Friday, April 27, 2007

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

by G.M. Malliet

Photo credit: See

The photo is a reenactment of the scene at my house when Midnight Ink offered me a two-book contract. Only the original event was much, much wilder. I just wish I could remember it. ;-)

Writing the first book was exactly like this: rowing, rowing, rowing for miles, unable to see where you're headed, finally crossing the finish line...and realizing, you've won! Someone is standing on the shore, waving a book contract!

As I now work on the second book, I no longer feel I'm out there rowing alone, thanks to this group of Midnight Ink authors. I have people to call on for advice and information, and for reminders of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

I just came back from the Mystery Writers of American conference in New York, where a huge crowd of mystery writers also made me feel I was no longer alone in this strange and annoying desire to write a book. Stephen King was there, being interviewed in his role as Grand Master. (He is, by the way, not remotely scary in person.)

He talked about his book, On Writing, which is IMO pretty much the only book anyone has to read on the subject of writing. His summarized advice:

--Read everything
--Write every day
--Omit all adverbs

Yep, that about covers it.

He talked eloquently and with humility about how all writers--even famous, experienced writers like himself--can get lost, make mistakes, have to back up or throw away or revise and cut. How they waste days or weeks or even years on the wrong track. (The best writers just make it all look simple.)

And writers do this work with absolutely no sense that anyone cares or will ever care about what we've written. It really is a form of insanity. King emphasized it is also a form of therapy. It got him through the aftermath of his accident, acting like a painkiller once he got into "the zone"--that place writers go when they are too busy writing to notice the house is on fire.

At the conference, I had just reached the "slog" part of writing a novel--that middle part where you also have to make the tough, no-going-back decisions about where you're headed with this book. It was energizing to be reminded, once again, that I am not alone here on the river. I've got the Midnight Ink authors and Stephen King (but he has got to leave Cujo on the shore and that is final.)


Deb Baker said...

I needed this kind of encouragement today, knowing we all go through the rowing and bumps. If my characters would follow an outline, I wouldn't have to always be bailing them out of impossible situations.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I remember the first time I realized that I wasn't alone, that there were others out there just like me, slaving away on a manuscript, hoping it will be bought, published and read. It's a magical moment. Like realizing you're not an ugly duckling after all, but a swan. Or maybe it's more like realizing you're not a swan, but an ugly duckling wearing Groucho Marx glasses. But so are lots of people.

And every contract, every book launch, every sale is worthy of celebration. (hic!)

And Deb - I'm just finishing Murder Passes the Buck and thoroughly enjoying it. Tame Gertie and those other UP nut jobs. Let them know who's the mistress of the keyboard! Down, Gertie! Down!