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Call me Niles

I wrote this last week, the day my computer blew up, and never posted it. (Fortunately, my m.s. was on the backup drive). Most of it still holds true, though the Bob Mayer blog is no longer his latest. You should check out his blog, if you’re an aspiring author. He’s got some great insights into conflict)

My kids can’t be called children anymore. But, sometimes–big, honkin’, happy smile–sometimes, they need their Mom even if they’re adults, and live out of home, and have credit cards, and diplomas and all that other stuff that a person accumulates during their twenties.

Yesterday, my eldest had day surgery. I got to be the person who drove her to the hospital, and waited for her to come out of recovery, and generally got a chance to act like her Mom again. I liked it. Even if it meant I didn’t get many words on the page. I got to sit there–very patently The Mom–and later I got to claim my kid, and do things that mothers do, like brush her hair away from her face, and tuck her in with that don’t-get-cold quilt I made for her when she left for university.

I did a lot of thinking while I waited for her to come out of surgery. Some of it was hugely productive–I cleaned up a plot hole. And some of it was less Hedi-oriented, because really, thinking that hard hurts my head. So, to balance things out, I alternated great thoughts with activities. Like playing with my phone. Tweeting (wish I hadn’t). And I thinking about Bob Mayer’s latest blog where, among other things, he talked about how we writers are prone to comparing our productivity against another writer‘s output.

Here’s my thoughts on that: Don’t fall into that trap.

Recently, I had to ask a dear friend to stop mentioning her daily totals because it was making me nervous. Every time I heard her numbers, I inwardly groaned. Why can’t I write as fast as her? Maybe I should change the way I go about writing? Less thinking, more pounding the keys?

Dumb, dumb, dumb. 

Here’s the deal. Even if I tried to write like my friend, I couldn’t. Writing is a form of art. Each of us hits the canvas with a different grip on the palette knife. I’ll never write like her, because, plain and simple, I write like me.

Besides, there is no right way of going about it. 

You’re still doubting me, aren’t you? There has to be some key, because you’ve ground to a halt with your novel, and it’s freakin killing you. Surely, there’s got to be a secret to writing books.


Well, it might be fairer to say–if there is, I haven’t found it. Agreed, I’m a novice writer and can’t be considered an authority. But here’s what I’ve noticed–I don’t seem capable of opening up a new word doc, and plowing ahead, day after day, moving stolidly toward that final period, without frequent pauses for wig-outs, or journeys backwards to fix something I screwed up.

It’s just not that easy to write a book.

Here’s a truth: Leigh Evans’ personal daily word count expectations are on the low side. Description comes painfully to her. Dialogue less so. Plus, she’s one of those writers who likes to hover over over a scene until it feels true to her, and that really swallows up big chunks of time. Also, Leigh’s a pantster, which means the story unfolds in her mind as she writes. Sometimes, that freestyle version of plotting means Leigh Evans needs to go backwards to tweak something. Other times, it means she’s gobsmacked by where the story took her, and has to do painful things like cut out a character, or make a nice guy a little less so. 

And sometimes–at least once in each book–Leigh Evans will make a big mistake, which will inevitably lead her into a period of dithering angst. Those are not good times for anyone around her, because Leigh whinges a lot (poor husband, poor children, poor Deidre, Julie, Angela, and Susie, and last, but not least poor Gibby).  Until Leigh Evans figures out exactly where she went wrong, Leigh Evans will as upbeat as death row inmate. Yup, fun times.

You know, thinking about it, Gibby’s life ain’t all bad. Watching me write would be like watching Niles iron his pants.

So, here’s my advice, for what it’s worth. Don’t compare yourself. Just write your freakin’ book.

Be prepared for the odd flame-out.

It’s all part of it.

I won’t be blogging in December. I’m going on a three week Bother-Me-And-Die writing retreat, because Hedi, book 2, draft one, has got to get done.

Yup. Leigh Evans needs to do that.

One Comment

  • B
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I just absolutely love you! Thank you for putting a huge smile on my face today after what has been a rather shiteous day.


    You make me ache to pick up the pen (and often actually pick it up) every time I read your blog!

    Hope your daughter’s recovering nicely!

    Can’t wait to hear how you’re getting on after your fabulous writer’s retreat!


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