Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I spent many years backstage as a part of different theatre companies. I've been backstage as an actor, a stage manager and even as a director. You learn many things from being backstage. You learn that everything is not what it looks. You learn to avoid certain people when they're doing their odd pre-show rituals. You become accustomed to hearing (shall I say) colorful metaphors. You learn very quickly that hearing "uh-oh" is the worst thing to hear. It means disaster. Someone dropping something heavy on their foot earns a colorful metaphor. Someone dropping dead earns an uh-oh.

I have learned over recent years that writing comes with its own set of disasters. There are the typos. The blatant mis-spellings. The overuse of the same words. Poor sentence construction. The list continues. All of these are mild errors in my opinion and easily fixed; much like rushing back to the dressing room because you realized that you forgot to put on your shoes. (trust me, it happens)

Then there are the bigger mistakes; the undefined character or (even worse) the lazily defined character. Messy dialogue. Too much description or way too little. These mistakes will take longer to fix but are still within the realm of repair.

But what about the dreaded uh-ohs? I had it happen to me a few years ago and it was not a pretty sight. Here followeth my confession. I realized that my solution to the mystery made no sense at all. None. I had been so enraptured with all my other lovely characters and all my lovely red herrings that the result was I had given scant attention to the guilty party or his actions because I knew he was the one. Uh-oh. I felt as if I (once again) was the winner of the "Dumber Than a Stick" award. This uh-oh took weeks to fix as major re-writing was in order as many, many choruses of "How Stupid Are You Really?" ran through my head.

It did get fixed.

How do you handle your writing disasters? With careful thought? With humor? With liquor?


  1. With careful thought, of course. 1 part careful thought, 2 parts vodka, 1 part self-lashing.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Haven't had an oh-uh moment, yet. But I think I'd follow Helen's recipe :)

  3. So far as I know, only Alan Orloff and Jack Regan have disasters of this magnitude. I'll be anxious to see what they’re solution is, because, well, they have plenty of experience repairing disasters…right guys?

    Best Regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  4. I cover them w/ a sheet.

    Seriously, I think if I'm up to disasterous levels, I put the writing away for awhile, if not indefinitely. And then I either obliterate and start over completely, or just move on to something else altogether.

  5. The theater is a world in itself. I was in some plays in high school and loved the backstage culture. It was such a thrill, working on a big production and seeing it through to fruition. Writing is similar...only we're more like the director than the actors!

  6. Most of the time I catch them, am horrified, and wonder what the heck was going on when I wrote it.

    Sometimes editors catch them. Much, much worse.

    You've had the coolest life!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  7. Helen; You are a wise, wise woman. Vodka never hurts.

    Carolyn; I hope you never do! It's not a nice feeling. But I would think Helen's formula would help!

    Elisa; Also a good plan. Out of sight, out of mind...or it sits ticking in a corner as a grim reminder.

    Stephanie; I agree about the theatre. Wonderful fun if you're surrounded by great people.

    Eilzabeth; I feel your pain and your lovely comment will keep me warm throughout the coming winter. Would that it were true...

  8. I like Helen's recipe. With my own uh-oh's, it's taken a lot of thought and hard work to whip things into shape.

  9. Carol; Another vote for Helen's solution! We may have a winner here...

    Galen; You are playing a dangerous card, my friend. However, I'm sure you're using the correct POV.

  10. It wasn't all that long ago that I removed 15,000 words of my novel and started rewriting. I'm a better writer for it, but homor? Nope, at the time, I didn't have any of that.

  11. Mainly, I spend my time trying to fix Alan's uh-ohs. Like the time he tried to write a novel about a possessed sea captain and a giant white whale. I tried to tell him the idea would never work, but he insisted. I think we all know how that turned out...

    I have had my run-ins with smaller uh-ohs. I sometimes will write scenes out of order and when you do that, there's always the danger that when you start putting things together, you realize that things aren't fitting together well. Usually, it can be fixed pretty easily. I don't think I've had anything major, though, that required a complete rewrite. But my time's comin'.

  12. My biggest uh oh moment came just as I decided to try this whole publishing thing. I'd finished the novel and thought I'd start looking at what would be involved in trying to publish it. Imagine my dismay when I found out 165k was just a little long. And that long-winded descriptions were out (for very good reasons!). And perhaps you shouldn't use "just", "seems", "suddenly" every 30 words or so! It took a year, but the ms is much better now :)

  13. Jack; I'm so glad he listened to you. A story about a whale? Next he'll be coming up with some yarn about a boy wizard...

    Patricia; That was a extremely brave act. Bravo!

    Jemi; Sober second looks. Priceless.

  14. OH OH!

    Yes, I had one and my face went white. Luckily, it was before the book went to the printer. In my case it was a continuity error - and my book is a mystery novel. This continuity error made a big difference in "whodunit".

    I get what you mean in the opening post - it was clear in YOUR head, because you KNEW who the killer was.

    Me too!!!

    I had to keep that in mind and check on things as I went along because what was clear to me was not necessarily clear to others.

    And yes, vodka helps :)

    Cheers, Jill
    Blood and Groom - coming in November 2009!

  15. Wow, I take a day off from the blogosphere and my whale story gets trashed. (FYI, nobody likes wizard stories.)

    Uh-ohs are inevitable--that's why they make delete keys and that's why first drafts bite. The trick is trying to minimize the damage.

    On the other hand, every once in a while, an uh-oh can be turned into a cool twist in the story.

  16. Jill; Isn't it awful? Hope you didn't feel as much of an idiot as I did!

    Alan; Good point. Good for you for looking for the bright side - I'm more of a dark side person.

    Karen; Another vote for Helen's solution! Different genres would mean different types of uh ohs I would suppose. Glad you haven't encountered any. It's a humiliating experience!

  17. My first book was over 800 pages, I had several interested agents. But one particular agent stands out in my mind. He wanted me to divide the book into three parts. But there was no way to do it. I spent two years writing the thing, then six months racking my brain about how to divide it into three books, (impossible), so I put it on the shelf and moved on. My husbands says, (when I'm a famous published author), the book will be published. I don't know about that. I think it's just too long. It needs a machete. Someday I might tackle it. That's my biggest uh-oh.

  18. Elizabeth; It might not be too long, you just had the wrong agent. There are plenty of successful long books out there - just ask Diana Gabaldon! By the way, hope the sun shines again for you soon.


Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!