Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I am not a disciplined writer, but I strive to be a semi-disciplined editor

Let me explain. I am a history buff. That will be readily apparent to any who have read my mystery novel, The Zozobra Incident. The book is a walk through Albuquerque and Santa Fe, two places lavishly layered by the three dominant cultures of the region: Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo (to name them in the order they appeared on our local horizon). As an undisciplined writer, I regularly go off on flights of fantasy exploring, describing, living, this history. In Zozobra…

  • It’s a drive up East Central—once part of the famous Route 66.
  • Or BJ Vinson’s visit to the University of New Mexico—established in 1892 and isolated on the desert east of town; it now comprises 800 acres virtually in the geographical center of the metropolitan area
  • To a walk through downtown Albuquerque, which BJ describes as yo-yoing through time.
  • It’s the trip up the Middle Rio Grande Valley past ancient Indian Pueblos to the colonial city of Santa Fe, which has resisted the temptation to shed its Old World charm in favor of urbanization.
  • And, of course, it’s the colorful, exciting pageantry of the Burning of Zozobra, which kicks off the Santa Fe Fiesta—an annual blast that’s been going on since 1712 to commemorate the re-conquest of The City Different following the Pueblo Revolt.

The point of all of this is that only a small portion of what I write about history ever sees the light of print. You see, I have this critique partner named Joycelyn (or J, as I call her, lest I inadvertently address her as Jocelyn and end up needing a new head) who constantly reminds me I’m writing a mystery novel, not a travelogue or a history tome.

Indulging my passion in the first draft of my work is both a boon and a bane. I really get into it while allowing myself free-rein. But I truly suffer (as do most writers) when trying to purge some of this heartfelt prose (often quite poetic) so it merely slows the flow of the story instead of halting it dead in its tracks. Thereafter, I rely on J to whip me into line. Ergo, I am an undisciplined writer, but a semi-disciplined editor.

Why is history so fascinating to some of us? Because it is a road map showing how we got from there to here and what we encountered on the journey. But just as maps are flat, creased, boring sheets of paper or parchment or scraped buffalo hide to some, history books evoke the same reaction in many readers. Yet, give almost any of us a rainbow-hued, authentic setting and fill it with interesting characters and intriguing events, and the reader simply has to take an interest in the historical background.

Mark Wildyr, my fellow Albuquerque author (who also shares an Oklahoma lineage), paints a picture of a specific era to make his books (especially his first, Cut Hand) something more than simply gay erotica. I strive to do the same thing with the puzzle-plot mystery genre.

In future posts, we’ll delve deeper into some of the BJ Vinson series historical sites, but next time, we’ll try something else:

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