Mention in the Regional Scholastic Writing Awards for New Jersey. Yes, for a short story.  I have no memory of this or the story I wrote when I was fourteen.

I guess I wrote short stories back then.


Coming up at the end of the week is my first try at Flash Fiction.  It’s okay, I didn’t know what FF was either when I heard about it.  It isn’t much, but I actually wrote something.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another New Chapter

I’ve been walking around with a low-grade depression for weeks. Now something has lifted it for me.  I think I miss writing. Everything I’ve said before this is true.  I didn’t miss it and I was feeling fine about it, enjoying myself. 

I still hate the idea of a routine. But I realized that three days a week I get up to an alarm anyway because I go to an excercise class.  This means that three nights a week I go to bed at the same time I did when writing.  That is part of the routine I was sick of.  The other part is writing itself.  Or was.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to plunge into some big project or even a small one.  The fact is, I don’t know what it means.

There are adjustments I have to make.  I have to accept that I’m not in the thick of things anymore.  It’s not twenty some years ago when I was in on starting Sisters In Crime.  I don’t have loads of writer friends.  Many of them have stopped writing (or stopped getting published) and I don’t live in NYC.  There’s a whole new crop of wonderful writers out there and it’s their turn now…as it should be. Going on book tours is a thing of the past for me.  I’m not grieving for that.  I could still go to conventions but I don’t want to.  Again, that’s really for the new kids on the block.

This is a fresh chapter for me.  I’m not sure what will be in  it, but I guess I’ll find out.  I have no illusions about this.  And I hope no delusions. 

As always, I don’t know how I got from there to here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sleepless in Southold

Last night I had a helluva time falling asleep.  I think it was because I ate a chocolate cookie…very chocolate…too late.  But it was also because I was reading a short story by Alice Munro.

I started to think about stories again.  When I put out the light to try to force myself to sleep, I could only think of ss ideas.

I don’t know what it means.  I’m not saying I’m going to write any, but something is happening.  I’ve noticed my ears are perking up when other people are having conversations.

Writing a ss is not a huge commitment the way a novel is.  On the other hand I’ve always felt writing one was wasting time.  I have to do something about this idea.  This way of thinking.

That’s all.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Word Count

Jess has asked this question:

“In all your years of writing books, did you ever come up short in word count?”

Word count never came up until I signed with Ballantine about five years ago.  No one said anything about it.  I wrote until it was finished. Some books were longer than others.  I guess I went by feel.  Or to put it another way, the characters told me when it was time to get out of there.

Then when I got the Ballantine contract it said I had to turn in a book with 95,000 words.  I’d never seen anything like that in a contract before.  I’d spent my career paring down my writing.  My aim was to not have a wasted word. The joke was on me.

Years ago 65,000 words was the length of the average novel. Thomas Wolfe was an exception. I had no idea what word count I had in any novel I’d published.  But I felt that 95,000 words might be too many for a P.I. novel.  I got them to agree to 85,000, which I still thought might be too long, but I had to sign the contract with that word count. And my book came in around that length.

Still, I think dictating the amount of words a writer must punch out is destructive.  Sometimes a very long novel is self-indulgent.  I can think of quite a few.  On the other hand, very short novels might leave a reader feeling cheated. 

If you’re worried about getting a book up to a certain word count you’re bound to load it with filler. We’ve all read books like this and it’s a big bore.  Even if it lands on the bestseller list.  Boring.

A writer must do what he/she feels comfortable with.  Thinking about word counts might take the life out of the novel especially if you’re new at writing.  But times have changed and publishing houses have new rules. 

I think it’s sad that these rules and regulations have come into play.  Asking for a specific word count is as bad as asking a writer to write a book like Dan Brown or Mary Higgins Clark.  Or Virginia Wolfe.  But no one would ask you to write like her.

If getting published is more important to you than writing what you want to write then, by all means, do your word count.

I believe you have to write like you and you have to write until you come to the end.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quote

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

Truman Capote

Friday, April 25, 2008

FRIDAYS: The Book You Have to Read.

From Patti Abbott



This is the first of what I perhaps overly optimistically hope will become Friday recommendations of books we might have forgotten over the years. Not just from me, but from everyone. I have asked several people to join with me today and recommend favorite books of theirs. Their blog sites are listed below. I also asked each of them to tag someone to recommend a book for next Friday.

