“The Clue in the Manuscript”

BY KARIS WALSH

Mounting DangerMounting Danger, my first romantic intrigue, will be released by Bold Strokes Books in October. In it, Sergeant Rachel Bryce is put in charge of the police department’s new mounted unit, and she has to ask her old friend/polo rival Callan Lanford to help train the inexperienced team. I loved setting a novel in the city of Tacoma, where I was born and raised. And, for a change from my previous books, I enjoyed adding an element of intrigue to the romance.

I suppose it’s only natural that I would be drawn to the mystery genre since I played the role of Nancy Drew with great success on my grade school playground. With Bess and George (aka Corina and Gina) helping me, I unearthed clues and solved mysteries before the bell rang and recess was over. No puzzle was too great, no enigma too inscrutable, to be left unresolved at the end of lunch hour.

Now, many years later, I’ve discovered that some mysteries are unsolvable. During the editing process for Mounting Danger,Mounting Danger I was also working on my novel, Wingspan. I really thought I’d be in control of the writing process by this, my sixth book. I was certain I’d have discovered some magic formula for creating scenes, or perhaps a cure for my chronic procrastination. But, no. The secrets to inexhaustible focus, seamless plotting, and successful time management remain shrouded in secrecy, baffling even this experienced Nancy Drew impersonator. I thought I’d share a few of my as-yet-unresolved cases with you.

 

The Case of the Receding Deadline

Nowhere is the phrase “time is relative” more applicable than when it comes to a deadline. At first, the chasm between where I am and when my manuscript is due seems as gloriously vast as my uncle’s shiny bald head. And—here’s the tricky part—as the first weeks elapse, the deadline actually seems to be receding into the future. It makes perfect, logical, brilliant sense to postpone the work for the next day or week or month, because look at all the time I have! Meanwhile, I keep adding more words to my daily assignment. First, I need to write fifty words a day in order to finish on time. Then it’s two hundred, then five hundred, then six thousand. Yikes! Like a bad comb-over, the expanse of months I had to work on the book is now criss-crossed with my poor attempts to cover up my procrastination by adding the missed pages to future days. When will I learn to ignore the illusion of limitless time and implant the weeks between assignment and deadline with words, as carefully and steadily sown as hair plugs?

The Secret of Pushy New Projects

Ask anyone who’s been in a car with me (with their hands braced against the dashboard and their feet stomping on imaginary passenger-side brake pedals): I like to drive fast. I know where I’m going, and I want to get there ASAP. One thing that really irks me when I’m driving (one thing on a very long list) is the person who zips onto the road in front of me—usually blowing a stop sign to do so—and then SLOWS DOWN. (I can feel my blood pressure rise as I write this. I’m going to pause and take a few deep breaths.)

New ideas or characters or projects can be just as pushy as these drivers. They’ll barge to the front of my mind, unconcerned by the rate of progress I have planned for my current project. They are shiny and exciting, distracting me from the less thrilling daily grind of writing and slowing me down. There must be a secret—although it eludes me—to remaining focused on the work at hand while still jotting down the license plates of new ideas before they disappear from sight.

The Mystery of the Migrating Pens

This one is less a writing mystery than one of those questions—like how socks can disappear between the time a load goes in the washer and when it comes out of the dryer—that keeps me up at night.

I have some favorite pens. My beautiful sea glass ballpoint (the catalyst for my book Sea Glass Inn), a smooth-writing Cross rollerball, a kitschy pen that looks like a pink Crayola crayon. But my workhorse is a fine-tipped, black Pentel. I love this fat-barreled, comfortable pen. Since I write in several areas around the house—at my desk upstairs, on my bed, at the kitchen table—I’ve purchased a bunch of these pens over the years so I’ll have a handful within easy reach wherever I might need to take a note or sketch out a scene. I must have bought over thirty of them. So why can I only find five, and why are they all on the end table in the living room?

Sometimes I feel as if I’m not in control of my writing or even my writing instruments. Maybe someday I’ll ferret out enough clues so I’ll be able to discover why time behaves differently at the beginning of the writing process than it does as my deadline looms. Or how to keep my focus on my current goal, even when the view is blocked by the bumper of the beckoning new project in front of me. Or where the heck all my pens have gone. Maybe I’ll solve these puzzles, and maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter, because I know the most fascinating mystery in this process of writing will never be solved. That is, what happens in the magical moment when ideas and characters and stories combine. When they flow through the mind of an author and into the soul of a reader, changing both forever. When—for some inexplicable, unfathomable, indecipherable reason—what happens on the page just seems right. No study of grammar or writing manuals will ever solve this mystery. The only solution is to write and read, and then write and read some more, because just experiencing this mystery of storytelling is resolution enough.

15 Responses to ““The Clue in the Manuscript””


  1. 1 PJ September 10, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Oh, Karis, you’ve described the things that plague me so well. Great blog!

    Like

  2. 3 Sheri Campbell September 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    A fun to read Blog Karis. You are priceless to me, very down to earth and real. When I worked I became attached to my pens too. It was a love relationship. Heads rolled if you were caught with my pens. Thanks for sharing yourself with us, readers.

    Like

    • 4 kariswalsh September 10, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Thank you for the kind words, Sheri! I know what you mean about pens. Someone will innocently ask “can I borrow your pen for a moment?” and you look at them as if to say “Are you KIDDING??? You want to use my pen???” It’d be easier to lend a toothbrush🙂

      Like

  3. 5 Lisa Girolami September 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    So true, Karis, all of your words are so true.

    Like

  4. 7 Devlyn September 11, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    Karis, I really enjoyed your blog. I too treasure my pens and guardedly lend them out. If you continue to write I promise to continue to read them and yes a miracle will happen.

    Like

  5. 9 Jo September 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Well put, just love your books as well- thanks

    Like

  6. 11 S.A. September 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    Fun blog! I’m looking forward to the new book. I grew up going to school in Tacoma.🙂

    Like

  7. 13 Erin Saluta September 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    That was great! You had me laughing to start my day. When you do solve the mystery of the pens please share!!

    Like

  8. 15 Kim September 17, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Karis, loved Sea Glass Inn and I look forward to reading this one.

    Like


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