27. January 2007 · Comments Off on The Writers Life Waltz · Categories: Domestic, General, Literary Good Stuff, Memoir, Pajama Game, World

It’s been kind of a frenetic waltz this week… which is a round-about way of explaining why I didn’t write much original stuff this week. I just got obsessed with the new book; yeah, this one has taken hold, and when I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll, and nothing else seems quite real, or very important.

See, the first book… well, it was actually the second book, if you count the memoir which you really can’t because that was all basically little scraps of reminiscence stitched together… the first book was pretty easy to write. I sat down and wrote the first draft in a pell-mell rush, all over the space of about two months. The plot was pretty much already there, from start to finish; being based upon real people and real events has the effect of handing me the hardest part on a silver platter already. All I had to do was flesh them out a little, do a little guessing as to how they might have related to each other, come up with some amusing conversation, and a lot of description… hey presto, there you go. 120,000 well-polished and carefully chosen words. As a celebrated wit whose name I can’t remember at the moment was supposed to have said, “It’s easy, just open a vein, and let it flow.”

It actually was easy, because I was able to think about them for a long time, before I actually buckled down and did the writing…. For me, that’s what I need to do about half the time; to work out in my head what needs to happen, and how to go about making it happen. Sometimes I need to bounce ideas off other people: believe me, that kind of feedback is above price. It’s were the best ideas develop. And sometimes the magic is happening. I sit down at the computer and stuff just happens. I cope up for air, and there’s half a chapter written, and it’s pure gold, and it’s already four in the afternoon, and where the hell did the time go?
Anyway, the last book was something I lived with for a long time, before I actually buckled down and put it all on paper.

(It’s still in front of a publisher, by the way … and there are two more I will submit it to, in case of rejection. (Have to wait and do it sequentially, these people are anal about simultaneous submissions!) As my writer friend on the West Coast says, trying to find a publisher for a novel is kind of like trying to find adoptive parents for a minority Down ’s syndrome child: they are out there, but it takes a bit of looking.)

The new book; now, the one about the German colonies in the Texas Hill Country? I have built the scaffolding of plot and character for that from scratch… although there are some real people in it, some of who are very interesting people in their own right and who will take over, if I don’t keep a firm grip on them… (You… sit down, and behave, this story is not about you!)
What is really curious to me is how many of the fictional people, and the plot events just seemed to spring up from something I read in the course of doing research. A sentence here, a paragraph there, even just a single name… and a whole character is launched, obstreperous, amusing, and fully alive to me. There were incidents and events that I just kept circling back around towards, without knowing quite why: I just had the sense that they would have something important to do with the story. I had to set them aside like pieces for a mosaic, and figure out how to fit them all together later. There are also some characters who start out in the plot as a sort of extra, with one or two lines, but one way and another they turn out to be a little more important and before you know it, there is a fully functional and almost essential sub-plot… when all I had really needed was… you know, like two lines! It may take a lot longer to work through the first draft, then sit down and expand, edit and polish to a high shine. I’m guessing six months, at least, especially if I have to take (bleah) more paid outside work!

At this rate of proliferation, there just might be two books in this epic: the first one to cover the immigration, the building of the settlements, and the peace treaty with the Comanche, and the second to cover the Civil War and aftermath. There is no end of incident to cover, not to mention operatic levels of drama, murder, revenge, stolen children, madness, true love, sudden death… all this and civil war, too. And maybe a cattle stampede, just to vary the program. Just by way of a tease, I think I shall post a sample chapter…. (Suggestions and feedback are welcome, always. And any introductions to a literary agent will be extremely welcome, being that the big publishers are closed to me, unless I have one… and they are even harder to find!)

Later: Entry deleted and re-entered, in order to allow comments. Something about punctuation in the title often screws these things us. Don’t know why – Sgt. Mom)

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