I’m worried that we are letting some great books of the recent past slide out of print and out of our consciousness. Not the first-tier classics we can all name perhaps, but that group of books that comes next. If you read a book that someone recommends, please call our attention to that too. It would be nice to think a recommendation had an impact on someone somewhere.




Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen



If you’re looking for a fast read, this isn’t for you. Bowen's people are keenly aware and the reader must stay right there with her, because hidden among lengthy descriptions of sea air and drawing-room politics are terse asides.


This is a story of innocence betrayed set in the thirties. Portia, an orphan, comes to live in London with her half-brother, Thomas, and his wife, Anna.


It’s Portia’s innocence that causes so much trouble. She isn’t trained to deal with London society or with boys or with the isolation she endures. Anna and Thomas live dull, sterile lives.


Unfortunately for Portia, she falls in with Anna's friend Eddie, who seems to be made entirely of bad motives. Though the plot follows Portia's relationship with Eddie, the novel's real tension lies between Portia and Anna.


There is a stunning romantic betrayal and it sets in motion one of the most moving and desperate flights of the heart in modern literature.


For me this is the best of Bowen’s novels.



For the others go to Patti's Blog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tomorrow

Even though this is a writing blog tomorrow will be different, especially since I’m not writing. Although I did change part of the page and a half I have from first person to third. Does that count?

Patti Abbott has come up with an idea that is quite interesting and I’m participating. So check back tomorrow.


 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quote

"There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily."

Anthony Trollope

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Little Bit Pregnant?

I’ve written about a page and a half since I last posted here.  Yes, I have an idea.  And I find myself thinking about it especially as I read other people’s books.

Am I working my way toward a disciplined life again?  Am I going to find a new way to work?  Am I going to work at all?  Will I stick to this idea in some way?

I don’t know any of those answers.  I guess I’ll wait and see.  Or write and see. 

I do like the idea. That’s something.  Still, I don’t like the thought of a schedule.  Perhaps that will pass.  Now that I have an idea I like and think I can execute, everything might fall into place.  Yeah, right!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Teasing Me

On Monday, while I was reading, an idea came to me.  I made notes. I put them into my computer.  I felt excited.

On Tuesday I couldn’t care less.

On Wednsday I thought about it again.  It interested me. Maybe, I thought, maybe….

Today I couldn’t care less.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quote

"The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write."

Gabriel Fielding

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Double Take

This morning I was flipping through Crimspree Magazine and came to an ad by Echelon Press.  I was stopped still when I saw the jacket of a novel by Robert Goldsborough.  Except for the cigarette in the woman’s mouth, it is the same jacket on the the large print edition of This Dame for Hire.  Clean Feet Design is credited for my book.  I wonder if Clean Feet knows they’ve been used at least twice.  I guess so. I hope they get paid for this.

I think somebody did an article, either on the Internet or in a magazine, about this practice.  I don’t know why but I keep thinking Sarah Weinman did it on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.  Has anybody else come across this with a book they’ve written?

I got an email from someone I’d told that I was no longer writing. This is what he wrote to me in reply: “If you are genuinely happy without the writing, more power to you.  I don't seem to be able to shake the bug and am hard at work on a book about my father.”

The annoying thing about this is that this man self-publishes and seems to only write about himself and his family.  No fiction.   He’s retired.  He doesn’t take in that my writing was my career, my job.  And clearly doesn’t get that my life’s work had nothing to do with a bug.  Yes, I’m grouchy.  I would write him a scathing letter except that he’s married to my favorite cousin.

Which leads me to something I was thinking about yesterday.  I used to have this saying on my bulletin board:  “I think there’s truth in what you say.”  The late Edward (Ned) Stewart told me to say that, or a version of it, when talking to my agent or an editor.  This was because of my prickly personality.  I know this comes as a shock to some of you, but, yes, I did have an abrupt style once upon a time.  But all that isn’t my point.

Remembering that sign led me to the other sign I had on my bulletin board.  “Advance the Story” in big black letters. They are important words.  And I wrote by them.  Most of the time.

No matter what kind of novel you’re writing the main thing is to advance the story.  That should be your goal.  If it is, it will keep you from going off on tangents, doing set pieces, throwing in a dream that bores the hell out of readers, ruminating on the weather, the scenery, the silverware or any other thing that has no business being there.  Unless it’s a sentence or two, but even then if it doesn’t move the story along, drop it.

