I’ve officially become a reading-writing nerd. I realized that as I sat in a University of Alaska lecture hall last Saturday in Anchorage, listening to three well-known, local novelists talk about how they wrote their books.
Ever since I decided to write a fiction novel, the learning curve has been steep. It feels like I’ve put myself through my own university MFA program, to learn everything I could about writing a novel. I read the requisite books: On Writing, Bird by Bird, How To Write a Damn Good Novel, the Complete Handbook of Novel Writing…in addition to countless blogs on Facebook and magazine articles. It’s been quite a journey.
The novel process is a lot of work. Of course one doesn’t know that until one goes through it. Writing the first draft was the easy part. Sort of. I hear publishing the thing will be brutal.
I felt encouraged listening to Glen Klinkart (Finding Bethany), Tom Brennan (Dead Man’s Dancer) and Leland Hale (Butcher, Baker) discuss their research and writing process for their true crime novels, and their frustration trying to publish them.
Having tip-toed into the fiction world of crime investigation, I have much to learn. I figured as much when my husband rolled his eyes at my not knowing the difference between a pistol and a revolver (I know now, some 95,000 words later)
What I appreciated was the frank honesty about their process. Especially when it came time to deciding when enough was enough when revising. Since they wrote about real life people and events, they’d spent years researching and interviewing, some taking up to 7 years before their books were published.
Patience and persistence are the name of the game. Don’t rush the process, they said. We don’t want our novels to suck. I certainly don’t. I’d rather take my time to make sure it is the best I can do, instead of rushing to publish a sucky novel. It takes as long as it takes. I know this now and I’m good with it.
After the lecture, I shared with Leland Hale, author of Butcher, Baker (the story of Robert Hansen, Anchorage’s notorious serial killer from the 1980s) my experience working on the film based on his book, The Frozen Ground. During the lecture he’d mentioned the film didn’t capture the essence of his book, the case with most movies based on books.
I shared with him what it was like playing an Alaska State Trooper admin clerk as an extra; when Nicolas Cage raged toward me as I carried pretend files and maps around the office set, pretending not to notice him. I told Mr. Hale how hard it was ignoring the famous Cage-Rage machine, his full frontal anger bellowing in my ears as he stomped in my direction before reeling around to chew out a detective. We filmed that scene 15 times between eleven p.m. and one in the morning. Mr. Hale got a kick out of that, he said he’s heard some amusing behind-the-scenes stories of the Anchorage filming.
It’s always fun to talk with successful novelists. They tell us beginners NEVER GIVE UP!
It seems I’ve morphed from a stage and film actor into a reading and writing nerd, a shift into the other side of the arts. And you know what? I like it! I can work in my pajamas and don’t have to undergo nerve-wracking auditions. I write stories and send them off to the void; they’re either published or rejected. It’s exciting, like playing a roulette wheel: Will I land on the black or the red?
Who cares, I’m having an absolute blast doing it!
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2015, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. LIPS