Monthly Archives: March 2008

Walking a Literary Tightrope

GUYS AND DOGS is almost done. We’re talking less than fifty pages, most likely. Well, unless I get wordy. And I never get wordy. Oh no.  The problem is not writing the pages, though – it’s what to put on them.

I laid in bed the other night trying to think like my antagonist. He’s got to finish this thing out with some desperate act, but how desperate? Then there’s the whole, “Is it believable?” problem. Fiction allows for some suspension of disbelief, but not if you break character or, as I’m afraid of doing, going too far.

So I took the question to my writing buddies, who are very lovely, bright women but really couldn’t give me an answer, having not read the last several chapters of my story yet. Still, they had a feeling that where I was going was tearing it. Since I had the question to begin with, I obviously agree. Too bad, too, because I could have had the sucker finished by now.

I actually talked to my mother about this the other night on the phone, as well. Yes, the same woman who lovingly reminds me at least once a month that I’m not yet published. But she was amazingly open to discussing my little problem, and offered up many examples of good guys gone bad – or even semi creepy guys like my antagonist going postal. So could what I was thinking of doing actually happen in real life? Yes, we decided, and it has happened in real life. Which is actually quite sad, since what I was thinking he might do is very dark and terrible. Not that he was going to succeed, but…

Yes, I’m being cryptic, mostly because I think what I will end up with as a final solution will at least have elements of my original idea in it. I know what I want to happen right before I type THE END, but the trick is getting there in a believable fashion that won’t leave the reader saying, “Where the hell did that come from?”  Ahh, the joys of being a pantser and not a plotter.

By the way, quick recommendation (and not because she’s a wonderful friend, either): I have recently discovered Samantha Graves, whose terrific book SIGHT UNSEEN I read while at Mayo this month. I read it because I had come to know her through another friend, but was hooked from page one. And I am a notoriously hard sell in the first chapters of books. She also writes under the name C.J. Berry, so those books are my next stop. She’s a huge plotter, too, so I bet she’s not left at the end of a book saying, “So how do I end this?” Ah, I’ll have to forgive her for that.

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When Life Gets in the Way

Man, that’s the story of my life, isn’t it? And everyone I know. Life gets in the way of writing all the time. Either it’s the kids or the day job or whatnot. This month for me, it’s been the kids. But in a good way.

Son #1 participated in his first Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament last weekend, and boy did he have fun. Even shot the ball at the hoop. He’s not the most aggressive player, but that doesn’t matter. We got home Sunday night in time to unpack one suitcase and re-pack the next to head to Mayo Clinic the next day.

As an aside here, I actually love the drive to Rochester. We have 4-lane highway all the way and I get to catch up on my “reading” – that is if the library has the book I want on CD. This time I got the listen to a Rex Stout mystery (oh how I love Archie Goodwin) and finally was able to “read” the first of the OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon. A friend of mine has been at me to read this book for years, and I have to say I would recommend it. Even my kids loved it, though there were a couple times I had to hit the mute button. I’ve never been one for steamy sex scenes myself, so that wasn’t a big loss.

Anyway, so we went to Mayo and spent one exhausting day there, but the news is good and Son #3 (whose non-cancerous brain tumor we were following up on) is looking very good indeed, and can back off on visits to the clinic to every two years! Yay!

So on the drive home, I tried to think about my ending for GUYS AND DOGS. I really need to finish that sucker. But the mind wandering that is required to form plot (for me, anyway) brought me back to what happened three years ago that got me side tracked to begin with. Up to that point, I was pumping out a couple books a year. Since then, I struggled with MURDER IN F MINOR for nearly two years until I finally chucked it, and am struggling to get to the finish line on G&D. Why?

Well, three years ago, my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn’t realize it until we were talking to his neurologist this last week, but there’s definitely a connection. It took us a few months to get everything diagnosed and realize that it was most likely non-cancerous. I thought I handled it pretty well at the time and, overall, I still do. But what went to hell? My writing.