I want to read a well-written book, but I’m not interested in pyrotechnic writing.

I just finished Richard Price’s Lush Life.  He doesn’t waste a word.  There’s one dream the book could do without.  It didn’t tell me anything and didn’t advance the story.  It was slightly irritating because it was a page and a half long. But if you’re Richard Price you can get away with it.  Almost.

I suggest that you take a piece of white letter-sized paper, turn it so it’s horizontal and in black magic marker write ADVANCE THE STORY and pin it up where you can see it as you write.

Or don’t.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Disappearing Act

My Medialist disappeared around March 6th or 7th. This is where I listed my recommended books. The website has no new entries after March 8th. I think it’s over. I wish I could find another site that would allow me to do what I did with Medialist. If anyone knows of one I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know.

I’ve made my own recommendation list and I’m starting over because I don’t remember what was on there. It isn’t as pretty as the old one but I guess this list isn’t about pretty.


Obviously the Medialist came back since I wrote that.

And speaking of disappearing, I haven’t. I’m still around and still not feeling guilty about not writing. I’ve been following Laura Lippman's book tour and feeling happy for her and happy it’s not me. I could never do a tour like hers. The most I ever did was two weeks and I found it exhausting. I couldn’t even do two weeks now. Fortunately, no one is asking me to.

I had a short period in which I was unable to read. I found that awful. But now I can. I have a bunch of books lined up and you can see the one I finished on my jerry-rigged list.

When I read a wonderful novel like Lush Life I do feel a bit nostalgic for the act of writing. Not that I could write a book like Price’s. That’s not the point. But there’s a part of me that wants to be in that state…the state of creation. There’s no better state to be in, I think. Even when it’s not going well. Still, I’m not interested or ready to go back to my schedule.

Jess has suggested that I write about “plotting, characterization, making setting come alive--whatever.” I’m not a teacher but I might be able to do this if asked a specific question. I promise nothing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quote

"Mere literary talent is common; what is rare is endurance, the continuing desire to work hard at writing."

Donald Hall

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Over and Over

I’ve decided it’s the routine that’s gotten to me.  It’s not unlike any job where you do the same thing over and over.

What I mean is this: going to bed by 10 P.M.; getting up to an alarm; having breakfast; getting to my desk by 9 A.M. and staying there until 12 or 1.

On the face of it it doesn’t look so terrible.  But I’ve been doing it for about 50 years with short breaks here and there.

Since I stopped writing ideas have come to me…not big ones, but little ones here and there.  I think to myself I should write that (a habit that doesn’t go away ever, I suspect) and then my mind goes immediately to the SCHEDULE.  And I know I can’t do it.

So change the schedule, you say.  Write in the afternoon.  Write at night. Use something other than a computer.  I can’t.  I’ve never used anything but a typewriter or a computer.  And I’ve always written in the morning. 

I’m a morning person.  I’d have no energy to write in the afternoon and night is for other things.  Like life.  Not to mention total lack of energy. Writing with pen and pad leaves me cold.  And I can’t write in cafes or libraries or anywhere but here.  I have to have total silence.  That’s one of the main reasons I left NYC.

I have no idea what to do about this.  Perhaps I’ll have to stay silent until the idea of a schedule doesn’t make me feel sick.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mind Your Own Business

The quote below made me think once again about trying to write for a specific audience or an editor, maybe an agent.  I’ve written about this before, but I think it’s worth writing about again.

You can’t write what you can’t read.  I could never write a science fiction novel because I don’t care to read them.  The same goes for spy novels.  I’m sure you have your own genres you can’t read.  If so, don’t try to write one.  It won’t work.

Don’t try to second guess who will like what.  It’s impossible.  I’ve been reading some writer’s blogs where the author wonders if he/she should put a romance at the beginning or start with the weather.  Should the protagonist be sympathetic?  If she/he is angry will that put an editor off?

Does a woman have to have sex appeal?  Does a man have to be macho?

Will the agent like it better if I start with place or person?

How will readers feel about a woman killer?  Should I throw in a dog or cat?

Does it have to be resolved by the end?

Thinking this way would drive me crazy…and I’m sure it drives the people asking these questions, crazy.  It has to.  How creative can this be if you’re trying to tailor your work for X, Y or Z?

