Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How Writing Happens

“I’ll be there tomorrow,” Holly reminded me. “Try to go one more day without finding anyone dead.”
“Funny. Did you find someone to give us costs for racing in NASCAR?”
“Two sets of data coming later this week—I’ll confirm after this weekend.”
“Great. I’m going to email Alexa this morning to start getting IndyCar numbers.”

Those are a couple lines in the new Kate Reilly Racing Mystery that I’m currently working on. Exciting, I know. NOTE: I’m trusting you. Those are only a rough draft, and they haven’t been edited. Don’t judge!

From what I remember, the writing of those sentences flowed fairly well (it was a couple days ago). They didn’t require much thought. Much angst. A simple wrapping up of a phone conversation between Kate and her BFF and manager, Holly Wilson.

The next sentence wasn’t so easy, and I thought I’d let you in on how the writing process sometimes works. Italics are my thoughts, the rest is what I wrote….
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OK, I’ve got to get them off the phone. Should I even keep the last couple lines? Do people care who’s looking up what race series information? I think I mentioned who’d do which one before, maybe I should delete … but then what would I close the conversation with? Besides, it’s realistic they’d touch base about the business they need to do. Just leave it. Take it out in the edit if you don’t like it. But is it—JUST LEAVE IT. [breathe, take a drink of water]

Now how do I get them off the phone? I don’t want to say “goodbye” and “goodbye,” but I should reference them ending the conversation. Well, I could take Kate straight to an action … no, that would feel too abrupt for Holly, who’s a friend.

I hung up the phone and

No, that’s too abrupt also. [delete] There should be some reference to Holly, not just Kate doing. Kate could say something? Reference saying something?

I wished her safe travels and hung up.

Gaaaahhhhhh, that’s boring. [delete] Stupid blinking cursor. Why is it so hard to explain the action of friends saying goodbye and hanging up the phone? Because you don’t describe the dull stuff in a book, you reference the dull stuff while you move the plot forward. Am I moving the plot forward with every sentence? I don’t think so. OK, at least do something more interesting than hanging up.

What’s Kate going to do next? [consult synopsis and timeline] Get a text from someone or call someone else. Could one of those overlap?

The text from Alexa came in as I was saying said goodbye to Holly.

No, you decided the interaction with Alexa would be an email or phone call, not a text, so you don’t have to deal with the formatting of texts in this book. And the email—or another call—crossing with Holly’s call is just … unnecessarily complicated. Who cares if a tone rings in Kate’s ear? The timing of the two isn’t important. FOR PETE’S SAKE, YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO HANG UP THE PHONE. [delete]

Fine, how would I say it out loud to someone?

We hung up

… and something. "While" something? No. Come on! What would they say to each other? They’ll see each other tomorrow—oh, will Kate get her at the airport? Hell, I decide what Kate does, so she WILL pick Holly up. In real life, they’d confirm a time. Maybe. Am I sure? WRITE IT.

We hung up after confirming what time her plane got in the next day.

Awkward. Fix.

We hung up after confirming what time she was arriving the next day.

Too long and still awkward. Fix.

We hung up after confirming her arrival time the next day.

Huh. [reread, reread] I can live with that. I think. Hmmmm. Should I … NO. Leave it. But maybe I should—YOU SHOULD LEAVE IT. Fine. Next sentence?
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I don't go through this process for every sentence. But it's guaranteed to happen at least three times on every book page. Sometimes less, sometimes more. But it's extra annoying when you struggle like this over the lines that aren't even vital to the story.

So friends, pity your local writer. And when she's indecisive, cranky, frustrated, or distraught for what seems like no reason? Remember what she goes through some days, just to HANG UP THE DAMN PHONE.

*Ironic note: I've edited this post about four times.

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