Monday, August 15, 2016

Tics, What Tics?

Q: Do you have any writing tics? How do you deal with them?

-from Susan

A: No, I’m perfect, so I have turned this space over to someone who is less…Seriously, author Lisa Alber’s publisher has just released the second book in her series set in County Clare, Ireland and since I loved the first one, I wanted to give her a bit of spotlight for Whispers in the Mist. Lisa’s debut novel, Kilmoon, was nominated for the Rosebud Award of Best First Novel. She balances writing her third novel with gardening, dog-walking,*and goofing off. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Welcome, Lisa!

A: Thank you, Susan, for letting me take over your spot this week!

Have to admit, I didn’t understand the question at first. Did you bright minds at Criminal Minds mean tics in our writing—as in quirks in our prose—or our tics as writers while we’re writing?

Can I tell you about the way I jiggle my leg when I suddenly realize that the last page I’ve written is nothing but mindless drivel that’s more like me talking to my internal psychotherapist?

Merrit: “Are you seeing a doctor about your sleep issues?”
Nathan: “It’s nothing, really, I’m fine.”
Merrit: “You say that, but, Jesus, man, you’re a walking zombie. You’ve got to see a doctor. I’m worried about you—you seem—”
Nathan: “What?”
Merrit: “Troubled. What’s going on?”

It’s about at this point that I jiggle my leg, delete, and suppress my thoughts. That’s how I deal with it – healthy, right?

How about the way I obsessively tap the keys without depressing them when I can’t get my thoughts to order themselves into anything like coherent sentences? There’s nothing to do in this case but walk away for awhile. Just. Walk. Away.

Sometimes I swear I take on the tics of my characters too. At one point while writing Whispers in the Mist … (Commercial intermission: The reason I’m here—the book just launched! Woohoo! You can read more about it below.) … I found myself patting my chest like my series character Merrit does when she’s getting anxious.

I hope that doesn’t come off like she’s a woman with the vapors, a fainting couch, and opiates. Not like that at all, but this does leave me with a question: Or did Merrit inherit my tendency to pat my chest? Hmm …

Having just come off the Whisper in the Mist book launch, I’m now settling back into revisions for the novel coming out next summer. I’ve already got a list of overused words that I must search and destroy—or at least search and disable. I’m used to this list; it’s a variation of the list I compiled while revising Whispers in the Mist.

The list includes such words as: blink, sigh, shrug, grunt, hiss, turn, gaze, nod, stare

In other words, one of my writing tics is that my characters have too many tics. It’s like they’re all suffering from undiagnosed neurological disorders. In early drafts, they twitch around on the page, shifting, blinking, shrugging, turning, tapping, fiddling, nodding, shaking, hissing, snorting, staring – it’s a collective case of ADHD. Mass ADHD, as it were.

Don’t get me wrong, my final drafts still contain some of these words—but hopefully in spare fashion. So if you ever read one of my novels and think, My, her characters are expressive – all I can say is, you should have read the first draft!

Anyone have an unusual tic I can borrow for one of my characters someday?

*If you haven’t met Fawn (“Fawnie”) on Facebook, you are missing something. Check her and her author companion out.


Art Taylor said...

Hi, Lisa -- Thanks for the fun post! The question was one I came up with, and the full question included a parenthetical explanation: "Do you have any writing tics (habits or problems which you repeat in your prose)? How do you deal with them?" But honestly your answer is more fun! (And you still list those words you repeat in your prose--one of my own problems, in fact, and with some of those same words.

Thanks for joining us--and congratulations on the new book! (Should've said that first.)

Unknown said...

Oh, here's a little bit about Whispers in the Mist:

Whispers in the Mist only contains one character with a certifiable neurological disorder. Gemma, a woman with selective mutism, might be the only person who can identify a murderer that locals are calling “Grey Man,” a man who becomes more elusive the closer she and Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern get to the truth.

You can find out more about the book at Thanks!

Unknown said...

Hi Art, I liked the question. It really got me thinking. Thanks!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Lisa! :-)

Paul D. Marks said...

Hi Lisa, I echo what Art said: Fun post. I was laughing out loud. And suffer (both my characters and me) some of the same tics. Congratulations on the new book.

Susan C Shea said...

I do one word search for over-used words before I turn in the manuscript. I do a different one when they send me back the electronic copy-edited one to review.Right now I'm proofing and - zut alors! - seeing at least two others. Bangs head on table.

Good ost - wishing you the best with the new book.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Paul, thanks, Susan!

Unknown said...

Welcome and congratulations Lisa! Your novel sounds fascinating... grey man!