30 June 2014

Twenty-Four, Maybe Forty-Eight Hours

by Fran Rizer

A few weeks ago, I shared some of John Floyd's hints and tips about writing for Woman's World. Today I'm adding one of my own tips, not just for WW, but for all creative writing.  First, please travel back in time with me.

Many, many years ago, not long after my divorce, I fell madly in love with a smooth-talking charmer. He said he'd been divorced once and had custody of his two teen-aged sons.  My boys were five and ten at the time, and a man with custody of his kids fit right into my ideal–someone who was family oriented. He was financially secure and lived in a beautiful home right on the lake. We went to his older son's football games.  We took all four boys places as well as having romantic weekends when both sets of sons were with their non-custodial parents.  Head over heels, gloriously in love, I accepted an engagement ring and his marriage proposal which came one night on the dock fairly quickly after we began dating.

Six months later, I learned that not only was he seeing someone on the side, he had lied about almost everything.  To sum it up, he'd been divorced six times, always on grounds of adultery.  Being a natural redhead at the time, I reacted in red–a fine point red-tipped pen.  I told him what I thought of him, called him a few nasty names, and shouted in red ink where he could go and what to do when he got there.  Then I dropped that ring in the envelope with my letter and drove forty miles in a blinding rainstorm to put it in his mailbox before he got home from work.

He called me when he read the letter and began with how shocked he was because he didn't know I knew such words.  When that didn't elicit a response from me, he apologized for the lies about his past but denied seeing anyone else.  When he said, "I love you," I hung up on him and didn't answer any more of his calls. (Thank heaven for caller ID even back then.) He began waiting for me outside the school where I taught, but I turned my back to him, got in my car, and drove away.  Don't know what I would have done if he'd followed me--probably driven straight to the police station.

No, I'm not writing for True Romance.  I'm headed toward a lesson learned, and yes, it has to do with both personal and professional writing.

Five years later, I ran into that first love after my divorce and being far beyond any caring or hurt or anger, I had a cup of coffee with him.  We talked about our children and shared a friendly conversation.

As we stood to leave, he pulled his wallet from his pocket and along with money to pay, he took out a folded piece of paper--a piece of paper with angry red words.  He'd saved that letter. At that moment, I vowed to never again send anyone anything I'd written before holding it twenty-four hours.

Here's the tip:  Like a good steak, writing benefits from a rest period.

From the time I finish what I consider the final rewrite, I don't send out anything I've written until I've waited at least twenty-four hours. At that time, I read it again.  Inevitably, I'll find at least one thing that can still be improved. Frequently, what I change is simply one word, but last week, I let one of those solve-it-yourself mysteries rest and when I went back to it, I realized that the protagonist's name was wrong.  I'd needed a name that began with the letter D and called her Deborah when she was actually a Delores.

We teach that stories need conclusions, so here's the conclusion to my opening tale.  The last I heard about him, he was on his tenth marriage and his older son was creating a track record very much like his dad's. Children learn what they live (and so do writers).

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

10 comments:

Dixon Hill said...

A great post, Fran. Good advice and a nicely told story to go with it.

--Dixon

P.S. How did you decide her name was wrong, and why?

Fran Rizer said...

Dixon,
"Deborah" never seemed real to me. The plot worked, the clues worked, but there was something off-kilter about the protagonist (a small town cop wearing Kevlar).

I think I've said before that my characters generally seem like real people to me and their names are an important part of that. When the name Delores came to mind, she "felt" real to me.

Would it matter to the editor at WW? I don't know, but I do know that Delores fits her much better for no known reason to me. I've had friends and relatives with both names and neither like nor dislike either name for any reason.

I'll let everyone know when (not if, but when) I make it into WW.


Janice Law said...

Good advice all the way around.
I hope you put him in a story at some point, too,

Dixon Hill said...

You know, Fran, that makes sense to me. I sometimes "feel" names are right or wrong, but I think your point about a character seeming more "real" probably hits the nail on the head more squarely.

John Floyd said...

Good advice, Fran. At one time I never let my stories "cool off" after writing them; now I almost always do. You are right that most of us will spot errors in our stories the next day that we would never have noticed just after putting them on paper (or the screen).

And I agree with Dix--your OWN story is a darn good one.

Leigh Lundin said...

Fran, I find scaly reptiles on my dock and you find scaly reptiles on yours! Yours are scarier.

I would love to know why he kept the note all those years. And if it’s not being too writerly-nosy, beyond your vow, I’m intensely curious to know your thoughts at that moment.

I’m with you– names have to sound and feel right to me and I often research them.

And finally, I’ve had to learn in embarrassing ways to let, shall we say ‘writings’ sit for a day or so before acting on them.

David Dean said...

An excellent cautionary tale on matters of the heart and writing, Fran. Oh, if only I had read and heeded these words in the past!

These days I certainly do follow your advice;sometimes to the point of being ridiculous--I have to remind myself that if I don't eventually submit the damned thing, it cannot possibly be published!

Eve Fisher said...

Ah, the scum always rises... I should be amazed that he's gotten 10 wives, but then again, there is that "dream of the white dress" that seems to obsess so many women. I'll have to re-read Maugham's "The Round Dozen". Great post, and yes, it's a good idea to re-read before sending; if I could just remember to re-read before posting!

Fran Rizer said...

Janice, I haven't used him in a story, but the thought crossed my mind when I wrote this blog. (I haven't killed him off in anything, either.)

Dixon, you're right. My first criteria on anything I write is that it "feels right." Some folks would disagree.

John, that last recheck seems to be especially useful when carving down stories to specific wordage.

Leigh, my thoughts at that moment? I was aghast that he still had it because I was still teaching and it certainly wasn't anything I'd want publicized. My first thought was to try to get it away from him, but that didn't work.

David, your rereading seems to work because I enjoy your writing.

Eve, at that time, I seemed attracted to the "bad boy" types, oh so smooth and charming even after marrying one though that marriage lasted seventeen years.
The way those smooth talkers win women is they realize that most people respond to how the other person makes him/her feel. He always made me feel like a million dollars, but the sad truth is that it's nothing special because they make all vulnerable women feel that way. Since then, I've matured in my taste in men and much prefer "good guys."

A Broad Abroad said...

I often jump the gun, especially with emails, which result in a trail of postscripts. Patience, girl, patience.