Years ago I tried writing a Judith Krantz-type novel.  Some of you probably don’t know who she is.  In the 70s and 80s she wrote sagas about glamorous women looking for love or losing love in various countries with gorgeous men.  I think almost all her books were made into TV specials.

Now, really, does that sound like a novel I could or would write?  But I wanted to make some money and it seemed so easy.  I did have to read one of the novels and it was agony.  My writing partner and I mapped out the characters lives, the men, the conflicts, etc. all on a big white board.  We alternated chapters and rewrote each other’s work.  We stayed friends but what we came up with in the end died on the page.  Still, we didn’t know that until our agent told us.

Then there was the spy novel and the romance novel and who remembers?  What I didn’t realize is that the people who write these novels are good at what they do.  They believe in their work.  One has to, to make it live. 

We were trying to write for a particular audience and there was no way we could do that and have it be any good.

But even if you’re writing in a genre you like (crime) you can’t decide to start the novel with action because you think an agent will like it better. And on and on.

You have to start it where you want to start it.  Where you think it should begin because that’s how you hear it in your head.  Characters have to sing to your tune and not to the tune of some imaginary editor.

Believe in your story, your setting, your protagonist.  If you do you might have a chance of writing a good book.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quote

Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it;
write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for
it.

Jesse Stuart

Thursday, February 07, 2008

For the Record

I appreciate everyone who’s left me comments and suggested ways and means to get going again.

First, I’m not depressed. Am I a depressive? Yes. But I take medication for that and I’ve been fine for quite a long time now.

Second, it’s not about me having to be happy when I write. I’m sorry if I gave that impression.

This is what it’s about. I don’t want to write anything. Not stories, letters, lists. I can post to this blog and I can write email but that’s it. I don’t want to write fiction or nonfiction. Not articles or poems. Nothing. And guess what? I find myself perfectly content not writing.

That may change. Who knows? But for now I’m delighted to read, do things on my computer, watch movies, meet someone for coffee or sit quietly and think.

I’ve been writing for over 50 years…yes, I’m a geezer…and I’m tired. I’ve been lucky to be published and sometimes paid handsomely. And during my career I’ve gotten respect, good and bad reviews and all the things that are a bonus to a writer.

Yes, that was in the early part of my career. As I’ve said before, publishing has changed. I’m glad I had the experiences I did before the change, like flowers from an editor on publication day.

I admit this change in the way things are done may have contributed to my present state. But that part I better get over.

So, I don’t want to write anything and I’m not depressed. But thanks for caring.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Could This Be It?

Someone sent me this:

“Writer's block is a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to begin or continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity.”

It never occurred to me that I might be experiencing writer’s block. I’ve had it before but it came in an entirely different form, so I didn’t recognize it this time. Of course, it may not be that at all. It may be what I wrote in the last post.

However, I perked up at the word “temporary” so that tells me something.

Although I won’t be posting my daily writing trials, I will be posting my writing thoughts, just as the name of this blog says.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Can't Do This

I know sometimes I hate what I’m writing but then it passes. Or perhaps I hate a certain writing day. This isn’t that. Once again I’ve started something that won’t fly.

I have the awful feeling that I can’t write anymore. Some part of me is fed up with the whole process. It’s not that I have to feel pleasure all the time I’m writing. That would be unrealistic. But I feel no pleasure at all. It feels like I’m simply hitting keys. Writing for the sake of writing because I’m supposed to be a writer.

No, I don’t want to change careers. I think I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to write. I know that I’ve always been a happier person when I’m writing, but not lately. And by lately I mean the last several years.

Is it because I know what’s going on in the publishing world? Because the chance of selling whatever I write is slim? I suppose these things could contribute to my not wanting to write, but I suspect there’s something else. I’m sick of it.

But I’m a writer. And real writers have to write. Yes, I’m a real writer. I’ve published many novels. I guess that makes me a real writer. Do other real writers stop cold? Get sick of it?

Many names of writers come to mind who haven’t published a book in years. Is this because they can’t get published? Or have they quit? And does it matter what other writers have done?

I can’t do it anymore.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Different Kind of Hell

This is the hell of starting over and not getting far at all.  Hating the new start.

This is the hell of breaking all your own rules.  Peeking at the Internet.  Playing with programs.

