Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hittin' the Gym

"You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is." — Ellen DeGeneres

Writing is often a solitary pursuit - hours spent at the keyboard watching little black letters appear on a white screen, hoping that from them ideas and emotions arise. With loving craft, or sheer happenstance plots evolve, characters spring (or ooze) to life and what was once a notion born of boredom during a long solo bike ride becomes a short story, a manuscript...a novel.

Words have meaning. Obvious, huh? Valuable for implanting something in the reader's mind, getting them to see, or feel. Adam slips his arms around Karen as they cook dinner, and the words put the reader in Adam's mind, witness to the first time they say "I love you" to each other. Done well (the reader is always the judge) it is a life moment shared.

A manuscript's first draft isn't tossed off to just anyone. Stilted phrases, wooden characters, plots that zig-zag if they have any direction at all.... I'm sure there are the gifted and talented whose rough stuff comes out smooth as a new baby's rump, but I'll never get there. So when someone agrees to wade through it and offer suggestions - that's a friend. I have one who is helping me through my latest project.

I also employ a writing teacher, a fabulous woman I've actually never met. I send fifty or so pages of text to her at a time. She edits.... Such a sterile word for a dynamic enterprise. She is kind, she is professional - she wastes no words when she offers her opinion. She and I have seen three novels and several short stories to successful conclusions - two published, one in the process. We've started working on Cici 1, title "A More Perfect Union." I got the first fifty pages back the other day.

I'm out of shape.

Accepting critical review of writing takes some getting used to. "This is contrived" she says about a chance meeting that blossoms into a friendship. "You use that technique so many times it loses its impact." "You already told us that." On and on, fifty pages. Ouch.

I had a meltdown. A classic. I was too distraught to drink...and I'm Irish!

But I'm better. It's very much like the first road ride of the season. No matter how diligent I've been in the gym over winter, at the end of that first couple of hours I hurt all over. With time, repetition and a steady diet of effort I get to the point of almost keeping up with Wil, Alicia and Jeromy. Progress.

It's the same with writing. It's been almost 8 months since we finished up "The Heart of the Matter" and I submitted it to Wild Child. That's way too long to be away from Terri's blue pen. I went back to her edits last night and...they really aren't too bad. Kind words from a friend, a gentle nudge and I tackled the worst of it - successfully, I think.

From now on - I'm gonna stay in shape!


  1. I love the Ellen quote! And you're writing is always amazing. I'm sure her notes were helpful but you know what the man with the big chin says? Everyone's a critic.

  2. Your* Jesus, I need more coffee.

  3. Thanks, Katy. Her notes were helpful, and as always insightful. I just needed to take a deep breath and stop whining.