Category Archives: Editing
I have a pretty fair selection of writing books, some that are good, some that are bad and many that are ‘meh’. I like to have one on the go most of the time, it’s a good motivator and you never know what new tips or ideas will strike your fancy.
In one writing book I was reading, it mentioned another writing book, described something like, old, but still extremely useful. Well, I enjoy things that are old but extremely useful, so I ordered it and guess what, it’s old, but extremely useful!
The book is Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by the crime and mystery writer Lawrence Block, originally published in 1981 or so, but still in print. I must declare here that I have never actually read any of Lawrence Block’s books, (I know, I know) but he’s got a whole whack of them under his belt.
There’s a few things I really enjoyed about Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. The first was the tone of the book, funny and full of self-deprecating humour that writers will understand all too well. The other was that for every point or theory or whatever he brings up, he gives an example from his own work or experience and I am a girl who loves a frigging example. Show, don’t tell, right? I have no problem with the odd book about writing and creativity as a spiritual practice full of lofty ideals and vague, ill-defined aspirations, but this book is not that book. This book is about the day to day grind of the writer and the many foibles and pitfalls said writer will undoubtedly stumble into. If you have read a lot of books about writing, taken a bunch of courses and been at it for years, this book will probably not blow your mind. However, it will take a bunch of things you have already learned at some point and lay them out in a funny and easy to digest manner. It will remind you of things that it’s extremely easy to forget and nudge you to take action without making you feel guilty about all the ways in which you suck as a writer. I think all writers should own this book and reread it every few years to have a little chuckle at themselves and the very stupid profession they have chosen to pursue.
Lawrence Block has managed to pile a bunch of useful advice, information and practices for writers to consider without being preachy. At no point do you feel that he is suggesting that his advice is the only advice, or even that it is the best advice, but as he walks you through what has worked and not worked over a long career, you can see more clearly what works and doesn’t work for you. So if your writing life could use a little kick in the pants and you could use a gentle reminder of what the hell you are trying to do and why, pick up Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. We may act alone as writers, but we’re all in this together.
The great agent search of 2015 continues. This has me occupied by stupendously fascinating things like query letters, cover letters, editing, formatting and the most gloriously horrible, the synopsis. Necessary? Yes. A true joy and epic pleasure to craft? Not really.
In the midst of all this awesomeness, I also write for two newsletters. That gives me some nonfiction to work on, something that takes a different mindset to craft and edit, something short and with a much quicker payoff than the illustrious novel. I like writing them, even though sometimes it takes me a while to get started. Once I get in the zone, I enjoy it. I like the words, the tone, the relative speed with which these articles are written, edited and sent off into the world. I also get paid, always a happy circumstance. I should be pretty happy with all of this writing excitement going on in my life. It’s what I’ve been working toward for a very long time – the life of an actual writer and I’m pretty close to having that.
There’s a whiteboard on the wall in my office. I list the steps I’m currently taking to get my novel published and I adjust it as I move along, adding things, erasing them, modifying them, it helps keep me organized. One of the things on that list is ‘next writing project’. It’s the last thing, all tucked away on the bottom, but increasingly in my brain it’s the first thing. Next writing project isn’t all that specific, it could be a newsletter, an article, or one of the million short stories I have that I should really polish and send out. That’s not what it means though, it’s code for ‘start new novel’.
I worked on the last one for five years and it’s done and being submitted for the moment. You would think I would be happy, relieved, overjoyed to have that off of my plate for a while and for about five seconds I really, truly was. I made the decision to specifically not start another novel right away so that I could focus on getting the last one published. I promised myself I would wait until I had all the pieces of my proposal complete at least, the query, the cover letter, the synopsis, my first fifty pages, the manuscript and now I’m pretty much there, close, but not quite.
I’m getting twitchy. I miss my novel. My mind starts to wander and I think about it, the characters, the setting, the days, whole days, not eating, barely aware of the world around me when I was writing it, living it, breathing it, eating it, sleeping it, writing it, crafting it, loving it. It was terrible. For five years I accomplished absolutely nothing. I didn’t clean, was a terrible wife, friend, daughter, person, I was lost in the novel, lost to it and I loved every second of it.
My days are numbered. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. I’m like a junky and I can’t wait to slip back into a reality of my own creation, a bubble around my desk, the zombie-like daily existence of the consumed writer working on a novel. There’s probably a name for this psychological condition, and that’s okay, I have it, I love it and I want it. Don’t cure me. Soon, I keep telling myself, looking at the whiteboard, my gaze always drawn to the last item on the list, soon.