Marsha Canham's Blog

January 10, 2012

Me and My Pecadillos

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 3:37 pm

I started out bright and early this morning with great intentions of putting in a full day’s work on The Following Sea…which is, yes, almost almost almost finished the main draft. I know I hoped it would be finished by Christmas but life has a sense of humor sometimes and throws all kinds of obstacles in the way.  But I’m determined to hit the new target date of Valentine’s day, which might be more fitting anyway for the release of a sexy romance novel.

So I sat my butt down, cranked up the puter, typed out the chapter I had written yesterday and…. BANG BANG BANG.  The guy working on the screen room arrived to take down the old, torn screens and put up new ones. Okay, I can live with the banging and the sound of tearing screens.  But then…BOOMBADA BOOMBADA BOOMBADA BOOM.  Apparently he likes hard rock muzak. And he likes to share it with the entire neighborhood.


I’m one of those writers who has to have total silence when I work. That was why I got in the habit years ago of writing into the wee hours of the morning. No one bugging me, no noise, no activity outside, no sunshine luring me onto a lounge, no kids running around.  Just lovely dark silence where I could immerse myself in my characters and story.

I have other pecadillos.  I can only write with blue ink. I do all my first drafts in longhand on a certain type of paper.  Can’t be black ink, can’t be colored paper, can’t be paper with margins or odd spacing of the lines.  I don’t write more than thirty pages in longhand before transferring it to the computer because more often than not, the fingers type something not on the lined sheets and the mind veers off with a cool new idea that sometimes negates all the written pages that follow. Scrapping thirty pages isn’t as bad as scrapping a hundred.  That’s not to say that the hundred typed pages that went before are totally safe. I’ve actually scrapped a whole book before and started over. My usual scrapping is around a hundred typed pages and comes right about when I hit the Wall.

The Wall is another pecadillo of sorts, because I know it’s coming. I anticipate it, though I never know when I’ll slam into it. It sits there like a huge block at the point where I look at what I’ve written and think to myself: this is crap. The characters are weak, the story sucks. I have no idea where it’s going or how to fix it. No one is going to read this and if they do it will be with rolling eyes and a heavy hand as they fling it against a real wall.

The Wall crops up in every book, no avoiding it. I suppose it happens because I don’t work from an outline. I have no idea, other than where I want the book to start and roughly where I want it to end, what happens in between. I tried, once, to write an outline and actually follow it, but that worked about as well as swimming in shark-infested waters with a cut finger.  Sure, it was all laid out what would happen and how it would happen, but following my little points bored me and left no room for seat-of-the-pants inspiration…the kind where your fingers whisper: kill off the hero, they’ll never see it coming.  Now *that* gets the creative juices flowing.

I also lack discipline. I admit it. Especially after seven years of retirement, where my days were so full of doing other things I used to wonder where I found the time to write. Not that I had any discipline then either–another reason why I did most of my writing at night. A neighbor tapping a wine glass could pull me right out of any mood to write, and if I’m not in the mood to write, it just doesn’t work. I’m not able to sit at my desk and say: okay, write.  I can tell just by standing in the doorway and looking at my mountain of notes and papers if I’m in the mood to dive in. If I’m not, I just keep walking past the door.  Again, I’ve tried *forcing* myself to sit and scratch out ten or so pages, but they usually get scrapped for the thirty I zoom through when the left and right brain are in sync.

(I just heard a hugemongous BANG CRASH out in the screen room but I’m not going to look, nope.) (And the guy is cursing, that can’t be good)

I can’t just immerse myself in a different place and time and assume the guise of a dozen characters as they sail their way through a high adventure, and expect to be able to force the words to come.  I’ve never been able to do that. Maybe if I wrote simpler books without the cannon firing and the ships doing battle and the characters transforming from what they were to what they are capable of being in the face of stress, adversity, and lust (had to add that) maybe I could crank a book out faster. But then I’d be shortchanging myself as well as the readers. Editors have tried for decades to get me to do that, and they failed miserably *g*. Now that I’m my own watchdog/editor, there is no one to blame but myself if the writing, the story, the characters are not up to par.  It’s a scary thought and it does tend to give the confidence level the heebee jeebees. Especially since The Following Sea will be going straight to digital with no buffer between me and the critics. Some might think that makes the process easier with no Big Brother hanging over the shoulder saying you can’t do that, you should do this, good grief you’ll never get away with that. But it actually makes it harder because it’s just me and you, the reader. And if I fail you, then I fail myself.

