Shelter In Place

How could it have been a month since rest entry? After all, we in Minnesota are under a shelter in place order … which has almost no impact on the daily life of a writer. Ponder and tap away at the computer in splendid isolation? Check. Long walks turning over plot ideas and character flaws? Check. (Except, of course, staying at least six feet away from the other walkers and runners—and there are a lot of them. In Minnesota, it’s a triple whammy. Until the last couple of days, weather turned warm AND so many people are working from home or out of school AND many of those people have been sheltering just long enough to be stir-crazy.)

I’ve been working on continuing rewrite of the third novel, Fail Deadly. I have an excellent editor who has suggested a fairly major change, and a knowledgeable New York advisor said the first line of the story has to be much better or no agent will look beyond it.  And novel four, Fatal Cure, has been dead stopped at a plot problem. (I think I’ve solved that one.)

And then for the first week or two of the shelter order, there was the challenge for those of us over fifty to master the technology of meeting on line.  Now, that’s done. Last week, I hit four services in one day: FaceTime with family, Vidyo for a doctor appointment, Zoom for a workout session from gym, Skype for a critique group.

It will be interesting to see how the world of communication changes when we come out of the Covid19 pandemic: all of my critique groups now meet on Zoom … attendance has risen; after all, members have more time on their hands, and the barriers of travel to the meeting are non-existent.

So much for excuses. Back to the writing …

2 thoughts on “Shelter In Place

  1. Hadn’t thought of it John. But you’re right. My daily routine hasn’t changed that much any more than ours since shelter in place. The main difference is I sequester myself at home rather than at coffee shops and libraries.

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The Insecurity Tell

Excerpt from a book I’m reviewing (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent from social media onslaught):

“I need a drink,” Irene thought to herself. She longed for something to dull the events of the night. “But after Sandra.” She had to ensure her prized heir was alright.

Irene needs a drink after the bad things she’s done. At this point in the story, the reader knows that Sandra is Irene’s young daughter, and Irene did these bad things to protect Sandra. So the line “But after Sandra” says all the reader needs to know. Motherlove comes before the drink.

Then comes the dread Insecurity Tell.

The Tell sticks out like a sore thumb to me because I’ve done it so often myself. I think most writers do it when they’re starting out—at least, I’ve seen it a lot in critique groups.

Let’s chew on the psychology.

One reason for the Tell is the writer is insecure, so goes belt-and-suspenders: Just in case I didn’t make it clear, let me just tell reader what I hoped they’d get out of my prose.

The other reason is, I think, the need for control. The writer has not yet integrated the idea that the words on the page are a passageway from the writer’s mind to the reader’s mind. The scent of a spring breeze is different for each person. Unless the writer wants to digress for a paragraph on the subject of organic esters, he has to leave the exact combination of air-wafted odors to the mind of the reader. Obvious, right?

Not so obvious with complex emotions, though. I suspect the implied motherlove in the quote above is different to each reader, too, for the same reason as the spring breeze: experience.

When I was first writing, I often wanted to exercise ironclad control over the passageway between me and the reader. Trouble is, the Insecurity Tell is mildly insulting. says, “I knew that!” It’s not a big issue, but it is a speed bump in the stream of attention the reader gives the prose. The greater problem: it adds unnecessary words.

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