Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rainy Day Occupations

I didn't feel great yesterday morning and spent much of the day editing a thriller I'd stopped working on nearly a year ago. The 400-page manuscript was complete, but unedited. Working on it was the perfect task for a gloomy, about-to-rain day. I wrapped myself in a comforter and read. My working title had been "The Orpheus Race." My new title is "Perchance to Sleep." I'll probably change the title again before sending it to my agent.

I'm a firm believer in letting a manuscript "marinate." The process of writing just brings you too close to your work to be able to judge it dispassionately. My critique partners (both in-person and online) provide valuable guidance and criticism while I'm writing the first draft. My pantser style, however, requires that I put the manuscript down for a long enough period that I can get some distance from it--some sense of perspective. Usually that's about three months. For this novel, happenstance made it twelve.

Re-reading it yesterday, the errors just jumped out at me screaming, "Here I am! Correct me." I worked for quite a while (with Bob the kitten sleeping happily [!] on my lap). I also began talking online with potential second-round critique partners for this specific novel. It needs fresh eyes, not the same partners who read it originally. I think I've found a compatible person; time will tell. I'd like to find a second partner for it. Have a lead; we'll see.

Yesterday evening I skipped my in-person critique group, something I hate to do, but I just didn't feel up to it. I accidentally stumbled onto two television programs on PBS: one a documentary about Margo Jones, a pioneer of the regional theatre movement. I was drawn to the program because I knew that it was Jones who had saved the play "Inherit the Wind" from oblivion. "Inherit the Wind" is the dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial and one of my favorite plays. (My other two favorite plays are "Crimes of the Heart" and "The Lion in the Winter.")

The second PBS program was The American Experience's presentation on Eugene O'Neill. Such a tortured soul. And, yet, out of all that pain came a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936 and four Pulitzer prizes for plays stretching from 1920 to 1957. Remarkable. I can still remember the night when I saw "A Long Day's Journey Into Night" performed on the stage for the first time. It was a devastating experience--especially for someone who came out of an alcoholic family. I was numb by the end.

If you can, look for both programs: "Sweet Tornado: Margo Jones and the American Theatre" and "American Experience: Eugene O'Neill." You won't regret it.

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