Saturday, April 24, 2010

Being a bulldog can be a good thing

I'm currently reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  Like all his fans I'm sure, I find his use of language to be rich and beautifully turned.  Another of my favorite authors is Lee Child.  Because Mr. Child writes thrillers, his style is completely different from Mr. Conroy's, but his own prose creates the tone for his work with just as much impact.

If these and others simply sit down and the words flow fully polished onto the page, then I am certainly lost as a writer.  When I started Snowstorm, I never would have done it, as they say, I'd known then what I know now.  Instead, I blissfully trusted in a decent vocabulary and a story I wanted to tell.  I think I was slogging through my third rewrite when it finally dawned on me that every sentence mattered.  I thought seriously about "accidentally" erasing the whole manuscript. I mean, who could blame me if I didn't start over, right?  My husband would understand if I never finished, after countless hours pounding a keyboard while a dozen other things went undone.  Wouldn't he?  No.  He wouldn't. 

So, I used my left hand to pry my right away from the "delete" button, sat back, and eyed the screen with more than a little malice.  Then it got worse.  What if, I thought with horror, what if every word mattered?  This isn't poetry, after all.  Even as I had the thought, I remembered noticing the metaphors, similes, imagery, alliteration, and all the other techniques used so gracefully in novels I'd read.  Lee Child used in one of his books: "as cool as the other side of the pillow," and conjured up the feeling perfect for that point in the story.  As I read South of Broad, I stop occasionally to jot down things like the "Age of Alas" and "in the country of dreams."  Poetry in its way.

Alone in front of the computer keyboard, I folded my arms over my chest and drew on my inner bulldog.  I bet I even growled a little, but I finally got over it.  Finally I understood this would be hard work - a job - a craft.  I thought I'd already figured that out, but somehow I didn't believe it.

Now, as I contemplate Snowstorm being published next year, I know the day if quickly approaching when my editor at Echelon Press is going to call about " a few changes."  This time, though, I almost welcome the process, because every word I improve will make the book better, and that's what's important to me.  I even think I can do it without chewing any furniture.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seize the Day!

I've just learned of the death of a fellow instructor at my college.  He was a man who I believe cared about his students and took his work seriously.  A nice man, whom I only knew slightly.  I know, though, that he had some close friends on the staff and that he had a wife and children he loved.  They will, no doubt, mourn him more than I can imagine.

For me, however, his death has reminded me once again of the fragility of life.  I will remember Tony Principe with fondness for his playful personality and friendly attitude toward all of us, but more than that I will remember him for renewing my sense that I must profit from every day.  Most of us fall easily into routines that allow us to take our lives for granted, but the loss of a friend or a life-threatening illness usually serves to remind us that we don't have forever here.

When I started to write my novel, I questioned whether I had waited too late to begin such a venture, and I'm so glad I didn't listen to that little voice that often tells me "you can't."  I have since been able to complete the book and find a publisher.  I look forward to the release of SNOWSTORM, but I am, today, simply grateful for the chance I've had to write it. It is an accomplishment for me.  I have learned that "I can" do many things I never imagined I could.

I know it's an old sentiment, expressed countless times. I just think there's a reason that so many poets and philosophers tell us in so many ways to "carpe diem" or "gather ye rosebuds while you may."   We just forget how important it is to "live like you were dying." Poetic words aside, here's one more reminder - one more excuse to do something today that matters to you.  I'm on my way to tell someone I love him, then I'm going to write, write, write!