Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Glimpse Inside the Writing Cave

By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers

It’s that time of year again.

No, I’m not talking about Fall or Thanksgiving or even Santa's much awaited visit (although, coincidentally, these things always happen around the same time). I’m talking about Deadline Fast Approaching Time. I’m talking about Deep Editing Time, or as I like to call it, That Whacky Time.

The Writing Cave in all it's disheveled beauty
The stakes are a bit higher this go-round, because, true to form, I’m running a little behind schedule (It’s a long story.You really don’t want to hear about it). That said, the Writing Cave isn’t exactly the Happiest Place on Earth, just a very messy one, with an occasional bottle rocket of angst firing through it. Guess you might say things are sort of rockin’ here, just not in a fun way—the other one.

Outside the Cave, it’s not looking a whole lot better. The dishes barely get done, we eat what we can scavenge or hunt, and we don’t come up for air unless absolutely necessary (translation: sleep deprivation, minimal human contact, personal grooming habits taken to a bare minimum). Hence, the reason why, while walking past a mirror the other day, I nearly scared the crap out of myself. Staring back was some crazed lunatic. We’re talking the whole nine yards: hair flying every-which-way, sweats and T-shirt beyond disheveled, and, oh… those sad, sleep-deprived eyes. The only thing missing was a sign that read: Will work for the return of my  life... and my sanity.

On the manuscript level, things appear a bit more hopeful, but only because the Cave administrator is a whip-cracking taskmaster (that’s me). Nothing is good enough, everything is out-of-whack, and the writing is in need of serious repair. While on some level, I know that none of this is actually across-the-board-true—on another, I’ve accepted that it’s part of my process. A crazy-making yet predictable process, yeah, but nevertheless, one that keeps me from bending to mediocrity. Well ... there's also the chocolate, the coffee, and of course, my fearless writing partner:

For evidence of my self-abuse, I present the following exhibits, where you will find a few excerpts from the manuscript:
A few minutes later, there are no more tears left to cry. <<You sure about that? 'Cuz so far in this chapter, I've counted ten. Bet he's got a few more>>
I gaze out, marveling at the miles of open-spaced freedom, a backdrop so stunning that it defies words. <<How about taking a stab at it anyway, since, like, that's kinda what we do here?>>
I look up toward the sky and see glistening stars against a velvety backdrop <<Brilliant. All we need now is a paper moon>>
I lean back and take in a cleansing breath <<He already took one of those in the last paragraph. I'm thinking he should be clean by now>> 
On the road, my mind begins lethargically wandering <<kinda like this sentence, huh?>> 
I smile at him, and he smiles back <<sure is a whole lot of smiling going on here. Did I miss the joke about unimpressive beat actions?>> 
The glimpses, although slow at first, were steadily building. The father I so deeply loved and admired, with whom I shared such immeasurable closeness, was gradually slipping away. << I'm thinking a few of those adverbs need to slip away, while we're at it.>> 
The point of this rather humiliating little display? If you think those words just flow onto the pages, think again. A lot has to come before that. Since I write thrillers, there is blood (but I try to keep that on the pages), then comes the sweat, followed by, of course, the tears.

And that, my friend, is how you make a book.

At least in my world.


  1. I just went through that, so I sympathize. It took me days to catch up with everything else when I was finally done. I love your notes to yourself. I tend mock myself verbally as I read out loud and edit, but I rarely commit the derision to paper. Except an occasional "Really?"

  2. I don't know if your intention was to make me chuckle, but I did. Thanks for sharing in such an honest way.

    1. I do an excellent job entertaining myself here--the more the merrier :)

  3. I've been know to write "pun-lease" in the margins. A lot of paragraphs "x'd" out in red, words circled, sentences underlined, and the word "better" bleeds frequently, meaning I need to make it so, not that it is.

  4. Entertaining reading, Drew, although I know you're not going through an entertaining time! But you've got the right attitude (even if you're a little hard on yourself sometimes), so I can't wait to read the results!

    As a freelance editor, I see & help manuscripts develop and improve, often through 7 or 8 transformations, so I know the process ain't easy! (Of course I'm sworn to secrecy and would never reveal early versions, or how many drafts it took to produce the polished, riveting novel that finally gets published!)

    1. If they could only see those first few drafts...On second thought, thank God that they don't.

  5. LJ and Peg: You show far more restraint in your editing comments than I. We need to work on that.

  6. Oh, Andrew. If I didn't feel like I know you so much better than this, I would almost feel sorry for you. Ok, so some of this may be true, but I spend so much time loving your books that I can't stand the thought of you being deprived for the sake of my reading pleasure, for even a moment.

    Now, get back into that cave! And write on. ~Patricia, Room With Books~

  7. Very entertaining! Humor is essential and self-deprecation is, imo, evidence of true objectivity.
    Great stuff!


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