Karen Brichoux

Current and Upcoming Books

Available Now
"Draws the reader into the story and never lets go." --RT Bookclub
"Brichoux reminds the reader how powerfully the landscape of 'home' can define a person." -- High Country News
Previously Released
"An exceptional novel." --Melissa Senate, author of The Solomon Sisters Wise Up
"A coup. Warm, smart, and original." --Kirkus Reviews


When to Hit the Delete Key

February 12, 2007

February Newsletter from the desk of Karen Brichoux


*Article: When to hit the delete key
*What Iím Reading

*If you would like to be added to my snail-mail mailing list to receive a postcard informing you of upcoming releases (this amounts to one postcard a year and is the only thing I will send you), send your address to email@karenbrichoux.com Please put ďmailing listĒ in the subject line. I try to always respond when I receive an e-mail (even if it takes a few days), so if you donít get a reply, I probably didnít get your e-mail.

Article: When to hit the delete key

Actually, I should point out that I rarely hit the delete key. Instead, I cut everything I think I donít want and put it into a different file to be deleted at some distant point in the future--like when the book is published and on the shelves in stores. But somehow, ďWhen to cut and put into a different fileĒ didnít sound like a good title.

One of the most frustrating things about writing a draft is the moment when you realize you've been taking a wrong turn. Around Thanksgiving, about a month away from completing the draft of my current manuscript, everything stalled. I spent a week thinking and staying away from the computer, and it took that and some heavy-duty journaling to realize that the story was missing a crucial dynamic thanks to a twist I'd added back on manuscript page 100 or so. The drek--many thanks to a writing buddy for that useful word--between that page and where I currently sat was over 100 manuscript pages or a little more than 2.5 months of work. Usually, I've been able to catch these bad directions within ten or twenty pages, but I'm writing this draft while adjusting to a three-quarter time job, and I'm finding that it's incredibly difficult to compress what used to be six or eight hours of work into my new three-hour writing block.

A friend recently asked me how I identify those wrong turns. To be honest, I don't know, but I think it's mainly gut instinct. Dialogue becomes fussy and meaningless. Instead of enjoying the current scene, I'm trying to get to the next scene as quickly as possible. Characters' voices change and they begin to talk like each other or like characters I've written in the past. There's no joy in describing the scene or, worse, the descriptions become endless and provide no added meaning or atmosphere to the story. I'm not a heavy plotter, so it's vital that the characters be . . . vital. Real. Filled with the conflicts that infect all of us. When the characters become bored, I become bored. At that point, I start to struggle with the direction the book should take; and that struggle becomes more important than the characters and their story. When I'm on the right path, the characters are happy to provide me with direction.

So, it wasn't hard to make the decision to throw away the drek from the middle, but it has been hard reconnecting with the characters after what amounts to a hiatus from their real personalities. I decided to give myself a long break through the holidays and into this year, focusing on additional research for the new direction minus the twist, but also giving the characters time to sit patiently (or impatiently) and become anxious for me to tell their story again.

What Iím Reading:

London Calling by Edward Bloor
The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My Year Off by Robert Mccrum