But I *am* getting back in the groove. I’m enjoying the creative process again. I have my blue pens (medium tip) and my lined paper and hopefully, by tomorrow, I’ll have my silence back again.





  1. Can’t wait.

    Comment by Juliet — January 10, 2012 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  2. What an interesting process. I’ve always wondered how you wrote such great stuff. Not to mention how you think of the humorous zingers you toss in, now and again– but I can see that comes from your own dry wit. I’m counting the days until you release The Following Sea. I really enjoy following up on characters that were introduced in earlier books, and the Dante saga (Simon Dante— hubba! hubba!) is one of my faves. Any ideas perking for new books once The Following Sea is out there? Do you have a cache of story ideas to expound upon or do you search for inspiration?

    Hope the noise dies down to a dull roar soon!

    Comment by Karen — January 10, 2012 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  3. I have my Pecadillos too. I would write for a time on the computer then go out and lay in the hammock with the written pages and a notebook to make notes, edit and write some too. The outside world was quiet and relaxing. I know I wrote 150 pages out there this summer. Now it’s too cold and I’m missing my hammock.
    I too have to have quiet. So, I put headphones on my head even if there’s no music playing. And if I do play music I play elevator music I won’t be tempted to sing with.
    But I do make myself write every day. I get up every morning at 6:30 after my husband is in the shower. Drink my coffee until he’s gone then go to my office. And I make myself write. Even if it’s just laundry lists. Or lesson plans for my college class, until inspiration hits and ready to go again.
    I too love that fly by the seat of your pants middle. I plot very loosely. Can’t box yourself into a corner eh?

    I so enjoy your blog!!
    Teresa Reasor

    Comment by Teresa Reasor — January 10, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

  4. As usual you brighten my rather drab existance Marsha……keep writing Kiddo!
    When you are good at something you should go with it!!!!! Enjoy Florida….miss ya

    Comment by Bren — January 10, 2012 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  5. You can have as many strange requirements as you like as far as I’m concerned and I’ll support every one of them as long as they produce the BEST historical romance out there! Why not capture your oddities in one of your future heroes? I can see it now, the mysterious rogue with the passion to write and the silence he demands all the while the heroine is disturbing him in the most delightful way. Yes!

    Regan’s Romance Reviews,

    Comment by Regan — January 10, 2012 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

  6. Blue ink and paper specifications, huh? Now I don’t feel quite so wierd, Marsha *snort* ! I used to write, all right, scrawl (in case my former typist Carol is lurking), on looseleaf with ballpoints, but if I got on a roll late at night and ran out of looseleaf, I’d use anything available, even toilet paper . Any color ink, even a dull pencil if forced, but the one thing I always needed was a basic outline–not that I stick to it all that well, but just that I have the frame as backup. Now that I’ve graduated (if you can call it that) to writing at the computer, I need a much simpler outline and veer off planned course more easily. But I still need absolute silence. Not even the most innoculous muzak. I can make myself sit down every weekday morning and review, then begin to write. Guess I’m just an OCD German personality. Even if the writing is crap, there will be something I can save from it the next day. Odd, but often when I think I had a brilliant day of work, it’s awful on review, and when I think it stinks, it’s quite good the next day. Ah, the eccentricities of writers!

    Comment by Shirl Henke — January 10, 2012 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  7. i woke up and it was like CHRiSTMAS MoRNiNG ALL over again! i checked for one of my favorite authors who i checked on periodically for several years … nothing…

    And I FOUND her on Facebook and this BLoG!!!

    I had just started reading Pride of the Lions … what more can i say?

    Great to hear you are writing again Marsha.

    WiSHiNG you and yours (¯`’•.¸* ★ HaPpY✰ ★ NeW YEAR ☆ ✯ *¸.•’´¯)

    from a very fun fan of yours!


    Comment by ~JL (@iMaGiNeprints) — January 16, 2012 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

    • LOL JL…big fan or fun fan…sounds great to me either way *s* I’m glad you found me too and hope you’re enjoying Pride of Lions.


      Comment by marshacanham — February 21, 2012 @ 2:50 pm | Reply

  8. LOL! i was so excited i messed up my post!

    Last line should read: from a very big fan of yours!

    (that did sound a bit odd, didn’t iT?)


    Comment by ~JL (@iMaGiNeprints) — January 16, 2012 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

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