When I first started writing again after I gave it up in college, it was magazine articles about epilepsy and autism – all the things we were dealing with for Son #1. But when Son #3 started having a health concern, I shut down. I don’t know what that means, but maybe now that I’ve figured it out, I can finally get back in the saddle properly.

People have told me I should write a memoir about my eldest, but I resist. I have the first couple chapters written, actually, but I don’t think I can do justice to the subject. I’m too close. Perhaps one day I will be able to articulate what it’s like to live with a special needs child, but right now I just need to concentrate on doing it. And before I get a bunch of praise for being a strong person (and you know who you are those of you who tell me that), I must say I’m not. Honestly, the kid’s kinda fun to have around and, save a Special Olympics schedule that’s going to kill me, he’s not a lot to deal with. Oh, there is the adolescence thing, but that’s inevitable.

I did bring one more thing home from Mayo, by the way: a lovely case of bronchitis. Just one more thing to work in to the end of G&D, I guess.

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Guys and Dogs – Stall Warning

I think some time ago I confessed that a few friends and I were going to do a NaNo sprint in March. It’s March now, right? And no, I’m not sprinting. In fact, this blog is the closest thing to writing I’ve done all week.

The good news about this is that none of my friends are sprinting right now, either. Fininshing up projects and other whatnot has put off our sprint until April, for which I’m grateful since March is getting very busy very quickly with the kids. And I still have to finish G&D.

I managed to do a once-over on what I wrote during November NaNo, but face it – it’s like putting spackle over hurricane damage. It’s too little and too cheap when you really need to tear down the drywall and start over. (Why are my analogies all about home improvement now?) But I digress – as usual. The problem is the book still needs an ending. I know where I want to go, I just can’t seem to get there. My hero needs more scenes, and he’s not talking to me. The turkey’s been like that since the start. The antagonist yapped at me on and on, proud of what a slime-o he was. But the hero? He’s this modest, quiet guy. Which is wonderful for my heroine, but not so good for me. Right now he seems really weak, and he needs a lot of work. So the trick is to get the sucker done by April so I can write my new book.

So, in the interest of inspiring myself (and perhaps someone else out there), my placeholder for Travis:

Travis

There. Maybe now he’ll talk to me!

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I’ve Gotta Let It Go!

Ever say something stupid in public? Ever do something goofy, or fall on your butt on the ice with everyone watching? Me, too. In fact, I think I’m the Queen of Foot-in-Mouth. My yapper is always going off before my brain kicks in, generally in a lame attempt at humor. Mind you, it works more often than it doesn’t, but when it doesn’t work, it tends to crash to the ground like the proverbial lead balloon. (The Mythbusters proved you can make a lead balloon fly, by the way, but that’s another blog.)

So why is this such a big deal for me? Because I can’t let it go. I’m serious. I will lay in bed at night and torture myself reliving something incredibly stupid I said fourteen years ago. Yes, I have a specific incident in mind when I say that. There was also once at a wedding when the usher offered me his arm, and I took hold of it just opposite of the way a lady is supposed to. That was about sixteen years ago, but notice I can still recall the exact details. So stupid to fuss over, but I do it. In fact, I can think back to a Christmas party my parents had when I was about ten where I said something that was misconstrued by a guest. I was deathly embarrassed, so I drag that one up to beat myself with on occasion.

So am I the only one who will do this? Am I the only one who will be worrying about something, get distracted by something, then come back and say to myself, “Now what was I stressing about?” This has got to be the sign of some pathology. That’s right – I believe I am certifiably insane. I have to be to be a writer, right?

And why can’t I think about all the good things I’ve done. I saved a little girl from choking once. The Heimlich really works, by the way. I’m a fairly decent parent. I am good at my job, and can make people laugh. Yes, even typing that short list makes me cringe. I feel arrogant putting my strengths out there. My weaknesses, though – hell, we can dwell on those for days.

Is this being a woman, I wonder? Or is it being raised with a double-helping of the guilt complex? Or am I really clinically nuts? Call it what you will, but I do think it brings me one advantage in my chosen avocation (hopefully one day vocation) – I can torture the heck out of my characters. I do it to myself every day.

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Filed under Life? You Mean I Have To Have A Life?