Today I am going to do something different in my blog and recommend novels by people I know, and who have encouraged me. Every one is excellent.
If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, is it a good idea to be in a support group of fellow writers?
Some famous author once said that when a writer finishes writing their novel, a sort of depression sets in, not unlike the postpartum blues women suffer from right after having a baby. I can't relate to postpartum depression, nor can I say rightly that I get down after completing the last chapter of a novel. you see, I just finished the last chapter to my work, a 97,000-word "upmarket commercial" effort. And I did not get depressed. What I wanted to do was immediately start revising, so I did, looking specifically for two of my blind spots - passive voice and "echo," a term we writers use to describe using the same important word twice within close proximity of each other. That proximity blind spot can be annoying, a speed bump interfering with the reader's flow and proximity to a smooth narrative.
So I did that, weeding out my blind spots. What's next, you may ask?
When Stephen King finishes a novel, he sets it aside for a month or more and does something else, such as going for long walks or watching Boston Red Sox games, or reading what other writers are publishing.
My urge was to get back to working on my fourth Thomas O'Shea novel, since the first two are published (Signs of Struggle 2012 and A Far Gone Night 2014) and a third (The Face on the Other Side) is scheduled for an early 2017 release. So I plan to get after number four in the series, Of Mists and Murders.
I am a professional writer, so I have a compulsion to write, and I am itching to produce that next O'Shea novel, and it nags at me. But first, I am going to follow King's example and take some time off, starting with a long road trip with my bride, watching college football on TV (especially my Iowa Hawkeyes), and enjoying the changing of the seasons leading into my favorite month - October.
I will, however, keep a notebook in close proximity at all times, just in case I need to jot down a piece of dialogue that comes to mind, a vivid setting, or a conflict among my characters I had not thought of previously.
So, no more blogs for a while, but please look to hear from me and my writer's journey when the leaves turn to gold and orange and red.
In my previous offering, I wrote about what it's like, a little, as a full time writer. I also alluded to the fact that I was about to write the final chapter of my most recent novel, which would have been Chapter 35. Guess what? Well, I did finish the novel last night, but it was Chapter 37. Things happened that I didn't expect, including a blizzard and a puppy and a couple of scenes in a pub. If you're a writer, you know how that happens. If you're not, let me try to explain. People say, "How in the world can something can happen in a story you, the author, are writing, and how can you be surprised? Aren't you in charge? This doesn't make any sense!"
They're right and wrong. Yes, I am the writer and I am in charge, and responsible for, what I write. But no, I'm not surprised when something happens I didn't plan on happening. How does that happen? Well, if I'm writing regularly, and I'm talking about several pages or even a full chapter, then the story sort of writes itself, in a sense because the story is happening inside my head, and things can intrude - scenes, dialogue, action - that I didn't plan. I do not outline. I do not write the last chapter first. I don't even know how the novel is going to wind up when I start. In this case, I did know that there would be redemption at the end, but that was it. How was that going to happen? Don't ask me. I can't answer the question.
So, how does it feel to have finished? It's good and bad. It's good because I've accomplished what I set out to do. It's bad because it's over, the relationships I have with the characters and the story. What's next? I'll set it aside for a while, several weeks maybe (Stephen King sets his aside for three months), but I'll still be thinking what I'm going to do to make it better. I'll get ideas, I'll jot notes, I'll answer questions that should have been answered in the book (why does that guy bite people instead of say hello?) and so forth.
In the meantime, I am going back to Of Mists And Murders, #4 in the Thomas O'Shea series set in fictitious Rockbluff, Iowa, which is what I was working on when the idea for this other novel shoved its way into my schedule. In other words, when I finish writing something, I write something else. Grand, isn't it?
John Irving once wrote that he spent half his life revising. I can relate, with multiple revisions made on my first novel, Signs of Struggle, before I turned it loose. SOS is the first of a series of mystery novels featuring Thomas O'Shea. Stephen King said the scariest part about writing is just before you write the first word. And Elmore Leonard said that if it sounded like writing, he'd revise. Think about that one for a while and it actually does make sense.
I am well into the sequel to SOS, working title, A Far Gone Night. But this is after two false starts where I wrote two chapters and twice completely deleted both chapters. They were boring ME! Yikes!
But now I'm on my way to where I need to be, so you Thomas O'Shea fans who want to know more about him and who want to again enjoy Lunatic Mooning, Bunza Steele, and Liv Olson, please be patient. I will keep you posted.
Writing is hard, but proofreading is harder. That's what I've been doing the last couple of days, going through my novel, Signs of Struggle, and ferreting out every little mistake, smoothing out a few rough patches, and doing a tad bit of rewriting (I gave one very minor character two names - not smart). It's not much fun, but it's another part of having a novel published that includes the concept of work. Just a different kind. I think of Gene Fowler's quote that writing is easy, all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper (or blank screen) until the drops of blood form on your forehead. And that's hard work because Larry Niven, the sci-fi author of The Cold Place reminds us that it's a cardinal sin to bore the reader. Not much pressure there. Or Leonard Elmore's simple advice on how to write well: all you have to do is get rid of the boring parts.
And tomorrow is the first day of classes at Newberry College, and I have a small, talented group of young writers in my Advanced Fiction class. I'm wondering if I should just give them those three quotes above and turn them loose. Probably not. I'm using Stephen King's On Writing as a guide for them, but not a textbook. No quizzes. Just writing about setting, conflict, dialogue and so on. I can't wait.