Sunday, 31 July 2011

Seat of Pants to Chair for Long Periods of Time

The question circulated amongst us here of how we keep ourselves motivated to write during the summer. As a Canadian, now living in the mountains in Central California, the end of winter lifts the heart. It's cold and it snows here. That surprises people.

When summer comes, doors and windows fly open. We move laptops out to the deck and shed clothes until we're down to only one layer.

Much of the last few months as summer settled in with one nice day after another, I've been working with Jodie Renner, an editor specializing in mystery and thriller fiction, whom I met at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Santa Fe this March.

We engaged to work with one another over my second murder mystery, Rip-Off, featuring Detective Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department.

I've worked as a free lance editor over my years of wordsmithing. When anyone hands you their precious manuscript, there is the hope that you will hand it back, gushing, "Oh, it's perfect. I've alerted the awards committee. I wouldn't change a single word. You genius, you."

I admit it. Me too. And, of course, it wasn't perfect, and she suggested many changes. I bristled at some, sulked for half a day, and then did what she suggested.

I've kept at it while my friends went swimming, picked cherries, had picnics and parties, organized expeditions driving into Los Angeles to concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and the Santa Monica Pier.

I kept at it even when it felt like picking over the bones of road kill because, first of all, I was paying her. She asked questions that made me think. She was encouraging just enough to drive me through a second and third revision of a chapter. Occasional compliments made me preen with self-satisfaction, until the next page when she wanted to delete a section. I thought of offering her a knife to chisel the words from my breast instead.

It became a collaboration. So much time is spent alone, seat of pants pressed to chair for long periods of time. I've had a partner, someone who knew my story as well as I did.

Now our partnership has come to an end, and my manuscript is immeasurably improved. As you all know, it's only the beginning of the next phase.

And it's still August.