Aug 27, 2009

Guest Post: Cathy Holton, Author of Beach Trip

Please welcome Cathy Holton, author of Beach Trip, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She kindly offered to discuss her writing process with my readers.

The Writer at Work

I love watching television shows or movies that portray writers at work. It is amazing to me that in this day of advanced electronic technology, the slightly eccentric, vaguely attractive, bespectacled author is always shown sitting at a typewriter. Well, not always, but more likely than not there is a typewriter in the background.

Sure, I can remember banging away at an old IBM Selectric, neatly stacking my finished pages in a box on my desk. And even before that, I can remember writing in long hand on an endless supply of yellow legal pads. I was cleaning out a closet the other day and found an old suitcase stuffed with a novel written on crinkly, ink-stained pages in a faded hand.

And it amazes me that I ever wrote this way, because the truth is, it was a time consuming and inefficient way to work. There are writers that insist long hand is the only way to write; that the act of stringing together long looping words, and long looping sentences is the art of writing at its most organic. They may be right. But I would guess that these are writers who’ve never had to meet a tight deadline, who can afford to keep an army of typists busy with their drafts and constant rewrites.

Me, I enjoy the wizardry of my trusty Sony laptop. I take pleasure in composing a sentence and then watching it materialize on the screen, much as it will appear on the printed page. It helps me to see clearly whether the rhythm of the sentence works, whether the word order should be changed, whether a word should be modified or deleted. And during the long, dreary rewrites, when I realize that a paragraph I’ve put at the end of a chapter needs to be moved to the beginning, or a particularly boring scene needs to be trimmed, or a bit of dialogue “freshened up”, how wonderful to be able to make my changes with a few deft clicks of a mouse. Compare that to the tedious hours it used to take to redline a draft and then retype the entire chapter (only, in some cases, to find that I had it right the first time.)

Having established that I’m a fan of technology, what about the rest of my daily writing routine?

I rise promptly at eight o’clock (give or take an hour). I make a pot of coffee and contemplate taking the dog for a walk in the woods. Usually I decide to drink the coffee because it smells so great and, hey, I can always take the dog for a walk later. After two cups, I’m beginning to feel almost energetic so I go to my computer and read my emails. This can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to two hours depending on the news of the day and whether I choose to follow links trying to find out, once and for all, whether Brad is cheating on Angelina, and whether he intends to return to Jen.

Now I’m ready to get down to business. But first, even though I’ve told myself repeatedly not to do this, I go online and check the reviews on my latest novel. Now I’m either deliriously happy or hopelessly depressed. If I’m happy, I’m ready to get down to work right away. If not, I spend anywhere from ten minutes to two hours trying to purge myself of anxiety and self-doubt. I repeat my mantra, “I am a good writer. I am a good writer.” I imagine myself accepting the Pulitzer. I visualize myself on the red carpet in Hollywood. Now I’m ready to work.

A layperson would call this “wasting time.” I call it “getting ready to write.” It can take anywhere from ten minutes to six hours but here’s the thing; regardless of how long it takes, regardless of the medium I use, eventually I sit down and write. I don’t give up. I don’t walk away and call it a day and this, I think, is what makes me a writer.

In an essay he once wrote on the craft of writing, Sinclair Lewis said that most writers don’t understand that the process begins by actually sitting down.

See, I get that.

Thanks, Cathy, for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of her novel, Beach Trip.

From her Website:

Cathy Holton entertained her classmates with tales of a scaled creature that lived in her carport shed and a magical phone that hung in her family’s bathroom that could be used to summon an English butler (this was in North Carolina in the 1960's and her family lived in married student housing).

She is the author of Beach Trip, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes, and Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes, all published through Ballantine/Random House Books. She lives in the mountains of Tennessee with her husband and three children, in a house that has both electricity and running water but, alas, no magical phone to summon an English butler.

Check out Beach Trip today.


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Veens said...

That's a very nice guest post!!! Thank you for the author to share it with us! and to u too Serena...

Serena said...

Veens: I'm glad you enjoyed it. My review will be up tomorrow.

Anna said...

I'm getting used to doing my writing on a computer, but to me, there's still nothing like a pen and paper. I like how she says the process of preparing to write can take hours. I totally understand that, but my hubby doesn't know why I'll sit there staring into outer space first.

Looking forward to your review, Serena.

Diary of an Eccentric

Pam said...

Great post!

Wanted to let you know that I recently read Beach Trip and enjoyed it immensely. There were definitely some "secrets" that took me by surprise when revealed though looking back I thought I should've guessed at something similar. I will definitely be reading more by Cathy Holton!

Serena said...

Anna: I also stare into who don't write don't understand that process...they think its wasting time.

Pam: you'll have to wait to see what I think when the review posts tomorrow.

Kaye said...

Beach Trip was a first of Cathy's work for me and it definitely won't be the last. I just loved it! Excellent guest post, Serena. I'll be looking forward to your review.

bermudaonion said...

This was fun to read! The author's showing her age by admitting to writing on a typewriter!

Janel said...

Well, that sounds pretty close to a normal day for me as far as the drinking coffee and spending time online goes! Thanks for the guest post, I loved it!

naida said...

nice post!
Beach Trip sounds good. Looking forward to your review ;)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Cathy procrastinates more than I do; I like her! I don't think it's procrastination as much as letting the story settle and getting ready to tell it.

Yep. I do.

Anyway, I threw the link to this up at Win a Book. Cathy's got such a great voice; more people ought to read it.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Isn't it true that 99% of most jobs is just showing up. Makes me want to sit down and type. Oh wait, I'm doing that!

Iliana said...

I love it - I am not a writer but I know all about "preparing" to get ready for work :)

Now off to read about her novel!

Serena said...

Kaye: this is the first cathy holton I've read as well.

bermudaonion: I would write on a typewriter if I had one too.

Janel: as a writer I can totally relate to what she's saying in this post.

Naida: I think you should check out Beach Trip.

Susan: Thanks for the link.

Stacy: funny I think us bloggers are always typing something...comments, posts...etc.

Iliana: I think everyone has time they set aside to prepare.