A dear friend, who is admittedly not much of a reader, paid me what I'm sure they thought was a compliment after they'd read CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN.
"I don't know if you know this, but there's at least one really funny line in each scene of this book."
I must admit that I practically bit through my cheek to keep from saying, "I don't know if you know this, but I worked damn hard to make sure of it."
Being funny is hard work for me. Those lines are written and rewritten and honed until it seems like they're the most natural things in the world for my characters to say or think. In reality, the great majority of them start out as clunkers. I know WHAT I want to say, I just don't know HOW to say it. Discovering the best way to deliver those lines is the result of seemingly endless trial-and-error (A LOT of error).
The same goes for the scenes that readers have told me have moved them to tears.It's hard work pouring that pathos onto the page.Refining it, crafting it. The first draft rarely brings tears to my eyes as I type it, but with any luck, the final version does.
My friend's comment really was a compliment. It means that all my hard work isn't evident on the page. The moments they foumd amusing were woven into the fabric of the story smoothly, but with such consistency that they were appreciated.
Sometimes when I read a novel, I feel as though I can tell exactly which sentences an author has labored over. Other times, I'll read a novel with such incredible ease and flow that I suspect the writer wrote the entire thing in one sitting, without a moment's doubt, without the slightest revision. (Logically I know that can't possibly be true, but I'm in awe of writers who can craft work like that.)
I'm feverishly finishing up the sequel to CONFESSIONS and as I do, I'm sweating those funny lines and wringing my hands over the sad scenes, hoping that I'll be able to make some magic for some readers.
Tell me Killer Friends: Which books/writers magically transport you?
Oh, but I do have to admit that the scenes from the killer's point of view in THE FIRST VICTIM were among the easiest I've ever written. What does that say about me?....