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.

Control Issues in Writing

Control issues.  We all have them. You know I have them from my last post about Amazon defacing my cover.  Most are minor, but big ones cause lost friendships, divorces, misery. Let’s not even talk about current politics.

Control issues invade writing as they do life. And like life’s smaller control issues, we often don’t recognize them.

A Fatal Score early reviewer sent me a note:  “On page one, you wrote of Joe Mayfield: ‘He set down his fork and tried for an offhand smile, which he knew came off closer to a rictus.’ You should lose ‘rictus’. Not enough people know it, and it’s too early in the story to send the reader to the dictionary. Maybe use ‘grimace’.”

But … I was going for rictus.  Knew exactly the expression I wanted. Wanted reader to see the stasis, the fixed nature of the attempted polite grin.  Grimace is too mobile.  I wanted rictus!  Besides, it’s my book!

The reviewer went on, “I think it’s because of its place on the first page. You want to get them pulled in and moving and not stop to try to figure out a word.”

Which led me to reflect on a great session on mystery writing by Steve Ulfelder at the Cape Cod Writers Conference five years ago.  It was at a point in my writing when much about technique was new, and Steve gave me an Aha! moment.  He was helping another writer work fix an excruciatingly detailed description. “At best, your writing tells the reader 60-70% of the story,” he said. “The reader’s life experience, perception, and belief fills in the rest.  In that sense, the reader is your partner. That partnership takes a story from OK to Must Read.”

Aha, indeed.

Next edition will use ‘grimace.’