If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Monday, January 6, 2020

I’ve Got an Idea!

(Linda Rodriguez previously published this on WWK.)

Right now, I’m in the middle of a book. Actually, I’m usually in the middle of writing a book or about to finish a book or about to begin a book. It’s the cycle of life for writers, especially novelists. The middle of the book, though, is the hardest because it’s where it all begins to break down or bog down or seems to. I know of very few writers who haven’t faced despair, or at least mild depression, somewhere in the middle of the book.

That brilliant idea that sent me excitedly to the keyboard to start this journey of words seems further away from actuality than ever. It’s very hard work to try to get it on paper and make the reality the reader will find on the page match up to the beauty of the idea in my head—and of course, none of us ever quite manage it. That’s part of the reason why we keep trying.

Right now, though, I’m struggling as I try not to drown or suffocate in all the thousands of words I’ve typed and continue to type, which seem more and more shabby and mundane—and very far from that shining thing in my head that I’m trying to make real on the page. I’m tired and overwhelmed. And I just want someone to come take this magnificent idea and make the book for me. Isn’t it enough coming up with such a grand concept?

For a moment, I revert to the childlike person who approaches writers so often to say, “I’ve got a great idea! You can take it and write it up into a book, and we’ll split the profits.” We writers shudder when such people come around, not wanting to insult them with the truth—“You want me to do all the work and share my money with you?”—or—“Buddy, getting the idea’s the easy, fun part.” But at this stage of the book, I have brief stressed moments of the same kind of magical thinking.

I turn to some of my favorite writers at times like this.

“It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.” – P.D. James

“A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight... it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.” – Annie Dillard

“One word after another. That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.” – Neil Gaiman

I go back to the mess of a manuscript because that shining, brilliant edifice in my head will never become real to anyone else if I don’t slog through the swamp of the middle and get it down on paper. And I hope that some little sliver of its real gorgeous beauty somehow ends up sparkling on the pages of the finished book. Never enough of it, of course, because that’s the impossible dream that all we writers chase, but some small gleaming piece.

If any of you are facing the same situation, please realize that it’s pretty universal among those of us who try to write novels. We know we can’t recreate that perfection on the page, but we have to give it our best shot. Because even our imperfectly realized vision is still something only we can give the world. To quote Neil Gaiman again, “Do what only you can do best.”


Jim Jackson said...

One advantage (and perhaps the only one?) of being a pantser (or organic writer if you prefer that term) is that I know my first drafts will be absolutely horrid. Therefore, I just write them to completion. By the time I get done, I understand what I really was writing about. Then I am into revision and THAT I know how to do.

As you know, you are going through a stage and you will get through it because you have proved you can.

There are points during the revision stage where I am sure what I have done is not worth the electricity of keeping my monitor on -- but I need to soldier through those; again reminding myself that this too shall pass.

~ Jim

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

thanks Linda, I needed to read this, especially after my latest round of critiques.

Shari Randall said...

Definitely dealing with a feral story right now. Thanks for the encouraging words.

E. B. Davis said...

Hearing you say it, makes it seem better for the rest of us, Linda. If you feel that way, then what I feel isn't inexperience. Every novel is a new baby that must grow and take its own path with our help and design. You'll slog through one word at a time, then revise so it gleams.

Kait said...

Hum, I think I have to agree with Jim here, as a pantser with minor plotting attributes, the middle is where I have the most fun. That's where the swashbuckling begins for me. The start for me is hard. I have this great idea and usually a wonderful ending, but building those first few chapters and giving my character a reason to accept the challenge, that's my hard part. I love the feral animal quote. That needs to go on my writing board. Thank you for giving hope to novelists everywhere!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, yes. I'm usually a combination of pantser and plotter, but this new book is different from anything I've done before and quite ambitious, so it feels as if I'm pantsing my way through it, even though I'm really not.

