Wednesday, 2 March 2011

In the beginning...


snow squalls, chilly, temps minus 5

Well, now the sun is almost out. A few minutes ago we couldn't see the pine tree just out the back window, for all the snow.

Started Book 8 today. Was expecting and planning to start yesterday - first of March - but then I remembered Deanna was coming to clean and we generally try to be out of her way. Besides, hard to concentrate when all I hear is a vacuum. So we arranged to do errands etc.

But then turns out Deanna's week is next week! D'oh. I hesitate to suggest this was my subconscious looking for one more day of vacation - but if there's one thing on earth lazier than my conscious, it's my sub-conscious.

But here we are! Just finished writing for the day. Always momentous - that first day. I had set a goal of 500 words. Ended up writing just over 900. Feels good. First go a little rough...but I read and re-read and smoothed. And now I like it. Will re-read it tomorrow before starting on the original writing for that day. I find it's important not to get caught up in editing, at least for me. I can smooth and polish and edit for days and weeks and months, ending up with the finest 1000 words you've ever read...but no closer to actually writing the book. For me, editing can be an escape - I can hide in it. Kidding myself I'm being useful, when all I'm doing is running on the spot.

Some people can do it. I can't. For me I need to just keep pressing forward. I read over the work I did the previous day, do some editing and polishing - mostly to get myself back into that world. Then I need to write original text. One small foot in front of the other.

Each book, I realize, has different needs. The previous book - which is at the publishers and will come out in the US and Canada in the fall - is called A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. With that I felt I needed to just get that first damned draft done. No matter what a dog's breakfast it was. And, heaven knows, it was a bit of a mess - that first draft. But that's what editing and second and third and fourth drafts are for. I'll never get it right at first.

But other books - like BURY YOUR DEAD for instance, and this book, I think - I have a better idea initially where I'm going and why - and the themes. And so I plan to write a little slower but a little surer. I suspect the book, and the drafts, will be finished about the same time - they always are - and sent to my agent. But with the '1,000 words a day or more' books the second drafts contain more substantial changes. The '500 words a day' books take longer, but perhaps need fewer changes in the re-writes.

But, honestly - all my first drafts are messes. And while I give myself permission to write only 500 words a day, I really am more of a sprinter. I dash forward....and then go back and clean up the mess. It seems to be in my nature.

So - check back with me in 2 months and we'll see where I am. I'll probably have forgotten all about this newfound insight and will just be bumbling along, at speed.

I find a first draft generally takes 3 months, depending upon how many interruptions I have in that time. All of which I've agreed to. Every year I promise myself to turn down everything in those 3 months, and every year I seem to end up with even more commitments. This year, while april and the beginning of May are quite full - at least March is almost empty. yay.

Michael and I have decided to investigate geo-thermal. We had arranged for someone from NextEnergy to come on Monday - before I'd started writing - to look at the house and give us an idea of what it would cost, what would be the advantages environmentally and economically - and what would be the disruptions. But there was a huge storm - freezing rain, snow, winds yuck! So we re-scheduled for this afternoon at 2. We'll get a few quotes then decide.

At the top, by the way, is a photo of Trudy I took from where I was writing. For three months, as I write, when I look to the right I see the fireplace, lit. If I look to the left I see Trudy with some stuffed toy in her mouth - waiting for me to do something important. Like play.

A small world, but a good one.

Hope you're well. Thanks for coming along as we start Book 8.

19 comments:

Myke Weber said...

I love this intimate peek into the creative process. Thank you for your wonderful insight and candor.

Liz said...

So exciting to have you share your creative process. And inspiring. Can't believe you might even suggest that you are lazy inside!

Darlene said...

Your environment looks so conducive to writing. Hugs to Trudy. Thanks for the insight.

Jeff B. said...

Always enjoy your blogs about the writing/aditing process; gives the readers a window into your world. Love the photo of Trudy; we have our own four-leggesy beastie, Annie, who is always ready next to you, with either 'Squeaky Moose' or her Frisbee in her mouth - ready to play (her energy always will outlast one's interest in throwing it...again (and again). Can't wait for the new book in the Fall.

Marni said...

Louise, thanks for this glimpse into your process, which I'm fighting right now. In the middle of my Book 2 and stalled by Life. I write as you do, re-read yesterday's to get me back into my book, the Lake District this time. And then Radar will come to my desk and hang his clownish head on my arm to stop my typing. Really, his looks says, how can you sit THERE when I am HERE waiting to play outside! Such a great Trudy picture. And good luck on staying THERE~

Lori said...

About two months ago, I started reading the first of your books. Today I am finishing the fifth (No telling! No telling!)Thank you for making this oh so long winter entertaining.I'm having a lot of fun and enjoying all the characters...although,there are moments when I'd like to swat Beauvoir up the side of his head! I find learning about your creative process very educational! Are there any of your books that are your particular favourites? Or are all your children equally loved?
Thank you again.

Undercover Nun said...

I love how Anne Lamott describes starting out. Her expression is "sh*tty first drafts," because, let's face it, first drafts always are sh*tty. It's still hard for me to take her advice when writing, and give myself permission to write that sh*tty first draft. ("But it has to be PERFECT!") I also suspect I'm far from alone on that one. :-)

Anonymous said...

You are so honest and generous in your blogs! Really refreshing!

VT Slajer said...

Great entry, Louise, thanks!

Someone told me a while ago: "The most diffucult is to get started." How true.

Sue Mom of Two said...

I love reading about the inner workings of writing a book. Makes me feel like I'm "in the know"....even though I really don't know anything. But fun, nevertheless.
Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

Lisa May said...

We readers are terribly greedy. It's always "what's next, when's the next one?" So it's exciting to know there's a "next one" started - but also kind of awesome (in the old sense) in being behind the scenes, as others have noted.

Diane said...

I am so looking forward to this journey into your writing process. Thank you for your generosity. And that pic of Trudy, she's absolutely irrestible!

Terry Elisabeth said...

It's so much fun to read about how you write. And it really made me smile to realize that next Fall I would get to read another book of yours and then another ! Wouhou!

I haven't read Bury Your Dead yet, I put a reservation on it at the library and it's taking forever. I love your books, I was really disappointed when I found out Three Pines wasn't real, I wanted to live there !

lil Gluckstern said...

I really like going on this writing odyssey with you, especially when the monastery sounded so lovely, and intriguing. Thank you for keeping us informed; now I can't wait for two books.

Margie said...

I see the piano in your picture.

Do you play? If so, what are your favorites.

Linda Gray said...

I love your process. My critique partners both believe in pushing all the way through the first draft before editing, but I need to review what I did the day before, too, and allow myself a few minutes of edits, to get in the groove. We're all still aspiring authors. Makes me feel good to know that a productive author whose books I love edits a bit as she goes. Now, if I could just finish a first draft in 3 months! Thanks for the great post.

Charles said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy reading your novels. Also...Trudy is adorable!

javajunky said...

Desperately missing Armand and everyone else in Three Pines. Thank you for sharing your gift! Btw, I also have two Goldens: Jazz and Goldie, who are sitting expectantly at the door with tennis balls in their mouths as I type this. Have a glorious and productive March!

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi all - how wonderful to read all your supportive comments. A very scary time - terrifies me every year. When I start the new one. First drafts are always the hardest. Intellectually, but also emotionally. To just get started. Huge psychic leap from empty page to words.

Thanks for coming along and encouraging me! Such fun.