I have enjoyed this enforced week at home, even if I haven’t elevated my foot as much as I should. I’m ready to move on and get back into the world. My foot, however, is not. The ankle is still puffy, and I still have fleeting but fairly serious pain at night—like what I imagine phantom pain is like if you’ve lost a limb. The doctor said to check back in two weeks if it isn’t better, and it’s only been four days since I saw him.
I’ve been busy at my desk and feel good about what I’ve done. After a strongly positive review from my beta reader (how he’d laugh at that term), I sent “Murder at Peacock Mansion” off to an editor. My chores for today were to write a blurb and a synopsis—I know, I know. The synopsis should come first. But I get involved in the story I’m telling, and it changes so far from any synopsis I did before writing that the idea is futile. I know people who keep chapter by chapter outlines as they go—probably a great idea, but once again it would stop the flow of my story-telling. I read today that we should be open to new ways of editing and revising and I agree—except that I don’t want to. I rely on a good editor to tell me if I’ve run amuck.
Before I labored over a blurb, I checked my file—and I’d already written a better than average blurb (at least in my opinion). Started the synopsis and it went poorly, sounding like “And then this happens, and then that.” My novel disappeared in the mechanical retelling. So I gave up and completed my final chore—asking two authors to write short endorsements of the work. To my delight, the first two I asked agreed. I’m feeling really good about the week’s accomplishments.
I’ve been thinking about the craft of writing a lot lately. I follow the Sisters in Crime listserv and that of Guppies (a subgroup) religiously, and there are lots of posts like the one just referred to about revision and editing. Some authors make elaborate outlines, do extensive character profiles, keep spreadsheets, etc. —in short, they have the book almost written before they type “Chapter One.” Certainly would have helped me with a synopsis if I'd done that.
I’m a pantser. I get that first sentence, and I’m off. I do believe the old saw that your characters tell you what’s going to happen if you’ll only listen to them. So I write without a clear plan of what’s going to happen or where I’m going next. Of course, that’s why I ended up with a woman having two college-age children in one chapter, four children in another, and then one. She now has one diva daughter, about to go off to a women’s college.
I ask myself often if I truly value the spontaneity of my method or if that’s a cop-out. Maybe I’m too lazy to learn about spreadsheets and Scrivener and One Note and all those writing tools my colleagues talk about. Or maybe you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks.