Saturday, August 29, 2009

Penny Walk

Donis here. Let me begin by assuring Vicki that I would never come to blows, virtual or otherwise, with Charles and John, lest passers-by wonder why two grown men were beating up on their grandma.  And even if I were still in my hearty prime, I am : 1. an avowed pacifist. 2. Five foot three. 3. a coward of the first water.

That having been said, I shall return to the question of whether it is more helpful to the writing process to outline or not to outline.  There have been some developments with my own writing that fit perfectly in with our recent topic threads.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent my editor the first 100 pages of a manuscript.  The book is called All Men Fear Me, and is set in Oklahoma in 1917, at the onset of World War I.  I had her comments back a week later. 

I mentioned in my previous post that I thought All Men was a big, rambling thing and I expected I was going to have to go at it with an ax and a saw.  Apparently I was right.  My editor suggested that I needed more action at the beginning, which flaw was discussed last month on this very web site.  Also, I had included too much backstory.  Again, we talked about this here at Type M, and again, I expounded on the evils of too much backstory along with the best of them.  So let this be a lesson to you, Dear Reader.  Just because you know what to do doesn’t mean you always do it.

All of these problems are quite fixable, and Darling Editor and I agreed that I could fix them without too much problem.  After all, I’m like a lot of writers in that I have a great deal of confidence in my abilities, whether it’s warranted or not. 


Consider this, she said to me.  Would you entertain the idea of going back a year or so in time and writing another pre-war book?  In her opinion, I’m moving the series ahead in time too quickly .

One would think that considering the fact that I’ve been working on All Men for two @#$% years, her request that I put it aside and start a new book from scratch would make me want to jump off a bridge.  But I was oddly elated by the suggestion.  

I like All Men Fear Me. I think it is full of wonderful stuff, and  once I clear out the underbrush, it will be a great story.  But the idea that after all this time, I could put it aside and not look at it for a while - I felt like a weight had suddenly been lifted off my shoulders.

In short, I agreed to start anew.  I’ve already begun writing.  As for outlining the new story beforehand, I am not.  As I wrote in an earlier post, when I begin a new novel, I usually know who did the deed and why.  For the new book, I have an idea who the killer is, but that may change.  I have a great motive. I also have a great desire not to overthink it, but let the story unfold as I write it.

When I was a pre-teen, I spent several summers at Girl Scout Camp, way out in the woods outside of Locust Grove, OK.  One of our activities was something called a Penny Walk.  We would hike down a long, maze-like path through the woods, and every time we came to a fork in the trail, the point-girl would toss a penny to decide which way to go.  Every walk was different from the one before, yet we always found our way back.

So I hope to construct this new novel like a penny walk, and every time I come to a fork in the road, I’ll make a decision which way to go, and trust that it will lead me home. 

Postscript : Of course, their are a couple of problems that arise with my decision to start over.  First, I’m going to have to come up with yet another good title.  Second, this is going to put me even further behind on the publishing schedule.  I’ll tell you, though, I’m not taking any two years to do this.  I’m wondering, what is the shortest time any of you authors out there have taken to write a complete novel?  I once heard Simon Wood say that he cranked out a novel from start to finish in ten days.  It not only was published, but I believe it won an award.


Charles benoit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles benoit said...

(Type before you post, Charles)

That Penny Walk concept is interesting - not just for writing but for life. Imagine doing just that, flipping a coin at every major crossroad or when you can't decide what to order at a cafe. And for some reason I recall an old story - set in the 1700s?- in which the hero or the hero's nemesis flips a rather large coin when he has to decide big things. And now I see Michael York playing that role. Does this ring a bell with anyone out there?

Vicki Delany said...

My fastest was In the Shadow of the Glacier. Four months from first word to final version sent to the editor. And almost no revisions required.

Vicki Delany said...

A good movie that came out last year that is set in France and back home in Canada during WWI is Passchendale. It's a Canadian movie, so probably didn't get any exposure down there, but the scenes set in Alberta when the character is invalided home from the war might be of interest.

Rick Blechta said...

Okay, Donis, I give up. Just how does Simon Wood figure into this blog entry?