Writers have a quasi glamorous reputation in the world. We’re seen by some as being eccentric but disciplined; reclusive but willing to take center stage when necessary. The comment I hear most often is how “creative” I am. It’s as though some sort of magic is involved by which we writers make prose and poetry flow through our fingertips onto keyboards or pads of paper.
The truth is probably as unglamorous as it can be. Why? Because half or two-thirds or three-quarters of what we do is edit and re-write. Believe me, it’s a ruthless process for most of us, one that leads to expressions like “kill your darlings” (your most perfectly wrought sentences). Editors generally mark our manuscripts with red pencils (or the virtual equivalent). But given how they mutilate our precious prose, the red ink can look and feel more like a blood-letting. Why do we allow such invasive procedures? Well, we not only allow, but invite them because we know what’s good for us. Without good editing, there’s no such thing as good writing.
So, from the moment I heard about the blog Blood Red Pencil, my head began to nod almost involuntarily in recognition that this was a gathering place for kindred souls. It’s always an honor to be invited by one’s peers to offer a contribution. And it’s a bit daunting too. “Do you have an interesting topic?” they asked. (Oh, dear, I think I can be interesting if I really try!) Actually, my first topic was dismissed as one they already knew too much about. But as it turned out, they particularly wanted to know how I adapted my radio drama into novels, a topic so familiar to me I’d overlooked it as being of interest to someone else.
Dani Greer founded the Blood-Red Pencil in 2008, inspired by a blog-book-tours class that included authors and editors. She invited qualified and interested colleagues to participate, and a core group of bloggers emerged who now take turns contributing regularly, and they sometimes step aside to invite a guest. “Our goals today,” Dani explained, “include providing information to readers about writing, editing, and marketing of all kinds of books. And we want to have fun exploring various aspects of writing.”
Dani, Heidi Thomas, who was my actual host, and their other colleagues are obviously doing an awesome job, because they now have 250,000 followers. “It’s kind of cool having a Google 4 ranking and almost a quarter million visitors!” Dani admitted. “That’s what a good team and daily effort will achieve.”
What a blast it was to write Writing A Novel from a Radio Show. I got to think about the process with a depth and detail I would only have shared with other writers—except now, through their popular blog, I’ve shared it with one and all. I think what might be the most fun part of it was sharing some thoughts about dialogue—about how people really speak, and how we condense or amplify conversation for different kinds of media.
The comments that popped almost immediately after my contribution was posted say as much about the site as any of its other excellent qualities. This is an active community of writers and editors who are serious about their work, serious about their fun, and who embrace the power of the Red Pencil and love to share their “sharp and pointed observations about good writing.”
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