Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Loving the fat around the mid-section

Clear, mild, highs minus 3

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. - Somerset Maugham

I got back to writing yesterday morning, while Michael wrestled with the taxes. But it was definitely a mixed bag for me. First the computer froze, again. Then after hitting every key several times like a four year old in a tantrum, it finally unfroze. Who’d have thought actually spanking the laptop would work? Then I re-read the chapter I’d written just before leaving on tour – just to re-familiarize myself with the story and ease back into the world of Three Pines. Of course, I couldn’t just read. I spent the rest of the day, until Michael’s eye exam, re-writing. Something I swore not to do until I’d finished the first draft.

I think I made it better, and I certainly felt immersed once again in the story, and I’m frankly loving the story. Like the rest of my mysteries, it’s set in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. A place that’s intentionally idyllic, with people I’d choose as friends. Clara and Peter, the artists. Ruth, the half-mad poet, Myrna who runs the used book store, Olivier and Gabri who run the B&B and the bistro. There’s a boulangerie for breads and cakes and a general store. Oh, yes, and a murder.

I’m more or less at the mid-point of the story and I made the mistake of getting a word-count. 60-thousand. So now I’m obsessing about the length of the novel. It’ll be way too long, my traitor head screams. Take out characters, take out plot lines. Trim, trim. This is not a drill, this is an emergency.

All my first drafts are WAY too long. I know that, and yet with each one it scares me. But I’m beginning (though you’d never know it reading this) to trust and recognize my process. I write like a maniac. Put everything in, then spend the next couple of drafts trimming and shaping. Adding here, yanking stuff out there. Trying to find that balance between a plot that zips along, and atmosphere and character development.

I received a marvellous, and crucial, bit of advice when I was writing A FATAL GRACE, my second book. I was very afraid and edging toward writer’s block, so I went to see a therapist. I’m a huge believer in asking for help and accepting it. She said something I’ve never forgotten and that broke the fear. She said, ‘The wrong person is writing this book. The critic is writing it. You need to thank the critic, show her the door, shut it but don’t lock it, because you’re going to need her later. But the creative you needs to write the first draft. Just write. Don’t second guess. Don’t edit. Even if what you write is nonsense, just allow yourself that.’

What a blessing that piece of advice is. Just write. Let yourself go. You can fix it, shape it, edit it later. Now’s the time for inspiration, not fear.
Phew. Needed to remember that today.

One week ago I’d begun the US tour for my latest book that has just come out, THE CRUELEST MONTH. The good people at the New Canaan library hosted a wonderful lunch with two other writers, Rosemary Harris, Jan Brogan and myself. It was such fun seeing so many of you, and I know some of you drove quite a distance to be there.

Thank you! I also dropped by a great NYC mystery bookstore called Partners&Crime to sign books.

Then last Tuesday I had breakfast with my editor at St Martin’s Minotaur, Hope Dellon, then lunch with two senior executives at Barnes and Noble. Diet is dead.

I was quite intimidated by the thought of lunch with these very important book people, but Dan and Paul couldn’t have been kinder. I tell you, I’d choose to spend time with them again, regardless of their jobs. They were thoughtful, funny, smart – and like real gentlemen they made me feel like I was too.

Thanks for reading. We’re off for Michael’s hearing tests today. I know it sounds as though he’s falling apart, but everything just comes up at once. And he’s so precious I need to keep him healthy. I once read that the healthiest men have nagging wives. Well at this rate poor Michael will live forever. In misery, but he’ll be immortal.

Michael's note: Louise is writing two blogs this week; here and at Moments in Crime. This is yesterday's blog, which she posted on MiC, but forgot to hit the publish button here. So you get two blogs today.

Be well, talk tomorrow.

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