Monday, August 5, 2013

A Useful Lesson Via Mom and Dad

Years ago – 20? 30? Quite a while, anyway – my parents went to a daylong mystery-writing seminar by author Paul Bishop. He was an L.A.P.D. detective who started writing mystery novels with the goal of being the next Joseph Wambaugh. I think it's something in the water in L.A. Everybody has an idea they think can become a movie.

That was the sort of thing my parents did. Their idea of enjoying retirement was to go to seminars and workshops on any subject that sounded interesting, or get in their camper van and drive out to the desert for a couple of weeks to volunteer at an archeological dig.

Anyway, Dad brought a cassette recorder – Does this help set it in time? Caseette recorder? – and taped the whole thing. That was very Dad. He then sent me the three cassettes. Probably sent them to my sisters too, now that I think about it. Mom and Dad were interested in everything, and loved sharing it, assuming you'd be as interested as they were. Usually they were right, but it was their enthusiasm that made it so interesting.

This was long before I had seriously considered writing a book. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor for at least 10 years, probably more like 15 or so by then, and I knew I was capable of stringing sentences together.

I wish I still had them, I'm sure they're gone, although I suppose there's a chance they're in a box in the storage shed that still holds so much of our worldly goods in Oregon. Even if I had them I'd have no way to play them now. But I can still see them, Dad's careful, engineer's handwriting labeling each one.

And I remember a lot of his lessons, have used them. 

The voice on the tape had a lot of really good, sound advice about writing. He knew what he was doing, even if (in my opinion, and I'm just one guy) he didn't do it particularly well. And there are a couple of things he said that I have picked up and adopted.

The most important thing, and one I find very useful, is about work flow. Each day when I sit down to work, the first thing I do is reread the writing I did the day before. It's still fresh in my mind, and I can clean it up, tweak it. Not any major editing or rewriting. Pick up any typos that jump out at me, maybe change a word or two. Then I'm up to speed and ready to jump into that day's writing. It's like taking a running start. The work flows much better. When I'm done with the first draft, I'll not have only written it, I'll have also given it all a cursory edit.

Scurvy Dogs UpdateAs I suspected. Between work for the Source and work on the website I got nothing done on the book Sunday. Today was better. Managed to work through three chapters – exciting stuff, I think – totaling 4,307 words. That was between covering a teleconference with the governor of the V.I., and an errand that couldn't be put off that ate up about two hours. So progress has been made.

Now I've gotta get back to "pay copy." Got the gov's presser to write up, then at least four cop briefs. Seems odd, I admit, to be making a few bucks per story on other people's misfortune. What can I say? It's an ill wind that doesn't blow someone some good. Such is the life of a reporter.

But at this point I've got nothing on the calendar for tomorrow, so Scurvy Dogs! will be job one.

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