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                                                                             JOURNAL #202

                                                                            February 1, 2016

 

A critical point that I always like to emphasize in discussions about writing is that you don't try to assemble a complete outline before you start working. It's a lesson I picked up originally from Ursula LeGuin, at a time when I thought having an outline, in detail, was necessary. And it took me awhile to see that she was dead right.

What is needed in order to start a novel is a sense of where the narrative should begin, and how the climax should play out. Sometimes when the writer arrives at the climax, he'll want to change it. But that's fine. Go with whatever feels right. But the author does want to have someplace to land. This is especially true if he's writing a mystery.

I got off to a late start with the current Hutch novel because I kept waiting for lightning to strike. I've had the basic plot idea for several months. But looking for the narrative to arrive is simply a waste of time. I actually tried to start writing the thing out in detail, event by event. Ding dong.

I finally recalled Ursula's advice –and my own, given on so many occasions—and jumped in three weeks ago. I'm happy to report I am almost a quarter of the way through a first draft, and so far I think Priscilla would be happy with the result. I don't know why some of us have to keep learning the same lesson over and over.

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I'll be doing a signing ​Friday evening, Feb 5, in Brunswick, GA, at the Barrister Bookstore, 201 Gloucester Street. It's directly across from the library off US 341. The signing will run from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00.

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The Literary Guild of the Golden isles invited me to do a presentation about Mark Twain. It's part of our Big Read program, and will happen on St Simons Island, at the library, February 23rd at 10:30 AM. The Big Read was created by Heather Heath, who is a major local contributor to the arts. It's an annual appreciation for classical writers. This year it's Twain's turn. I'd read his major novels, as most of us have, so I've devoted most of my spare time over the last three months to reading his essays, speeches, newspaper stories, and everything else I could get hold of.    

He is a good writer. I'll give him that. He can be funny when he's in the mood. And it looks as if half the world loved him during his active years. He took a stand for common sense approaches to international issues. He opposed some of the Russian moves in Europe. Thought the UK should stay out of Africa. That would have been the Boer War. And was outraged at the beginning of the 20th century with the U.S. intervention in the Philippines, which he describes as pretending to fight to keep them free from Spain while really taking themover for ourselves. He spoke out against corruption. Took on Congress. Was largely responsible for American copyright law, without which we might not have had the SF era we've all enjoyed.

But there's been a jolt: The Great American Humorist sounds as if, when the doors were closed, he may have suffered from depression.