Saturday, June 1, 2013

Guest Blogger: Liz Bugg on Walking Away

Walk Away From Your Writing

By Liz Bugg

If you can believe various Internet sources, Gertrude Stein once said, “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.” I agree, but when I’m working on, or supposed to be working on a manuscript, I often need a reminder. Fortunately, the more I write, the more credence I put in Stein’s statement, and the less I beat myself up over time management.

When I began the Calli Barnow Series back in 2004, I had no great aspirations about the first book ever being published. At that point, the writing of a mystery novel was a challenge I had set myself, a hobby of sorts, something to keep my mind sharp and my creative juices flowing for about six weeks during the summer months, when I wasn’t teaching high school.

Frustrating as this sporadic process was at times, I believe it made me a much better writer than I would have been otherwise. In fact, it really taught me how to write. Having a rather poor memory, each year I was forced to go back to the beginning of the manuscript, and as I worked my way through the story, I revised it - drastically. The end result was Red Rover, published in 2010.

I knew the process for the second book would be different. I was no longer teaching full time, so I was able to write year round. I wasn’t, however, prepared for the speed with which my publisher expected number two in the series. As I had done with Red Rover, I still preferred to write my first draft by hand, but that just made things more difficult. Oranges and Lemons was published eighteen months after its predecessor. The job got done, but I would have been much happier and more creative, had there been additional gestative time. I missed being able to walk away from the book for as long as I wanted or needed, returning later with fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

This spring YellowVengeance, the third book in the series, was published. With it, I was prepared; I knew what to expect and what would be expected of me. I began working on it the September before Orangesand Lemons was released, so that by the time number two hit the bookstore shelves, number three was ready for a first set of revisions. Once I was able to devote myself to it completely, however, I did just the opposite. 

I began a year of walking away from the manuscript for long periods. Sometimes this was intentional. I went on two holidays. I promoted the previous book. I read. I pursued different lines of employment. At other times I held off working on revisions, while I waited for feedback from my agent or editor. Whatever the reason, I came to realize what I had known before, but had pushed aside due to circumstance. I am a much more effective writer, when I have the luxury of putting time and space between a manuscript and my red pen. Not only do my ideas flow more freely, but I am able to see with more clarity what needs work. 

On occasion a major change will present itself. Yellow Vengeance grew considerably over the months of what might have been perceived as neglect. An entire subplot appeared, and important relationships between Calli and her family and close friends were deepened and refined. 

Distance from the manuscript might result, however, in something as simple as a word change. In fact, I’ve discovered that once I see the formatted pages, my eyes pick up previously-overlooked blunders, like unwanted repetition, as well as the possibility for subtle stylistic improvements. I admit I was still making improvements to YellowVengeance as my publisher metaphorically yanked it from my grasp this April.  

Gertrude Stein calls it loafing. Others have referred to it as taking a break, resting your mind and so on. I like to think that when I step back from my writing and take time away, what I’m really doing is gaining a multitude of experiences; in other words, I’m living my life. Regardless of what that living entails, it can only make my writing better, and because of that, walking away is something I will continue to do.

The book launch party for Liz's new book, YELLOW VENGEANCE, will be held on June 11th, from 6:30-8:30 pm at  Dora Keogh Irish Pub:  141 Danforth Ave, Toronto, a short walk from Broadview Station.  Drop by of you're in the neighbourhood!

Find out what Liz is up to by following her on Twitter @mysterybugg


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