Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Secret Writers Don't Want You To Know

Wow, 2014 in a couple of days! The New Year is a good time to 'fess up to the truth, right? Okay, here goes a myth buster. 
In many ways, writing is the easiest job in the world. And you, dear readers, make it so we can indulge in this so-called work. THANK YOU! But we writers wouldn't want the world to know how easy it is. We'd rather have people think that we slave for our precious art, that, as screenwriter Gene Fowler put it, we struggle at it until drops of blood form on our foreheads. 
What a load of BS we've perpetrated on the world.
Of course, some people, unpracticed at writing, give it a try and mistakenly think that it is hard. That's like saying that riding a unicycle is hard. True only until you learn. Then it is easy. I know because I learned to do both. (Trying to keep up with my kid sister when she first mastered that one-wheeled contraption back in junior high school!)
Once you learn to write, it is the sweetest job there is. 
Sure, it takes some effort to get those words arranged in the best order. But compared to real work? The kind of job where you have to be at the office or the loading dock every morning at 8:30? Five or six or more days every week of the year? Where you bust your butt trying to make your boss and co-workers and your customers happy?
I know what a real job is like because I did it for 35 years. I wrote eight novels during those years. They weren't all good (four are still in a drawer). Partly, they didn't have the right stuff because it took a lot of practice to figure out what I was doing. And partly, it was because I was too busy going to the day job. But, like most endeavors, practice and you'll get pretty good.
Now I have the incredible luxury of earning my living by making up stories. I sit at the computer drinking coffee, moving those little words around. Gosh, should this scene be moved to the early part of my story? What about this character? Should I make him a little edgier? Maybe these commas are too disruptive... You get the idea. Tough life.
If you ever hear a writer complain about how hard it is to arrange those words, go ahead, laugh. Arranging words. That's all we do. The words already exist. Occasionally, we make up a word, but we don't have to. We only have to move them around until they make some sense. On the scale of real work, writing's about a one-point-five.
And then there's the other part of writing. Research. Let me tell you how hard that is. Yesterday morning, I Googled several interesting questions and surfed around cyberspace reading articles. A great way to enjoy one's coffee even if one weren't writing. Then I got in my car and drove around the lake counter-clockwise, scouting scene locations in my new novel, taking a few mileage measurements to make sure I have my descriptions accurate, planning where Owen and Spot and the rest of the gang are going to do their thing...
I took some pics to show you.
My first stop was at six o'clock on the "lake dial," out on the Lake Tahoe Golf Course between the South Shore airport and Meyers (where Echo Summit Road comes down to the basin). I went there to check out one of the footbridges over the South Upper Truckee River.  Might be a good spot for a chase scene...

At four o'clock on the lake dial, I stopped at Zephyr Cove to check on the M.S. Dixie, one of Tahoe's two sternwheelers. The Dixie was sitting very pretty in the morning sunlight.

A bit north up the East Shore (three o'clock) gives you a nice view of the West Shore mountains. In this case, "nice view" is one of the great understatements of the last few days of 2013!

When I got to Incline Village (one o'clock), I took a quick detour up to the Mt. Rose Highway overlook and looked down the East Shore. Sweet!

Coming back down the West Shore I saw the Dixie again in Emerald Bay! (seven o'clock) She'd just looped around Fannette Island and was heading back out to the main lake for the 10-mile dash across to home base in Zephyr Cove.

As you can see, this writing research is a lot of tough work. Writing is so hard!

Happy New Year!

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