Friday, November 27, 2009
No NaNo Needed
By Ed Rand. No Na-No needed: The idea for my sixth novel came, I began writing August 4th, and in eleven weeks I'd crafted and edited a 74,000 word saga that I believe is my best yet. No applause: I'm more compulsive than most. The idea comes and the writing is no longer optional. It's also easier for me as I'm "retired" -- writing is what I do. Hats off to those in the sway of this demanding muse who must juggle careers and parenting. Becoming published had been a lifelong goal I could not address while paying the mortgage. I've had three books real-published (no slight intended to e-or-self-anything) and a fourth accepted for Spring 2010; I've completed a fifth in series and now this latest, my first non-series. The books have won four awards. So my insights might be useful to others. I'm a guy. After a year of reading mysteries like I was speed dating, in '04 I began to write my first novel, a murder mystery. And a love story pours out, and I discover I'm a falling in love junkie. The love quotient fills every novel I've written. Point being, I gotta write what I'm passionate about. Then it's not a chore but a joy. Creating a scene right from my head gives me a high that only my family can exceed. And it's the emotional content that gets me. I create an NSA agent fractured by guilt because his wife has been blown apart by a bomb meant for him; and a woman in the Big Apple for two weeks, fleeing from her Tennessee home -- she's had an ugly past and won't let men near her. Then I force them together, in mortal danger as the agency targets them both, so I can find out what happens. It's my universe until, in some weird dynamic I'll never understand, it becomes theirs; they let me in and guide me through their lives. I've come to trust the process. My initial goal in that scenario was to grip the reader from the first sentence: "If they were going to shoot Robert Milligan, he wanted to see it coming, so he asked for a chair and sat beside his wife's casket, facing the mourners." The only thing clear to me when I began writing was that those tormented people might find, together, the more that sustains us. When, after 374 pages he proposes to her, on a returning Statue of Liberty ferry, after more action than The Perils of Pauline, I had trouble seeing the screen. I've begun a second in the series: She'll be pregnant. That will add a dimension for the reader and a challenge for the author. Challenge is good. If a scene doesn't make the hair on my arms stand up or result in used tissues (yeah, guys too, but you knew that), it isn't ready. Point being: quality, craft, count more than volume in a "final" draft. I won't read to my groups, or turn over to my publisher, anything less than my best. Mind you, at times I get shredded, and with cause. Or they have "Aha!" moments with bits of plot logic I'd overlooked. It happens. I'm thankful. I try to learn from it. "Improvement" is my mantra. Dialog, setting, description, action, suspense, surprise -- I want the words to vanish as the reader flies along, and every scene to force the reader onward. The smoother it reads, the easier it would seem to write. We know otherwise. I love writing; I can do all the rest, but I love it less. During the post-partum-blues period following the birth of novel six, I contemplated what it is I want from this adventure. I don't much care about fame. I've won awards, had news articles written about me, spoken before groups, moderated panels, done well at bookstore gigs, and helped design beautiful covers. All that is part of the adventure and I'll continue swimming hard in the current. What's ahead, I hope, is getting a literary agent -- I still don't have one, and I've crafted solid novels, a body of work that I believe can attract a major publisher, and perhaps lead to movie or TV adaptation. Now is when I pull the needle from my arm, right? But not many real, empathetic characters are out there in media populated by the quirky, superhero, and supernatural trends. The movie producers can select the players and have the screenwriting done. All I'd like is a paid trip with my wife to say hello. Another adventure. If it doesn't happen, I still have my family, my writing, and credentials I'd only dreamed of. Someone asked what I was going to do when I had those unsold books in the basement. I thought about it and smiled.