On Becoming a Sociopathic Writer

002In the mornings, we get up at six o’clock, get dressed for the gym and leave the house via the garage. This means that, blearily stumbling about as I’ve been – not a chipper morning person – the moment we hit the button to raise the garage door is my first real sight of the day.

This time of year, it’s right at the onset of sunrise and what a spectacular sight it is.

There’s something about the dimness of the garage, the way the heavy door lifts, with its cranking motor, that reminds me of a theater curtain – that unveils the large screen of this.

The outside comes in and steals my breath away.

It’s an amazing way to start my day and I treasure that.

I value so much about my daily life and am truly blessed to have it. Our daily routine is dull by most standards. Most days I don’t leave our property except to go to the gym. I love each phase of my day, from the kitties walking across my pillow when the alarm goes off to ensconcing myself in my reading chair at night with a glass of wine. The sun shines, flowers bloom, rains fall, the sun sets and rises again. It’s a good rhythm. A long-term cycle.

All through this, my steps seem to be set by the words I lay down in whatever I’m writing. I mark the passage of time by the change of seasons and the accumulation of word count. Writing a novel is an exercise in this kind of patience, I’ve found. For long periods of time – days and weeks and months – the the project continues. Every day I add a little more and track my progress. But it’s incremental and I can’t worry about it feeling like it’s taking forever because it takes as long as it takes.

That’s one of the keys to understanding novel-writing. Patience, persistence and endurance.

Until, suddenly, I’m near the end.

That’s where I am now. On Tears of the Rose, Book 2 of The Twelve Kingdoms, I’m at 84, 502 words. I’d originally thought it would end up around 85K, but once I dug in, once I judged the pace and length of Act I, in fact, it became clear that the first draft would top out around 98K. Writing about 2,000 words per day, as I am now, that means I’ll be done in a week.

And I’m filled with all kinds of odd, restless energy.

It’s as if, now that I can see the city on the horizon, I’m no longer satisfied with traveling 65 mph. I want to go faster and to hell with a speeding ticket. I want to drive all night, just to get there already.

I’m filled with impatience for everything else.

News articles – from frivolous to searingly serious – irritate me. People post jokes that I find facile, ridiculous or even infuriating. Every Facebook and Twitter post I see seems to elicit a snarky response from me and I have to stop looking, because I’m afraid I’ll lapse and actually type one of these comments. Even pics of cute baby animals annoy me.

It’s like I become a total sociopath.

I sometimes think that if I were a full time writer, I would take myself and my last 15-20K and just lock myself in a remote cabin or beach house somewhere. Which I find bewildering, because I love my beautiful, peaceful home and the life we have in it, with our lovely daily rhythms.

Somehow, though, this process of completing the book – which means the ending, because I write my stories from beginning to end, no jumping about – absorbs so much of my thoughts and mental energy, that I snarl at anything else impinging on it.

Also, I’m pretty sure I write a post like this every time.

You all are lovely to put up with me, really.

Slow Growth

Agents often seem to admonish writers to be patient.

It’s one of their core themes of advice to aspiring writers and, I feel sure, to the authors they’ve signed to work with. The industry moves slowly, they say. Give them time to work.

This advice is, naturally, also self-serving. It’s a nice way of saying “don’t bug me.” Fair enough. Agents and editors juggle a lot of balls and reading takes time.

What they don’t think about, it seems to me, is that we’ve already exercised tremendous patience.

If slow and steady wins the race, then the writers are trailing over the finish line well after the tortoise is in the club bar celebrating. Writing is an incremental craft. It’s like building stalagmites with the water of your soul. You flood the page with words and hope a few stick. Day by day, you watch the wordcount gradually increase. Then you see something formed wrong and you knock off a chunk, and let the words accrete again.

Once your pillar of salts has grown large enough and seems done, you polish and carve. It feels like you’re using your fingernails to do it.

Then, after all of those hours alone with your creation, you package it up and send it out into the world, to find out if anyone else thinks it’s neat enough to pay you for it.

And they tell you to learn patience.

All you can do in the end, really, is not bug them.

Patience Panties

A gal I talk to on Twitter, @Uppington, recently finished reading Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, which remains one of my all-time favorite novels. There’s this exquisite moment when the mother shows the children the sun setting at the exact moment the moon rises. Conroy is a master of character and setting. He weaves both together to create in the reader the magic of that moment.

