Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fire in the Hole!

I have finally, finally started work on my second novel. Only six weeks after I pitched my agents with the idea. This is fast for me, actually. It took me 2 months to start my last round of edits on my first novel, which was only a trim... I had lunch in New York with my agent, an editor and a publisher on May 6. They gave me a nice, concise list of edits. Which I began on July 5, at home.

Speed of light!

And now, a new project. For real.

I started putting plot points, character notes and research questions into an MS Word doc. These are all transcribed from the old envelopes I keep by the side of my bed to scribble Random Thoughts on at night.

The story idea is really taking off now, and I'm hoping to have the outline done by January 15. A guy like Joe Konrath can probably do an outline in a day and a half, but I'm a plodder. Once I start writing (as opposed to outlining, note-taking, researching), I can move the story along. Then the editing process slows it all down again, but that's a good thing. There are guys in Kentucky who can distill bourbon very quickly, but the real work is in the aging process. There's no secret to that: Time. That's the editing process to me. I take something raw and disjointed, and smooth it, over time, into something better.

Editing is glacial. Writing is pure speed.

When I'm in a groove, the thoughts keep coming faster than I can write them. Just one after the other, for hours. Feels like about 30 seconds, and I'll have spent the entire night at the computer. I wrote much of my first novel that way... started at 8 p.m. and was stunned to look up from the keyboard to find that it was daylight.

Outlining... If writing is speed, I guess the outline is the race course. Or the track. Something to keep the car from going (too far) off course. I'm used to going off course, so this whole outlining thing should be a lot of fun. I've met authors who swear by outlines, authors who swear at outlines, and authors who've written some books from outlines, others without.

I'm trying an outline this time for two reasons:

1. Author friends have suggested one.
2. My agents have "suggested" one.

I learned very early in the process to listen to my author friends and to do whatever my agents tell me to do. My agents are terrific. Wonderful human beings, and the funny part is, they treat my work as... my work... Which is very funny, because they've also put a ton of work into "my work," so it's "our work" now. And that's a good thing.

But the point is, when they want me to make changes, they "suggest" them.

"It's your book, in the end." Which, of course, leads me to make every change they want me to make, and every one of them has made my work better.

The author-agent relationship is sacred. Tighter than an attorney-client relationship. It's part priest-penitent, part shrink-patient and part something else entirely... They're career counselors, but also editors, guides, keepers of secrets. They learn, very quickly, how you think, which is pretty liberating.

So I'm taking a new approach to outlining this time (I'm actually using an outline instead of a bunch of random notes, or in addition to a bunch of random notes). I'm hoping I'll cut out some of those all-night sessions, which were okay with 2 kids and my own business, not okay with 3 kids, working for other people, even people as nice as the other people are.

To recap: The good news is that I've formally begun putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or whatever I usually do to push the thoughts from my head onto the medium of choice. I'm using an outline, and the thoughts are flying.

Progress. I love progress.




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