Channeling Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber

Posted by on Sep 30, 2009 in Writing | 9 comments

Current mood: prickly

Current mood: prickly

I’m highly frustrated right now. I’m supposed to be having fun, experimenting, if you will, with a thriller-ish kind of story so I can improve my plotting and pacing skills. Well this you-know-what’s hard!

I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. Maybe I haven’t mastered as much writing craft as I thought, and I’m telling you, I’m about to throw this lousy thing out, give up, go back to wallowing in all my bad writing habits because at least I was having fun.

It’s interesting because by concentrating on plot/pacing, character automatically takes a backseat. I’m a character gal. I get all inside their heads, so looking at story from a different perspective is whacking out my brain. And I know I might receive comments that both character and plot are important. But of course — but, you see, I’m focusing on plot right now.

I’m reminded of novelist Diana Abu-Jaber. She’s one of those gorgeous, plotless writers. Her prose is full of every kind of sensory description, especially when it comes to food. Crescent is one of my favorite novels simply for its loveliness.

A few years back I heard her speak at a literary festival. She’d recently come out with a — GASP! — mystery. Yee gads. This fascinated me. I read the novel beforehand, and the gorgeous writing was still there (so it was a literary mystery), but so was the suspense. That is to say: the plot.

Here’s what she had to say about her genre switch:

“If you want to learn plot, write a thriller or a mystery.”

“I really needed to get me one to those things — a plot.”

She said she started out with a snobbish attitude, like it would be so easy — it’s just a mystery, right? She tried everything, and her editor kept sending back the manuscript with notes like, “Make it better.” She had to learn how to plant clues, build suspense, and create a great villain. She said that at one point her editor reminded her that we’re not supposed to know who the villain is until the end of the story. She said it was HARD and that now she has the utmost respect for thriller/mystery writers.

From a craft perspective, she started over. But she did it. And if she can do it, so can I. So now I’m channeling Diana Abu-Jaber in hopes that some of her patience will rub off on me. Because I am losing patience. With myself, with the process, with the story itself…sigh…

9 Comments

  1. Sending out good vibes to you! You can tame that plot, yes you can!

    • Thanks, Smithereens! I might need to get out the whip!

  2. Fun? This is not fun. This is work!

  3. You can do it, Lisa!

    I KNOW you can.

  4. I think this is a GREAT way to learn plot, writing a mystery! My hat is off to you.

    And I agree with Nova: you can do it!

  5. It’s not easy, but you can do it.

    • Thanks for visiting, K.M. I’m going to check out your blog now…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *