Archive for January, 2007



Got an email the other day from the Publicist Assigned to Me, asking me to fill out some paperwork for the GCLA New Writers Award. (No, haven’t been given it–my editor submitted my book for consideration. The paperwork is needed just in case you win.)

No further explanation. Everyone, of course, is familiar with the GCLA New Writers Award.

Except me. I had never heard of it. My ignorance of such things—maybe most things—is profound. But there is always Google.

My researches turned up a number of possible candidates, among which the most likely suspects were:

The Georgia Clogging Leaders Association

(probably something Jane is involved with, I thought. She’s a sometime clog dancer. Didn’t realize they had an interest in crime fiction, though.)

The Gulf Coast Lacrosse Association

(Well, lacrosse is identified with the East Coast, the book is set on the East Coast. A lot of lacrosse played on Long Island. Still, the connection seemed tenuous.)

The Greater California Livery Association
(I’ll admit, I was baffled.)

Checking the publicist’s email again, looking for answers, I found one.

I had transposed the first two letters.

It’s the GLCA—the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

This is why—for me–cutting and pasting is superior to trying to remember things for longer than five seconds at a time.


This is the ground, rushing up toward you

The second book is entering its final pages. The plot threads set up earlier in the book are twisting together now, leading up to the final confrontation, the momentum is increasing, and soon I’ll have to write the big scene where it all comes together. I’ve known that final scene since I began writing the book.

Trouble is, I don’t want to go there anymore.

But that’s what the outline says.

I don’t like outlines. There was a good discussion of outlining over at Lee Goldberg’s blog recently; Outlines seem like a good, even an obvious idea. But something in me really resists outlining.

For me, outlines drain off narrative energy. I like to find out what happens next, not know it all before hand. I like to be surprised.

I want to write the way you read, I guess. To find out what happens.

I admire outliners, meticulous plotters. I can see that it’s a good way to approach a novel, especially a plot-driven story. Habitual outliners seem to me like rocket scientists and white coated engineers, compared to my basement workshop, here’s-a-piece-of-wood-let’s-make-a-table approach.

It’s certainly more efficient. Making it up as you go along is tremendously wasteful, leaving dead ends, blind alleys, undeveloped scenes, dropped characters. It involves a horrifying amount of rewriting, deleting, throwing away. My “deleted” file for Vinnie’s Head (I never actually delete anything–you never know when it might come in handy some day) was half as long as the book itself.

But I experience outlines as a straitjacket. Even as I was writing the outline for the second novel (my agent asked me to) I was grumbling, crossing my fingers, planning to subvert it.

As it turned out, the book sticks pretty close to the outline. Pretty close. There were big holes, of course–I left them on purpose, and I had fun filling them in.

And the outline allowed me to identify and fix a plot problem I was only dimly aware of before I outlined the book.

So I am apparently an anti-outliner who outlines.

But that final scene, where the bad guy gets his, still doesn’t seem good enough, especially given all the things leading up to it, things I didn’t know would happen when I originally wrote the ending.

So what I should do is throw out my precious predetermined ending and let the characters work it out among themselves. After all, that’s what got me this far.

But that’s scary. All along I’ve had that ending, like a safety net, underneath the novel. If I take it away–who knows?–I might not be able to finish the book.


Maybe I’ll go outline the third novel instead.


Reality, scripted by Donald Westlake

These losers couldn’t leave well enough alone. They stole $2.5 million worth of art and antiques from a Pacific Heights mansion–then tried to sell it back to the owner.

Needless to say, the deal didn’t go smoothly.


Blog Beginning

The new blog:

I’ll be posting mostly about writing, trials and tribulations of, about the progress of my various writing projects. Lately I’ve been struggling to finish my second novel, and may actually be within spitting distance of the last page.

This will be about writing. And reading. And about maundering around aimlessly wishing I were doing one or the other.

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