One Bite at a Time




Friday, January 22, 2010

An Epiphany

I started the second draft on the work-in-progress last weekend. The first draft was allowed to ferment for a couple of months, then I read it over and made notes. This draft is to address those notes and get things reading like a unified book. Subsequent drafts will add refinements: dialog, description, polish.

Key to a successful second draft for me is to get the voice right. I suffer over voice. Plots aren’t my strength. I think I write good stories (story is not the same as plot), but it’s the voice that will keep the reader interested. This book needs a different voice than my PI stories, and a somewhat more subdued voice than my FBI-Chicago Outfit story, which had more of a Goodfellas vibe than this story can get away with. I was hacking away, tweaking, adding words, leaving words out, is it or isn’t it, and one of the voices in my head tapped me on the shoulder.

Listening to voices in your head is not prima facie evidence of insanity for a writer. (Being a writer is.) Fiction writers would never get anywhere without them, though some have listened to the voices in other peoples’ heads, which is frowned upon. This was not one of my characters’ voices; it was my internal editor, who guides all of us through writing decisions. There I was, typing, deleting, pacing, typing again, and my internal editor spoke up, clear as a bell.

“Why are you wasting your time on this bullshit? It’s not like anyone’s going to buy it.”

I was about to chastise him for his lack of confidence, but he beat me to the punch.

“How many stories of the PI series do you have in the drawer?’

“Four.”

“Plus the two you abandoned.”

“Okay, and thanks for reminding me about them.”

“Add the FBI-Outfit story no one wants because Italian mob stories are passé.”

“Okay, that’s six.”

“Seven.”

“All right, seven. Prick.”

“And you’re sweating bullets over this? It’s pretty clear you’re writing these for your own amusement. Have some fun with it. It’s not like it’ll damage your career if this one doesn’t sell.”

Being argumentative by nature, I wanted to have it out with him, but I couldn’t. When he’s right, he’s right. Pausing to think of some point to make in my own defense, it occurred to me this was a liberating experience. I know I’ll finish the book; I always do. I’ll finish it to my satisfaction this time, instead of worrying and wondering if it’s going to be good enough for someone else, which has accomplished dick in almost ten years of trying. Then I’ll go watch some hockey. Practice my trumpet. Get some exercise.

Hell, it has to work better than what I’ve been doing.

5 comments:

Chris said...

I had one of those inner-editor talks this week myself. Seems like when I let him blow off a little steam here and there he'll get back to keeping his mouth shut.

Mike Dennis said...

Next time your inner editor gives you any shit, just remind him that a professional is nothing more than an amateur who didn't quit.

Charlieopera said...

Mike ... you nailed it brother.

And that's all it is.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am finishing the second draft today. It reads like a memoir-I don't know if that can work. Lots of stuff happens, it has a beginning, middle and end but it seems like a memoir. Does that make any sense?

Dana King said...

Thanks to all for your comments. I was away for the weekend and didn't have access, or I would have replied sooner.

I've had a few days off, and it's time to become an amateur who doesn't give up again.

Thanks.