I don’t know if Conroy suggested it to me, but I always feel the magic of that moment. Here it’s the moon setting into the valley, an ocean of fog, the quiet blues and blacks of night giving way to glimmering pinks. I turn around, and there is the sunrise, blazing into the fire of day.

Those moments between are unbearably full.

I’m waiting between things right now. Writers are often cautioned to be patient. (I’ve mentioned before, this is not my forte.) The romance writers often put this in terms of “putting on your patience panties.” I don’t know if this is because the overwhelming majority of romance writers are women and identify with the lessons of girlhood or because they’re accustomed to the language of motherhood. Writers who become upset about bad contest scores or book reviews are often advised to put on their “big girl panties” and suck it up. I suppose men will tell each other to “cowboy up” or some such. It’s the same thing.

So, what’s happened is, an epublisher offered to buy this little erotic novella I wrote. They have a good reputation, so that will be fine. Another epublisher with a slightly better rep also has it, so I inquired with them if they were close to a decision or if I should just withdraw the novella and go with the other publisher. I got a very strange, misspelled, answer back that basically said I’d hear when I heard. The first epublisher is looking better and better all the time.

Meanwhile, this agent has my full manuscript. She requested it from a query I sent, so I’ve been somewhat more hopeful on this one. The other agents who’ve requested my full MSS are ones who met me at conferences. When agents or editors meet you in person, I think they’re somewhat more inclined to ask for the full MSS, because they know you and want to give you the best opportunity they can. One of those agents also has Obsidian: The Revision. She’d passed on the original version, but agreed to read the revision. I haven’t heard from her, so I’m not holding out much hope there.

But the agent reading from the query… Well, let’s just say I’ve been to this prom before and came home without an engagement ring.

At any rate, I emailed her to ask if she cared if I entered a deal on the epubbing of the novella. I expected her to say no, but she answered and said she’d read the full right away and we could discuss then.

So, I’m waiting. Knowing she’s reading it. Making a decision. Totally out of my control. I’m afraid to check my email, since that will likely be a “no.” I’m carrying my cell phone out to the mailbox with me, in case she calls with a “yes.”

I’m thirteen again.

At the same time, I know this day will end with the sun setting and the moon rising to replace it. Fire will give way to black and tomorrow morning it will all repeat.

And I have my own washer and dryer, so I can wash my patience panties as often as necessary.


I take a lot of photographs, to get the one I want.

This is something I learned a long time ago, from professional photographers. Back then, I thought, well this is something I’ll never do, because film and developing were expensive and was a kid. Seriously. I remember being disappointed in my photos from Girl Scout camp because I could never really capture how things looked. So, I had no funds to devote to getting the right picture and when I did have funds, I still didn’t care enough.

I’m an impatient person. My greatest flaw perhaps? David thinks so. Or at any rate, if he could change one thing about me, that would be it.

Of course, if I got to pick, I’d probably have him be ready to go on time, so there’s a lesson there. Draw your own conclusions.

Still, I’m just not patient with doing one thing multiple times. If I can get away with doing it right the first time, I will. If I can get away with doing it mostly right, or close enough the first time, I will.

The beauty of the digital camera is, I can take lots of photos and easily review and delete them. The downside is, I’m accumulating images. The sunset pic from last night is one of eight I ended up keeping. I had a hard time deciding which to show you.

I don’t like rewriting, either. It feels like retread to me. Back when I typed my papers for college on my Brother Correctronic, I did just that: composed as I typed. One time through and I was done. In my perfect world, I’d write a novel that way, too — beginning to end, one time through.

I know, I know. It’s not a perfect world and I’m not queen of it. Much to my chagrin, I assure you.

So, the New Novel is coming right along, but I’m feeling aggravated with it from time to time because it keeps wriggling and changing under my hands. I thought I was molding one story and it keeps mutating into other things. This is okay, I know. The other writers keep telling me to go with it, let it be what it wants to be, this is magic and so forth.

But what annoys me is: I’m going to have to revise the beginning. Probably multiple times. Gah!

At least I don’t have to do it on paper. Small mercies for an impatient writer.