Monday, October 18, 2021

Thoughts on Cringing

 Q: Is there any of your published writing that you’re not particularly proud of any more? Give us an example of something you’ve written that made you cringe. Why does it make you feel that way and what have you learned since you wrote it?

- from Susan

The question means my crime writing fiction, I think? I’ve written and had published a lot more than that over time. (At a convention bar, ask me about my hard-hitting investigative reporting on a local funeral home and crematorium.) 

Probably a few passages I’d like to do over, but I haven’t gone back to read all or most of any book that’s already in print unless I have lost track of something specific that I’m carrying forward. In general, some places in the early books were longer on flashbacks than I now think are the best way to keep a story moving forward. I found “echoes” (word used in close proximity to the same word) as soon as one book came out. I didn’t catch them and the person at the publisher’s responsible for re-flowing the text after the proofreader and I had a go inadvertently lined up a couple right underneath each other. That was a definitely cringy.

If I think about some early books, I am not happy some plots and sometimes think my solutions fell short, either too twisty or not twisty enough. I’ve had several commenters complain (or at least I think they’re complaints) that my French mysteries start slowly, but that was deliberate. In a way, those books are novels with unexplained deaths in them. My choice. With every manuscript, I’ve tried really hard to look at the text objectively, to be attuned to language, semantics, style, and tone before I even turn it in to my agent for her review. One hard part – and where I have had a couple of cringy moments – is when I use what I’ve been told by someone is a current slang word in French, only to find out it’s out of date or uglier than I understood it to be. So far – knock on wood – my editors haven’t given me pages of notes that would make me want to go hide, but who knows, maybe next time. 

Having said that, I’m sure that I would find things to squirm about in every book if I went looking in detail. I hope I’m a better writer in 2021 than I was in 2008 when my first book sold. I always want the next book to be much better than the ones before. I learn to write by reading other books, some of which are staggeringly good. Plots, settings, character strength and distinctiveness, slow burn humor…But even the novels that fall short of my expectations have much to show me, a lot of it positive. There are an awful lot of good writers out there, including those I share this blog with!

                                                The way I'd like to think of my books.

                    What my little Pumpkin thinks of the way I'd like to think of my books.






1 comment:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's a good outlook, Susan: Make the next book better than the one before. And I agree that reading a lot inspires a writer to do so.