An Epiphany

This morning, I attended a brunch to honor Carl Brookins, a founder of the critique group Crème de la Crime and author of several crime novels and series. Crème de la Crime was born from a writing course at The Loft, the organization which is to the Twin Cities writing community what infrastructure is to travel. Carl has decided to become emeritus after a 20-year-plus run of providing coffee, popcorn, and a lovely home to the group.The gathering of current and former members was an occasion for reminiscence, celebration, and conversation.  How lucky I am to live in the Twin Cities and to have such resources as these.

So there I was, enjoying breakfast with friends, when the epiphany hit.

See, I have always been a science-based sort of guy.  No mysterious suprafactual forces in my universe.  But … something happened as I was bathing in the flow of conversation this morning. Maybe sitting in the aura of massive writerly power (there were seventeen of us) threw a switch somewhere in the occipital or parietal lobes and made me see the truth I have been missing.

I have been struggling with the design of my fourth Mayfield-Napolitani novel.  So far, it has the problems I was tasked to change in the other novels:  a complex plot (gene therapy gone bad) and too many characters.  In writing Mayfield-Napolitani #1, Fatal Score, I was a proud seat-of-the-pantser.  Also a not so proud and often frustrated rewriter (I published rewrite #14).  This time, I knew I needed to outline.  As a result, I have been writing out the procession of people and events, getting tangled, tripping, starting over.  

Maybe it was always obvious, just not to me, but the outline I need is about what happens; how the story is finally presented is another matter entirely.  Nobody told me that directly this afternoon; it appeared while I was contemplating the last bits of scrambled egg.  I guess there are things we do not understand about the brain.  

The brunch buffet was tasty, too.

Writing Time

I am beta testing a new online writing class produced by a fellow member of Minneapolis Writers Guild. She’s a great writer, young and therefore tech-savvy. So the course ought to be good. (See Click Clack Writing for more. The developers say the course will be out early next year,)

The second lesson talks about writing space (I have a comfortably messy one) and time. Specifically, being purposeful about setting aside a time to write.

Ulp.  I was going to start drafting the fourth novel in May.  Today, I have bupkis.

You’re retired, right?

No, goddammit, I’m a writer now. My next career.

But you have plenty of time to write, no?  Because you’re,  uhh, re… a writer.

Umm. Theoretically, yes. Practically, not so much.

The last six months has been mostly devoted to publishing my first book, Fatal Score. That’s part of writing, isn’t it?  So the investment of maybe 500 hours is justifiable … particularly since I have a series.  Next book will be 200 hours.

Then there are the critique groups.  When we moved back to the Twin Cities, I was anxious to find a writing group. Sometimes anxiety over-produces. I’m in three now.  600 hours per year for meetings and reading submissions.  The critiques are great, and lead to a couple hundred hours a year of rewrite.

This year, that’s a 2/3-time job before the first new word goes on paper.

You said you’re a writer. You claimed it as your next ‘career’. Careers are by definition full time. So, what about the other 1/3?

Well, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

November will see the launch of Fatal Score.  By February, I’ll be finished editing the audio version.  Some new words of the next draft will surely leak out before then, because the writing reservoir is full to overflowing.

But yes, I do need a goal.

On to lesson three of the new class.