Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Some of my favorite authors - whether they wrote a few books or dozens - are prone to repeating themselves. They use the same name for a character more than once. They repeat a significant plot device. I used to be surprised when I found these very accomplished and best-selling authors falling prey to this. Was it laziness, I wondered? Or were they so fond of the name/device/whatever that they consciously chose to repeat it? I vowed not to do this in my own writing.

And then found myself doing it! And after just three books! D'oh. As I continue to revise the first novel I set out to write, HEAVENLY MOVES, I keep realizing how I've unconsciously repeated myself over the years. For example:
  • A red VW Bug figures prominently in ROMEO FAILS, coming in February 2012 from Bella Books. (and you thought this was a commercial free blog :-)) As I'm rewriting HEAVENLY MOVES, which I started more than a decade ago, I realize a minor character in that story drives a rattletrap old orange Bug. Now, perhaps nobody but Perfectionist Moi would care about this, but said minor character now drives a rattletrap old orange Karmann Ghia. Whew - problem solved.
  • In SHADOW POINT, a rock formation is said to resemble Bing Crosby. In HEAVENLY MOVES, an investigator is said to resemble David Crosby. Why, Brain, Why?! Oh, well. I'm letting this one stand. Because (a) SHADOW POINT is already out and (b) dude really looks like David Crosby!
  • It is without the slightest trace of embarrassment that I now reveal I loved "Laverne & Shirley." Like those wacky gals, the protagonist of HEAVENLY MOVES keeps a baseball bat in the corner as a home security measure. A baseball bat also appears in SHADOW POINT. Say... wait a minute... isn't that a baseball bat in the corner of the room where I am typing this right now? No, of course not. It's a softball bat. Toooooootally different.

It's humbling to realize that I have so quickly sunk to repeating myself in my writing. I'm trying to be more vigilant about this now. Except for Bing, everything else above has some root in my past. As I noted in a previous blog post, however, just because it happened in real life doesn't mean it belongs in the story.

So, Humility Is Good.

But... I think a novelist needs a healthy dose of arrogance as well. If you write a novel, there will be many, MANY people - family, friends, so-called friends, acquaintances and total strangers - who will tell you You Suck. You have to believe in yourself and in your novel and persevere. It's a tough business. It's a tough world.

Don't give up. And that bears repeating!

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