Thursday, November 18, 2010

Work vs. Work?

This week, my free time has been dominated by two things: adding characters to an completed manuscript and grading 65 five-page essays, as we are in the midst of finals week at the boarding school where I work.

Try to guess which is more fun.

I never deny that writing is a lot of work. I once read that Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) wrote a minimum of 10 hours a day and that Stephen King writes 10 pages a day. By contrast, I’m usually ready for a break after 90 minutes. But now, after a15-hour workday, when the 18 15-year-old boys (and my wife and three daughters) are asleep, I can’t wait for the chance to work on the novel. It’s my release.

This revision is also interesting because I’ve never worked this way before. Typically, one cuts during the revision process. I’ve added an entire storyline to a bioterrorism novel. Most of the legwork was already done—I’d researched and interviewed bioethicists, university chemistry professors, and others in the medical and legal fields—so now I’m doing what I enjoy, creating and following characters.

What I’m especially curious to discover is whether or not my current ending still fits the novel. I like the thrill of discovery as I write, and usually I don’t know the endings of my books until I’m 50 or even 20 pages from the conclusion. (Twenty was cutting it close, and that was scary; ironically, it might also be my best ending.)

The papers will not grade themselves, so back to work I go.

But I’m interested to hear from others about a unique revision process.


Rick Blechta said...

I love adding characters. "%" is one of my favorites, along with some of the characters that don't get used a lot like "z", "x" and "q". My editors don't like it when I add too many of these, though. Xenoglossophobic is a rather obsure word, for instance.

ajcap said...

Everybody's a comedian :)

I have been known to revise until the original story is non-existent.

If I may steal this thread for just a moment, and I apologize in advance, but as a budding writer this blog has worried me somewhat. I'd like to ask a question of the contibutors to this site.

Seriously, how much sleep do you folks average on a weekly basis?

John R Corrigan said...

I don't follow your question, ajcap. What worries you?

ajcap said...

The very first paragraph in "Work vs. Work?" worries me. Even the title gives me heart palpitations.

I guess what worries me is the fact that a lot of writers also hold down a full time job to make ends meet. I'm sure writing gets easier the more you do it, the more you get published, but right now the idea of working a full-time day job and writing, revising, researching, submitting and everything else in my 'spare time' is daunting.
Actually, my question is probably too complex. 'How much sleep do you get' sounds trivial. But the other questions I want to ask,'how's your health? Do you have enough time left over for the family?' are way too personal. In a nutshell, how do you do it? I worry I'll never be that organized.

John corrigan said...


Thanks for your concern. Your questions speak to the life of a mid list author. My health is fine. I live and work at a boarding school. It's a 24/7 job. My priorities are 1) family, 2) work, 3) writing. I can usually put in 90 minutes to two hours a day writing. But it comes after work and being a dad. And I get about five to six hours of sleep a night.

Email me anytime for more info,

Vicki Delany said...

I appreciate your question, AJCAP. I tell beginning writers just to do what you can, your time will come. I was a single mom with three kids and a full time job when I started to write. I published three books while still working full time, after the kids grew up. Now the kids are out of the house and I've left the job and I write and promote full time. But, as I said, do what you can, write when you can, read lots, and your time will come. If you want to talk more, drop me a line.