Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Fun Part

It's been a month since I completed what will be my next book, _A Case of You_. It will be out a year from now, which is like having to wait an extra six months to get your Christmas presents, but heck, with five books behind me, I am beginning to know how the publishing industry works.

Yesterday I looked at the ms (I'm just trying to show I recently learned that this is how you abbreviate manuscript, so I look smarter than Charles.) for the first time in nearly a month. As I expected all sorts of weaknesses had begun to stick up the little heads from the smooth lawn of my prose. (How's that? Not bad, eh?)

At this point, with countless hours already in the book, and having sent my publisher what was the cleanest copy I could produce, you might think I would be despairing over how much I'd missed. Actually, I'm just the opposite. In past mss (that's plural!), what faced me after a month or two of dwelling in the bottom of a drawer (well, actually a computer folder) was a virtual morass of things that needed to be fixed.

I know it's that way with every author. Many, though, don't like to go over and over their work. It gets to the point where they just want to walk away and get on to something else (usually the next book). Sometimes they run away...screaming.

Now, I'm not saying I never feel that way. There is a point along the way where going through the ms yet again is a bit of a drag, but I can get over that.

It's because my primary training is as a musician.

"What the hell does that have to do with it?" you might well ask. Here's what: I'm used to going over and over and over things until I can play them perfectly. Nothing else will do, really. You can't stand up in front of an audience and explain why you just made all those errors (or even a few). They really don't care -- other than you made them.

A teacher I studied with told me I should never perform a piece until I can play it perfectly ten times in a row. Does anyone know how difficult that is to achieve? (Charles probably does. No, wait. He plays sax.)

I have a confession to make: I've never actually been able to do this outside of maybe "Mary had a Little Lamb" or "Blame it on the Bossa Nova".

But that doesn't mean I don't keep trying. The other thing is, I enjoy this process of going over and over things, seeing those incremental improvements, knowing that it will pay off in the end, whether it's a piece of music or my next Magnum Opus. Besides, I just enjoy fooling around with my prose as much as I like writing it in the first place -- maybe more.

What started off this whole thing is that I appeared as one of the guest authors at a writing class a friend of mine runs and I decided to read some of the new book. It was a good idea, and a bad idea. Good because I actually got a bit of response on what I'd been focussing my life on for the past three months, and bad because I didn't look at the section before I got up to read.

I have a very bad habit which I haven't been able to break as of yet: I edit while I read aloud. I mean how can I let a bad phrase or a wrong word loose on an unsuspecting public? There were plenty of them in the two pages. I exaggerate. There were three, but they bugged the hell out of me. How could I not have seen them a month ago? What WAS I thinking? They had to be corrected ON THE SPOT. Nothing else would do.

It doesn't make for the smoothest of readings.

Anyway, energized by the positive response I got from the class, I went home and immediately dug into the ms again. I also have the benefit of an experienced and talented editor friend who is looking at the book for me and who has made all kinds of wonderful (and embarrassing) catches of my slightly defective prose, along with some excellent structural suggestions.

The book will be the better for all this work. Anyone of our mighty crew of writers on the blog will tell you exactly the same thing. The devil is certainly in the details when you're a writer.

And I'll certainly keep trying to be perfect.

An aside: the pages from the book launch for _When Hell Freezes Over_ has finally been put up on my website. Why is this so special? Isn't it just like looking at someone's vacation photos? Well, maybe, but the photos are pretty cool. You see, I put together a band to play some of the tunes mentioned in the book and I also played. It was a lot of fun and I think it sounded pretty damn good. I had some great backing musicians. Check out the photos: http://www.rickblechta.com/Pages/WHFO.Launch.html.

Special note: Thanks to Charles Benoit for letting me rag on him a bit. I don't know what came over me...actually, yes, I do.

7 comments:

alex said...

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alex said...

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Rick Blechta said...

Alex,

I don't really understand the underlying motivation of this piece. You're also relying on a stereotypical representation of the 'everyman' in our current society. Obviously, this person is drug-addled, but you don't make it clear how this is effecting his/her life. This is important to bring out if the reader is to understand the character in relationship to society and its norms.

I do, however, really think you're on the right track with your drawing of the characters Caroline and Van Kamp. Are the Widow Stimson and Auchmuty one and the same? I find them too similar to differentiate if they're not. Perhaps try making one or the other a transvestite. This could definitely help. Also, lose the chairman. This sort of thing has been done to death recently.

alex said...

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Charles benoit said...

Alex, Alex, Alex...
Here we go with the same old attacks on the widow Stimson. Her role in the "revolution" has been blown way out of proportion, and as far as the alleged romances goes, I think we all agree that the "young saplings" were about as exciting as Aucmuty on a rant. Is this the same Alex that pushed the envelope with his free form approach to narrative a'la Hunter S. Thompson? Really, sir, we expected so much more from you - and they say I'm predictable?

alex said...

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Anonymous said...

Someone offer Alex a multi-part book contract!!