Friday, December 27, 2019

Farewell to 2019

It's the end of another year. This time it's also the end of a decade.
I would like to think that I'm not only older but much wiser. But I keep forgetting the lessons I thought I had learned.

This year I forgot the lesson I should have learned about saying "yes". I have this superstition about not answering the door when opportunity knocks. I'm always afraid that I will miss a chance to do something that would be life-changing. As superstitions go, this one isn't irrational. For example, I found a publisher for my Lizzie Stuart mystery series because I said "yes" when I was invited to take part in a mystery/detective fiction conference in New York City -- and then "yes" (or, at least, a hesitant "okay") when I was asked to lead a tour group on a walking tour of Harlem (a place that this Virginian had never been). A friend who knew Harlem came along. . . and, as it happened, a criminal justice professor from the Southwest was in New York, came to the conference, and joined the walking tour. While we were engaging in shop talk, we both admitted that we were would-be mystery writers. It was he who later passed on a tip about the crime fiction imprint that a Southern publisher was launching. So, you see, if I had said "no" my mystery series might never have been published. That's why I am superstitious about not saying "yes." But this year I should have thought more about what I could get done.

That brings me to that other lesson. We all know that one -- assuming that life will go along as one planned with calendar in hand. That there will be no snow, no household emergency, no two-week cold, no . . . this month, it was Harry, my cat. A bacterial infection and not eating. One weekend when we make an emergency trip to a vet clinic, the following Monday when I had to take him to his own vet because he wasn't eating. He got a shot and a couple of days later was eating again, but had a cold. Now the cold seems to be over. But I'm stopping to play when he wants to because I relieved that he's healthy again. Life happens and writing schedules fall by the wayside.

The third lesson is about staying organized while juggling multiple balls in the air. Being organized ensures that you don't waste valuable time trying to find something -- an article, a book, a website -- that is crucial to the project. Once, for a week or two this year, I was on the verge of being organized. Then I had to get to work on something that was more urgent. But what I should have learned is that I need to make the time to be organized. I have gone beyond the point of knowing what is in my stacks of papers. Before 2020 begins, I need to go through those piles and make sense of them.

But there was one lesson that I'm glad I didn't learn. I have been trying to be more productive by forcing myself to plow ahead even when I'm not happy with what I'm writing. This year, I missed a real deadline for a nonfiction book and deadline or two I had self-imposed while my agent waited for the thriller I'm writing. But all of my false starts have produced results. I've been digging deeper than I intended for the nonfiction book and made some fascinating discoveries. With the thriller, a few days ago I had an idea that solved my POV problem. Instead of a book written from the points of view of four characters, I am now down to two. These are the two characters who have the strongest voices and the clearest views of the events in the book.

 So I'm going into 2020 and the new decade, older and slightly wiser.

Happy New Year to my Type M mates and to all of you who join us here!


Anna said...

Frankie, looking forward to your reduction of four POV characters to two. The novel that is waiting impatiently in line behind my narrative nonfiction WIP has had four POV characters from its conception, even though I know that is too ambitious for a novice fiction writer. From four to two sounds impressive! Maybe I can do it after all.

Tanya said...

So glad to hear that your beautiful Harry is doing better. I enjoy all your posts throughout the year.

Related to the topic of time management and organization, I was curious if any of you know anyone who has taken one or more of the Curtis Brown online writing courses. I'm a full-time science/medical editor who has amassed a bunch of notes for a mystery. Because it's hard for me to make time for my own writing after a day of editing other people's work, I was thinking that the deadlines imposed by one of their short courses might be a structure that would push me to finally get at least a rough plot outline and a chapter or two done. If you have any opinions on this, I'd love to hear them.

Wishing a Happy New Year to the whole Type M crew!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


It took me a long time to figure out how to get it down to two POV characters. I finally got it down to two because I figured out how to cover all the scenes that I needed to include with those characters. They are also the two characters I know best.

Good luck with getting to two!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thank you, Tanya. I'm glad Harry is well, too. He's eating again and dashing about.
I don't know anything about the Curtis Brown online courses, but I just looked at the website. It looks like the usefulness would be that aside from what you might learn, you would have structure. But you might look for reviews by people who taken the courses.