This is the hell of not being any better on the second day.  Fixing the start but only for a short time until breaking the rules again.

This is the hell of knowing you have to go back to it tomorrow.

 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Blip

It would be too boring to explain why, so I’ll say that something has come up that pushes my restart day to Tuesday.  Does anyone care but me?  Don’t answer that.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hell

For me this is it. Setting up a new computer with a new (to me) operating system, and hating it. Also searching for programs on my external drive. Hell, I tell you, hell.

I've been doing this for a day and a half. I have a long long way to go.

My Monday writing start may not happen. I only have a day and a half left.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Change of Plan

The new computer is arriving Friday. I just got an email telling me this. So I have to ask myself...what's the point of writing tomorrow? One day and then I'm into computer installing hell. And all the other stuff you have to do with a new computer.

But the good news is that if all goes well I'll be able to start again on Monday. I don't think it will take me more than Friday and the weekend to get it together enough to write. And be comfortable.

Yes, that's what I'm going to do. Not writing tomorrow .... making way for the Vista operating system. And paying bills. And figuring out how to write a note to Itunes and ask what to do about making my new computer work with it. Yeah, I know...this is a writing blog. Still, if anyone knows......

Best Laid Plans

Yesterday I sat down at my computer for my second day of writing. I turn on the hateful thing and what happens? Dread blue screen saying something about registry. I tried everything I know how to do and then rushed off to Best Buy. There I found out it was the motherboard and because my computer is a Shuttle they couldn’t fix it there. What it would cost to ship and fix was a lot. A lot. So I came home and bought a new computer on Amazon which won’t arrive until Monday.

As you can see I’m writing this. I’m on my laptop. And although I don’t like writing on it I’ll try tomorrow. But next week will be lost. At least a few days of it while I set up the new one. I won’t even go into the programs I’ve lost. The new one comes with Vista. Yuck. I’ll have to learn that, also. And how do I get Itunes to recognize me on the new computer? Nevermind, this is a writing blog.

But I do want to say that anyone who’s written me an email and I haven’t responded, please send it again. Lost all my mail, too.

The whole thing is very frustrating. Oh, I backed up my four pages on a flash drive so that’s okay. And I have an external drive that holds a lot of stuff. I haven’t lost any writing.

This sucks.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

And Once More

Tomorrow I’m going to start a new novel.  I’m very anxious about this because I’m approaching it differently from how I usually do.

I know the beginning and the end.  But I don’t know the middle. Normally I never know the end.  Only the beginning.  So I guess I never know the middle.  What makes me feel nervous about not knowing the middle is because I know the end.  I see that now.

If I don’t know the end then I don’t think about the middle.  There is no middle. I wish I didn’t know the end.

I have to approach this as though I don’t know the end and then see what happens. 

Usually I write a novel with a particular discipline.  Private Eye, Police Procedural, etc.  So I know how to get to the end.  That’s not true. I’ve written a number of novels that didn’t fall into any sub genre.  I’m making too much of this.

Here’s the thing:  I simply have to sit down here tomorrow and start.  What could be so hard about that?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

It has to be better than last year. It does. I hope it is. A lot of bad personal things happened to me in 2007. But I’m still here.

As for writing, it was definitely a bad year. There wasn’t much. I had to put 200 pages, that I’d mostly written in 2006, into a drawer. I didn’t know how to work the con therefore the novel had to be put away. I have a feeling I’ll take it out one day.

I made at least one other false start. Maybe two. I complained a lot. I might have even whined, sin of sins.

On a positive note I had a short story published in the anthology A Hell of a Woman, and the story was picked up for another anthology of the best crime stories of the year.

But that year is over. And this year I’m going to start a new novel. Next Monday. I still don’t have a title. Not quite true. I have a working title but I’m not mad for it. Still, I’ll be able to make a title page and that’ll give me the feeling that I’m going somewhere.

I like the idea for this book. As usual I don’t know if I can pull it off. I wonder how many writers know for sure they can pull it off when they start? I always have a touch of fear that it won’t work. But because I’ve had such trouble in the past year I’m more nervous than at other starts.

So, next Monday I’ll sit down here and hopefully write a few pages. If I write three that day I’ll be happy.

I know it’s not going to be easy. And I know it has to be one day at a time. That’s all I know.