Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who Ya Gonna Call . . . When Your Hair's On Fire . . .

Rebecca's hair is on fire today--her manuscript is due tomorrow!--so she asked me to play fireman. Since I enjoy dressing up in rubber boots and suspenders while I swing my, uh, ax, naturally I said yes. 

So you're stuck. 

How are you? Good to talk with you again. This week's topic is, "Are you part of a writers' workshop, or do you prefer to keep your book to yourself until you've typed 'The End'"?

Long story short: 

I keep my stories to myself.

Short story long: 

I've never been a fan of writing groups, critique panels, and other forms of author flagellation. For the uninitiated, critique groups happen when writers get together to review and critique one another's work. The idea is to put your material before an audience of peers, take their critiques to heart, and make your work better. 

Doesn't work for me. 

First, it takes a lot of time. It's hard enough to find enough hours to get my work done every day, let alone read a half-dozen other peoples' chapters and offer cogent critiques. That's hours and hours of hard work I'd rather pour into my own writing. 

Second, I don't like to pick apart others' writing. Their words are their babies, as mine are mine. And you know what happens when you say someone's baby is ugly.

Third, when I get together with other writers, I'd rather drink Scotch or coffee and gossip about the business and life. Chapter critiques are WORK, and I get enough of that when I sit down and type my own stuff. Face time should be spent pleasantly, when libation in hand. 

Fourth and finally, when I tell someone about my story, a little of its magic disappears. Tell enough people and the magic is gone--I feel like I've written the story already, so why bother typing it out? 

Like most authors, I do 95 percent of my work in my head. (The other 5 percent is spent typing.) It's that secret life between my ears that keeps my story fresh, happy and alive. Once it's out in public, it becomes a--groan--work product. Others can enjoy it--I hope they do, anyway--but I no longer get any pleasure. That's a sucky place to be when you still have to write three or four hundred pages of actual, you know, text to give to your publisher.

So, no group gropes for me . .. 

Whew. That was a serious essay, wasn't it? Sorry about that. It's too much seriosity for me--feel free to borrow that one, Sarah!--so let's do something fun to make up for it.

Like, watch a movie! 

Wasn't it the coolest feeling ever when your fourth-grade teacher called in sick so the substitute--usually the harried assistant principal in charge of attendance, hall monitoring, dress code violations and other effluvia--put a movie on the projector and drank coffee while it chattered? 

You betcha. 

So here ya go ...

Have a great day, and talk to you when another Criminal Mind finds his or her hair on fire. Sssssst!


 Shane Gericke has been held at knifepoint, hit by lightning, caught in a bombing, and shaken the cold sweaty hand of Liberace. He was born to write thrillers. His latest is Torn Apart, a finalist for the prestigious Thriller Award for Best Novel of 2010 (Paperback Original) and named the Best Thriller and a Best Book of 2010 by Suspense Magazine. Shane, whose last name is improbably pronounced YUR-kee, spent 25 years as a newspaper editor, most prominently at the Chicago Sun-Times, before jumping into fiction. He’s a founding member of International Thriller Writers, chairman of ThrillerFest, director of its agent-author matching program AgentFest, and a member of Mystery Writers of America and Society of Midland Authors. His novels—available in print and e-books—have been translated worldwide, and his national bestselling debut, Blown Away, was named Best First Mystery of 2006 by RT Book Reviews. He lives in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, the home of world-famous detective Dick Tracy, with whom Shane shares no resemblance except steely jaw and manly visage. Check him out at www.shanegericke.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.


Joshua Corin said...

Great post, Shane!

And...I think I make all of those faces when I write...

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for coming to help out today, Shane! Always great to see you. Loved the movie... I think there are more stages than 5 to writing a novel though (or maybe I'm just more bipolar--euphoria, despair, euphoria, despair, repeat).

Stacy said...

Love this post. I'm always hearing about how beneficial critique groups are, and I just don't get the appeal. In my opinion, having one strong critique partner who will tell you like it is (I do) is just beneficial.

Plus, I'm in Iowa, and we just don't have a lot of resources unless you go to the U of I's workshop, something else I'm leery of, lol.

Michael Wiley said...

Great to have you back, Shane -- if only for a fire day. I agree with you about writing groups, but for another reason: my brain is too small to take the interference.

Great post.

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Josh. I have made all those faces, and more than once, as well.

You betcha, Meredith. I'm sure that guy had all the repeats in, but just edited for space. %^$#@ editors :-)

Stacy, good to see you here at The Seven. I do have good friends with which I bounce off ideas, but that's just the idea and/or sell-the-publisher-the-concept stage. Once I start writing, that's it; everyone is locked out. And while workshops can be very good for writers, they're just not for me.

Plus, the only two people you ever have to please in this process are yourself and your editor. Nobody else's opinions count in the writing stage. Once the book is out, everyone's opinion counts, of course--readers rule. But during the creation stage, it's just me, my editor, and the computer.

Michael, you have a small brain too? So do I. That's why I rely on funny movies. I can only write so many seriosity words then my brain gets all tuckered out and needs a nap ...

Thanks, everyone. So much fun to play with the A-team again!

Kelli Stanley said...

Shane!! You've come back!! :)

Thank you for the validation of not liking critique groups (I love people, but I don't like to talk about my writing), and for a wonderful video and, well, shucks, just for being here.

Miss you, buddy!!


Graham Brown said...

Shane - great post. I 100% agree on the critique groups thing. I think they hold more people back than they help. And I 150% agree that talking about a book before it's done just saps it's power and spirit.

Good to have you back as a guest star. Can't wait to see you at TFest.