Monday, May 16, 2011

Days, Daze, and Details

I've never really thought of writing as work, but sometimes the fun takes a lot more effort than I'd prefer. So I'm writing a book. Not exactly "Stop the Presses!" news, since I've already written sixteen or seventeen others. But it seems I've never had to put quite so much effort into one book before. Totally my own fault, of course.

I began The Peripheral Son, book #14 of the Dick Hardesty Mystery series and my current "work in progress" back on June 10, 2010--the longest it has ever taken me to write a book. Lots of reasons for the delay, of course; other projects/distractions/delays jumping in; my month in Europe and the time involved in the planning thereof; writing blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; keeping up with Facebook and Twitter and several other groups to which I belong, etc. All are absolutely necessary to keep my name out there and forestall the dreaded "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome.

So as a result of the frequent interruptions, I--never the most organized of all writers--I found myself sometimes forgetting what I'd already written, or where in the story some incident fell.

It's vital that a book flow smoothly; each thing must logically follow the other just as Tuesday follows Monday and July follows June. Because the workings of my mind precludes even the possibility of considering making and following any kind of outline, I just climb onto my little inner-tube and allow myself to be carried out into the current and float along wherever it takes me. As I go along, something will occur to me, or a new character will appear which will make it necessary for me to go back through what I've already written and make an adjustment or two to accommodate it.

I've followed--or tried to follow--the same pattern with The Peripheral Son; that is, pretty much a day-to-day, chronological unfolding of the story. It's hard to lose track of the thread when it's never let go of. But major distractions make me put the thread down and not be able to pick it up for days or weeks at a time. And when I do pick it up again, I tend to forget exactly what I've said when.

So let's say the events on page 32 happen on a Tuesday, which lead to those on page 44 being on a Thursday, page 85 a Monday, etc.. So I arrive at page 96, say, and, because of the way the story is developing, decide I need to go back to add a plot device on page 32, a Tuesday. But that new device, once introduced, has to be followed up on from that point forward. Which, in the progression of things, might change page 44 to a Saturday, and page 85 to a Wednesday. Which means that things I had originally written as happening on a Sunday now happen on a Thursday, and the entire chronology of the manuscript is derailed. I have to go back through nearly every page and reshuffle things so that the weeks progress as they are supposed to progress.

For me, this is simply the way I write. But the wider the gap in time between when I write and when I last wrote, the more easily I forget things, or assume I've mentioned an important point when I in fact have not. And finally getting back to page 96, where I left off, I can continue writing until I decide that I really didn't make a point clear on page 43, and off we go again.

Every single change is, in effect, the start of a domino effect, changing everything that comes afterward, and I have to go through every page of the book to see that things are in proper chronological order. I sincerely believe I have the obligation not only to present you with a good story, but to make your journey through that story as smooth as possible. You should never be able to catch me--or any writer--in an obvious error, or to be suddenly stopped short to ask "What?" or "Where did that come from?"

In short, a book may not be easy to write, but it has to be easy to read.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

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