Thursday, April 05, 2018


This coming weekend I will learn if my 2017 novel, The Return of the Raven Mocker, has won this year’s Oklahoma Book Award. I was notified a month or so ago that Raven Mocker is one of the finalists in the fiction category. This is the eighth of the ten Alafair Tucker mysteries to be a finalist for the award. As of this moment, none of the eight have won. The truth is, though, that whether I finally win or not, I will not be disappointed. It's pretty good news to be a finalist for the award eight times for eight different books, and I am most happy about it. The entire finalist list is sent to every library in Oklahoma and it’s hard to top that kind of publicity.

Now that I think about it, I have to admit that I don't readily feel disappointment when something doesn't pan out, nor am I particularly elated by success. I've had a lot of both success and failures, and when the dust settles, nothing much is changed and I am still me. Another author told me once that she shopped a novel around for eight years, and she grew so calloused by rejection that when her agent did sell it, she felt nothing. I can easily be seduced by praise, though, and I wouldn't say no to an award of any ilk. Something has to keep you going in this business, because the likelihood is that it won't be riches.

A wall full of finalist consolation prizes.
I have just begun the preliminary research and planning stages for the next novel in my series. and soon I'll be in that apply-glue-to-rear-end-and-sit-down-in-front-of-computer-whether-you-like-it-or-not stage. Wringing out the first draft.

Or trying to. I find my mind wandering at the most inconvenient times, and considering that I have a tendency to give in to random thought as it is, I'm not having any luck completing the tasks I should.

For instance, rather than work on the manuscript I've just spent the last fifteen minutes thinking of names for a rock band. I discovered several books ago that if I’m going to be able to power through the pain of a first draft, I have to set myself a rigid writing schedule. This is difficult for me, since I’m not by nature a disciplined person. I don’t enjoy forcing myself to put words on the page, whether I’m feeling inspired at that moment or not. I’m always anxious and unhappy for much of a first draft. Why, I ask myself, isn’t this better? It seemed like such a good idea when it was still in my head.

Somerset Maugham follows a similar rule about sitting down to write whether you’re in the mood or not. An interviewer once asked him if he kept a strict writing schedule or if he simply waited for the Muse to strike him before he sat down to compose. He replied, "Oh, I wait for the Muse to strike. Fortunately she strikes every morning at precisely nine o'clock."

My piece of advice? The number one thing that works for me is just to sit down and do it and quit trying to figure out how to do it. Quit fooling around, Donis. The dishes will wait.

p.s. I looked up the Somerset Maugham in an attempt to get the above quote right, and I must say that Maugham is a fountainhead of quotable wisdom. Here are a couple that particularly spoke to me:

"The great American novel has not only already been written, it has already been rejected."
"There are three rules for writing a novel Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
"You can do anything in this world if you are prepared to take the consequences."
And this, which seems especially apt right about now: "My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror."


Sybil Johnson said...

Good luck! I can be a fairly disciplined person except when it comes to writing. Then everything goes out the window. I do force myself to sit down and work on things even when I want to play. Sometimes not wanting to work on a particular scene tells me that there's something seriously wrong with it. That's when I take a broader look and figure out what that is.

Donis Casey said...

Sybil, I'm afraid I subscribe to that wonderful Italian philosophy of the sweetness of doing nothing.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

I enjoyed your post 'to the hilt' as always, Donis. Many thanks.

Sybil Johnson said...

That's what I would like to do now, Donis. Absolutely nothing. But I have edits due soon. Sigh.