Thursday, August 09, 2007

In A Pickle

Would you believe our thermometer never hit 100 in Texas during the entire month of July? I've been here 15 years now, and I can't recall that ever happening. Of course, this first week of August has started making up for the balmy summer so far.

Anyway, I spent last week finishing my edits for A Suspicion of Strawberries that releases next March through Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. One thing I appreciate about the editing process is that I have great input from content editors. These aren't proofreaders, per se, but they review story elements such as character, plot points, and in this case, elements of mystery and police procedure. I listened to what my content editor had to say very carefully. In the end, the decision is mine whether to make certain changes, but if I'm smart and trust what this person has to say, I'll dig into these areas and make them even better. Which is how I ended up in a pickle. And, making pickles.

My in-laws live on 32 acres and each year my father-in-law plants a huge garden. This year we ended up with a least 8 mammoth cucumbers. I like to eat cucumbers, but not that many at a time.

So I decided to make pickles out of most of them. This requires simmering the pickling agent--vinegar, sugar, a bunch of spices that cost enough to make me want to go buy just a few jars of ready-made pickles instead--and soaking the cucumber slices and sliced onion in salt and ice for a few hours.

I dutifully worked on my edits, then hit a wall of doubt. Nearly every writer hits this at some point. Am I doing this right? Is the world in my head making sense on paper? Will I confuse some poor reader? Did I get the ending as good as it can be? And the yucky voice They're going to hate it. or: You'll never write in this town again.

I quit thinking so hard, put my laptop aside to cool off, and went to make pickles. No one ever said getting cucumber spears into jars was easy. You can see above. I gave up trying to make them as pretty as Vlasic jars. But while I was canning and getting the jars sealed, my story didn't leave my head. The end worked itself out. I remembered areas to go back and check for continuity. Getting my hands busy on something else, and keeping active freed my brain to untangle the story knot. Next time you find yourself spinning your mental wheels, trying doing something else for a change and the knots will work themselves out eventually.

And I hope, in a few weeks, these pickles will be yummy.

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