Saturday, January 26, 2008

Apparently Things Will Not Turn Out As Well As I Hoped

Donis yet again.

Well, this is annoying. Nothing of my previous brilliantly written entry posted except for the title. I probably should just leave things alone, let people read Charles' comment, and hope everyone thinks I'm a master of Zen. Why did the post disappear into the ether? I have no idea. I hit "publish" and it seems to have shot directly into another dimension, and I can't find it to save my life. I told you that I am not computer-adept, Dear Reader, and here you see the sad result.

After spending a long frustrating time trying to find my entry, I decided to take a rest and went to eat supper and watch Black Hawk Down. The movie was incredibly tense, and since I won't be able to blink for another hour I figure I might as well go ahead and re-post.

Though I'll never be able to reproduce the stunning quality of the first post, here is an approximation of what I wrote earlier:

In Shakespeare in Love, whenever things look absolutely hopeless, the theater owner, played by Geoffrey Rush, tells the concerned that "everything will turn out all right."

"But how?", asks the worried person.

"I have no idea," replies the theater owner. "It just always does."

This is the way writing is for me, at least up to this point. I don't belong to a critique group. I think that one has to be incredibly careful to find a group of people to work with who are simpatico, and as Debby noted, that's not easy. I function better on my own. I tend not to show my first draft to anyone. After writing four books in the same series, I feel like I know the direction I want to go, and I don't want to be influenced by someone else's ideas.

I don't outline the story before I begin, either. I usually start out with a juicy idea for a murder. For a couple of days thereafter, I ponder on what interesting and unlikely person may have committed this murder. Then I think about the setting and which characters will be involved. I do some research on what was happening in that place at that time, which always gives me some really interesting story elements.

Then I sit down at the computer and go, go, go, from the beginning to the end. I never end up where I thought I would. I never go in the direction I planned. The story goes where it will and the characters behave however they darn well please. I have been known to be reading on the screen the words that my flying fingers are typing and exclaim, "holy crap!", because I had no idea that was going to happen before it did. Sometimes I get lost and am unable to figure out where I'm going or how I got there. Often I get horribly stuck. But I keep typing, even if I'm spending days typing nothing but hogswollop, because suddenly I realize that the hogswollop has given way to deathless prose, and I pound my forehead on the desk, because I don't have a clue how I did it. And then one day I come to the end, and lo and behold, I have a book.

At this point, I usually show the book to my husband, Don, whose opinion I trust. He is very good to point out glaring errors. If he offers an opinion that I don't necessarily agree with, I feel comfortable blowing him off (though I admit I rarely do.) Then I go over the book about a dozen times and move this section from here to there, and change this word to that, and have this character do this instead of that and remove this guy altogether. Finally, I simply must send the MS to my editor, and besides, I can't stand to look at it any more. I make whatever changes she suggests, because she is very good and by this point I have completely lost any objectivity about the thing whatsoever.

Then, eight to ten months later, the book comes out. I look at it with fresh eyes and say, "damn, this isn't bad!" Once again, everything turned out all right. I have no idea how. It just always does.

5 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

Actually, the Geoffrey Rush character's answer is, "I don't know. It's a mystery."

And this provides the great tag line for Viola at the movie's end.

Charles benoit said...

Rick - never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Donis Casey said...

All right - I knew I was misquoting, but what the heck, I thought. Actually, "I don't know, it's a mystery," is better, isn't it? But I expect I got the idea across, anyway.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Ha ha, Donis, I'm going to go rent Black Hawk down! And I can't figure out how to post half the time, either. In fact, I started saving my blog comments in Word so I wouldn't have to remember what I said. (another problem, different topic...)
I love reading about different writing techniques. And Charles, we are our worst critics, aren't we? I'm always amazed (and thrilled) that (most) other people like my stuff. Those scant crumbs of praise are enough to keep me going. God knows it's not the $$

Donis said...

Ain't it the truth, Debby.