Killer Year–The Class of 2007


I live in the slow lane, but when I write? Vroom, vroom…
January 11, 2007, 1:25 am
Filed under: Killer Year Members

I live the kind of quiet, predictable life that Flaubert recommended for writers: “Be neat and orderly in  your life like a bourgeois so that you may be creative and violent in your work.”

How else could a shy bookish type who spent half her life in the library, and the other half at play groups with my four children, write  novels about clever psychopaths who kill?

I’ve tried the slow simmer method  that works so marvelously for other writers. Those efforts are in the proverbial drawer (these days, more like a document file on my computer.)  They’re the “someday books.” Someday I’ll finish them. Just like someday I’ll clean out the basement. Or someday I’ll learn to fly fish. Or take up knitting.

No, for me, the only method that works when it comes to getting a book done, is by total immersion. With a deadline. In the past, the deadline was self-imposed. With the new novel I’m now revising, I’m fortunate enough to have my agent and editor calling regularly to ask, “Is it soup yet?”

I also got another chance to consider why sprinting (once I know where I’m going, of course) works best for me:

1. Because it really can be done. Frequently, we writers are under the impression that the gods of writing are stingy types. They only dole out x number of pages a day–hell, sometimes just a measly paragraph or two, and then they move on to the next poor sucker sitting at a computer. Ask for more and you get your hand slapped and a stern lecture about the importance of gratitude. But countless writers have talked back to their fears, their indolence, and the need for a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee or a shot of tequila right now and proven otherwise, producing terrific work at breakneck speeds.

2. Because the unconscious mind is a sprinter, not a stroller. When you write fast, you go deeper. You tap into a power you’ll never reach if you treat every word like a bronze artifact, in need of daily polishing.

3. Because even if you have to delete the whole damn thing, you’ll have probably learned something in the process. Remember: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. You can practice slowly, and take a dozen years to write your first crappy drafts or you can just tap the writing gods on the shoulder, hold out your little porridge bowl like Oliver Twist, and humbly ask for more. Now please.

4. Because everything the scientists say about momentum is true.
A body at rest remains at rest, etc…It works for writers too!

5. Because Ray says so, and when it comes to writing, Ray is always right. Ray who? If you really want to know, go out and buy  Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing. It may not be the most technical book on writing, but it’s full of joy and energy. And when you come down to it, isn’t that what great writing’s all about?

–Patry Francis

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6 Comments so far
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Absolutely excellent advice, Patry!

Comment by toni mcgee causey

I write so very slowly, there are days when I wonder how it is I ever finished an entire novel. And in fact, I’m well through the second draft of my next novel, so I must not be as slow as I think.

For this current one, I did a number of immersive spasms — hiding away at a cabin in the woods for long weekends and (once) a full week. Those were very productive times — something I could really get used to. Alas for the damnable day job! Someday, I hope!

Thanks, Patry!

Comment by Bill Cameron

Patry, I totally agree!! I’m a “blitz” writer, myself–when the spirit moves, I can really move fast as well! And Zen and the Art of Writing is my long time absolute favorite inspiration!!

Comment by CJ Lyons

I guess I sprint (people tell me I do, so I suppose it’s true). If I don’t, my brain won’t “hold” all the details and threads. After too much time, stuff starts leaking out, threads get dropped, and the momentum dies.

Newton’s Law definitely applies to writing! That’s how I avoid writer’s block … just keep typing up the hill, until I go over the top and start flying agian.

And I love that book!

Comment by spyscribbler

I could use a little fast writing, right now.

Comment by m.g. tarquini

I’m going to get that book. Patry, your unique view of the world continues to amaze me.

Comment by JT Ellison




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