Thursday 15 January 2015

How many light bulbs does it take to screw in a writer?

Today I welcome Joni Rodgers, NYT bestselling author of Crazy for Trying and Bald in the Land of Big Hair as my Guest Blogger.  

Joni's novel Crazy for Trying is included in Women Writing Women box set. Just $9.99 (£7.99) for seven novels. Available 90 days only from February 20).  

See the Press Release HERE.

So here's Joni:

How many light bulbs does it take to screw in a writer?
Lack of ideas is never my problem. I have the antithesis of that: a daily hemorrhage of ideas, some of which are crap, some of which are brilliant, but the vast majority of which could go either way because writing is not about ideas, it's about delivery. Sorting and prioritizing ideas—book by book, line by line—is one of the great challenges of a long writing career.
I wake up before five most mornings, my brain clicking with ideas. Since my alarm is set for six, I sometimes try to shove the idea bulbs under the pillow so I can get back to sleep, but usually, I just give in and trudge to my office and start typing. I know I’ll sleep again when I finish the novel I'm working on. This is familiar swampland I'm slogging through.

Flannery O'Connor said, "Writing a novel is a terrible experience during which hair often falls out and teeth decay."

Maybe she was talking about writer angst, but for me it's an admittedly unhealthy disconnect, during which the alternate universe in the book occupies the vast majority of my waking thoughts and becomes more real to me than the taxes, dishes and laundry waiting to be done.

A while back, I Fed Exed galley proofs to my editor at Random House and went directly to get my roots done.

"Goodness," said Veronica, the sorceress who sees me through all my seasonal changes in foliage. "What have you been doing for the last four months?"

Every time she lifted a section to foil with bleach (I'm a non-blond attempting to have more fun) I could plainly see almost three inches of salt and pepper that have grown since last time I thought about anything other than that manuscript.

My kids used to pitch biscuits or string beans at me from across the dinner table.

"Earth to Mom?"

With both of them grown up and gone, I've been able to give myself over to the "terrible experience" without feeling guilty or neglectful. But the result is that I've been utterly neglectful of myself.

Yesterday, I came out of what my daughter calls "Book Head" and looked around to find out how many people are mad at me. There are several. Neglected friends, overdue emails, unblogged blogs and—oh, that guy I married 32 years ago. He knocks on the door every once in a while wanting me to scratch his back or feed him a sandwich or something.

Fictional people and events are not more important than real ones, but they are more immediate at times, because they are in such great peril of being forgotten before they make it to paper. Ever since menopause, my memory is about as reliable as a mosquito leg.

So what was I saying a minute ago about…

Ideas! Yes. Sorting them. Fleshing them out or flushing them. Not letting them take over the day or obscure the task at hand.

My best strategy for herding ideas: I set up an Idea Bank, a Title Bank and a Dialogue Bank. Whenever I get a flash of might-be-brilliant, I email myself one quick sentence that captures the idea and sorts it automatically into the appropriate file. That way, I’ve caught it in a butterfly net without devoting too much time to it.

You don’t want to lose a tooth unless it’s really worth it. 
Excerpt from Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

Thanks, Joni - that all sounds so familiar!

For more information on the Women Writing Women box set see the Press Release.


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