That is the one thing. I know all good writing is rewriting, and I also know that you can rewrite anything to make it good, but you can't rewrite nothing.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Margaret, you know how to revise, so just keep on with the first draft. I really recommend that no one share first draft work with anyone. I know I wouldn't. Even professional, well-meaning critiquers can say something that sends you off the rails of your real story. Wait until you've had a chance to revise before showing it.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Shari, I love that quote from Annie Dillard. That's really what it feels like, isn't it? As if our drafts turn into wild beasts on us if we turn away from them for too long.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Elaine, that's what has helped me through the years--the number of very successful, experienced writers who've spoken publicly about running into this same thing over and over. Neil Gaiman has a pep talk for NaNoWriMo on the internet that's just wonderful. It's from that talk that I pulled the quote about elves not turning our jumbled notes into Chapter 9. (I want elves badly!)

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kait, what's fun for me about the middle is after I get through all this wailing and gnashing of teeth and look back on it and see how I can make it work in unexpected and wonderful ways. Even though it means a bunch of work to make it work, that is so much fun.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Linda. While I don't wish you any more problems, it's good to hear that experienced writers know that it doesn't come easily, they need to persevere. A lesson for all of us.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I laughed out loud when I saw the picture at the top of your blog. That looks too much like my library/dining room/ office table. And the woman in it looks like how I feel most of the time - overwhelmed.

I enjoyed your blog. I'm a pantser, too, and while I know sort of where my story is going, I still am surprised how each chapter turns out. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement that I'm not the only one who can't quite think how or whee that next next chapter is going.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for words of encouragement and affirmation . . . muddling through life as well as writing, affirming that the hard work will be worth it.

Linda Rodriguez said...

KM, Neil Gaiman said that, after he finished writing AMERICAN GODS, he told Glenn Cook (one of the great classic sf/f authors of the 20th century), "Glenn, I finally get it. I think I've finally learned how to write a novel." Cook replied with a sad smile, "Neil, you've only learned how to write that novel. If you're any good, each novel is a new challenge, and you only teach yourself how to write it by writing it."

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I laughed when I saw it, too. As I work on this book, I alternate between grandiosity--wow, this is so fantastic!--and despair--why, oh, why, did I ever think I could write this thing? It's pretty hilarious.

This is a new, ambitious novel, so I simply have to keep reminding myself of what i do know--you sit down and put words on paper every single day, bad or good, and that's the only way books get written, bad or good.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Mary, you're right. All these lessons can be applied to life. We do our best each day, and some days our best is much better than it is on other days, but we just have to keep on with that process. I think it was Woody Allen who said, "90% of success is showing up." Or something to that effect.

Polly Iyer said...

I sympathize with you, Linda. I'm editing a book I wrote pantser -style a long time ago. That has its own set of problems. Like everything I wrote pantser-style a long time ago. If ever you want to know if your writing has improved, dig out an old book and get to work. It sure seemed good back then. Onward!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Oh, yes, Polly. That's why I always recommend giving a book some time packed away if you can. It's so much easier to see all the problems and weaknesses, even things you once thought were good. It's rare to be able to take that much time when you're on contract, but it sure does help.

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and words of wisdom, Linda. I'm wrestling with a story that looked and sounded much better in my head. It's encouraging that even the most accomplished writers go through this.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kara, the funny thing is that I stayed away from the manuscript all weekend, feeling I had gone hopelessly astray and was just failing terribly. That's what led to this post. Then this morning, I went back to work and found that those scenes where I felt I'd gone offtrack actually worked well with a little tweaking and then wrote another 2,000 words today. Like anyone else, I have to keep reminding myself that the secret is just sitting down and doing the work of putting words on paper. (I still want those elves, though.)

Kait said...

I love this blog, Linda - and the feral quote - priceless and accurate! Good luck with your latest writing.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Soggy middle. Uh huh. I've learned that my usual remedies (introduce another character or subplot) don't work. I build up steam, have chocolate at the ready, with the mantra "conflict and tension". Sometimes it works. I've had a two month break, which also helps.