Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Devil's In The Details

by Robison Wells (a day late and a dollar short)

The other day someone asked me what the hardest thing is about writing a book. I made up some phoney-baloney answer about dedication and sticktoitiveness, and he went on his merry way. At other times I've answered the question with one or more of the following: dialogue, editing, physical description, marketing, and/or plagiarizing Candace Salima without getting caught. (And man, she's suspicious! Seriously, Candace -- my book is called Out of Darkness: Reflection of Forgers. It's totally different.)

No, the really hard part about writing is that I'm not exactly detail oriented. I write stuff because I'm typing really fast, not because I confirmed my sources and double-checked my facts. I dwell in the abstract, theoretical realms, and I use the "Hey -- it's just fiction!" excuse all the time.

A few examples:

* In Wake Me When It's Over, I needed a ringtone for the cellphone of my female protagonist. It was simple enough: she's a concert violinist, and all she really needed was a famous concerto. However, I'm a writer, not a musician, and I don't know a harmonica from a harpsicord. So, I made up the fictional Mozart's Violin Concerto in E-flat, fully intending to research concertos and find something suitable to take its place. E-flat was just a stand-in. Well, guess what I never remembered to do? There it remains, in print, mocking me.

* Regarding my upcoming novel, The Counterfeit, my editor just emailed me today: the main characters are visiting with the bishop, who writes his address on the back of a tithing envelope and sends them on their way. Very nice of him, you might say -- always trying to keep in touch. Well, smart guy, isn't the Bishop's address already printed on the front of a tithing envelope? Seriously: duh?

In my books, people apparently change clothes mid-scene. Laws of physics are defied. Waitresses miraculously become waiters. Why won't people recognize my genius?!

It makes me grateful for editors. I mean, I've read this dang thing over and over and over again, for two-and-a-half years, and I don't catch any of this stuff.

You know what I need? An unpaid intern. Someone who will check my facts, and remove all my extraneous commas, and do the dishes while I take a nap. I'll be sending out press releases to university English departments: "Spend your days working with a real-live author!"

If you're interested, send your applications to 123 Anytown, USA. (Note to self: replace that with a real address before posting to the blog...)


At 4/19/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

You are a funny guy. I really want to read you books now because you make me laugh. And doesn't you wife do all that anyway? Why would you need an intern?

At 4/19/2006 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's hilarious about the Mozart piece. So no music buff has called you on it yet?

At 4/19/2006 5:10 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

When I was at BYU, I took a class called "Editing for Publication." We were required to do something like 120 hours of editing during the semester. Everyone was always looking for projects.

If you really want an unpaid intern, you should contact that professor. I'm sure she could round up a volunteer or two.

I know I would have done it if I wasn't an assistant editor on a campus journal that filled all my hours.

At 4/24/2006 8:15 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

Hey Robison - plaguerize away (for the 2nd time, the comment I just wrote went the way of all good things.) What's a little plaguerism between friends.

We all need unpaid interns. I'll be contacting BYU, UofU, USU, UVSC -- any school who has that class. Great tip.

When I was first published (Out of the Shadows . . . Into the Light) I was interviewed by Janie Van Komen. She told me that her mother used to edit her work. Her mother was an English professor at USU. She told Janie when writers edit their own work over and over the brain starts to just correct the mistakes before the conscious mind realizes what's going on. Pretty darn cool of the brain, not so good for the manuscript.


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