Have you ever seen the movies Misery or Romancing the Stone? Both feature writers banging out the final paragraph of their books before they triumphantly type THE END, culminating with either an elaborate ritual or an all-encompassing snif of enormous satisfaction. Now although it’s true that most writers look more like Kathleen Turner sporting a red nose and a dirty bathrobe than James Caan with his Dom Perignon, it’s also true that if there’s a writer out there who is really and truly done when she types THE END, then I’ve yet to meet her. The fact is it’s the rare person who emits perfection the first time. My best writing usually comes through in the rewrite, which I’m sure is true with most: it’s all in the editing.
But there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to the nip/tuck of the edit (perhaps more, but I’ll just focus on two, or we could be here all day.) The first is the “just write it!”, the second is to edit on the fly. Both have their merits, and neither method is wrong.
The average novel is anywhere from 75,000 to 125,000 words, or 300-500 double-spaced pages, most falling somewhere in between. For a work of this length, I’ve known “just write it!” writers to pump out 200,000 to 300,000 words before they finally take a breath and fan the smoke off their laptops. Many take their inspiration from such methods as Book In a Week or NaNoWriMo which instructs participants to just get it out–no editing, no going back over what’s been written. The point is to get the words down and create a first draft, and worry about the revising later. The main thrust is to get the ideas out. I believe this method works well for people who plot their story out beforehand, who work from outlines, or, to take the opposite tack, who write best in stream-of-consciousness. Like a virulent case of verbal vomit, “just write it!” writers throw it all against the wall, deciding to see what’ll stick after it dries.
I prefer to fix on the fly and edit whiile I write. Unlike my plotting, I’m deliberate in my revising. Usually I go back to edit before starting another writing session, whether that session is a couple of hours worth or from the day before. Most of the time I do both, and always if I set it aside for a while, as I’ve done now by revisiting the novel I put aside last year. The advantages to this is it keeps the story fresh in your head, lets you and fix plot or continuity problems, and you’re certainly writing more concisely and compactly, as you’re choosing your words more carefully, not just pumping out the first thing that flies into your head. Of course, there’s always the chance, with constant revisiting, that you’ll drain the life out of your prose. The last thing you want to do is beat it into an over-processed, mechanical bore. But this method does help if you tend to lose track of your story, working even better if you’re actively writing every day and on a deadline.
Neither method is right for everyone, and you may work best under a combination of the two. The important thing is you’re writing, and if it takes a bit of the nip and tuck, or more than a few Joycean interior monologues to get you going, then damn the Spell Check–full speed ahead!
Ah yes, there I am in New York at BEA back in June, signing copies of Wanted: Wife at the RWA booth. I’m happy to say that I “sold” every copy HarperCollins provided for me. Okay, I’m lying. They were free, and three-quarters of the people asked for them not to be personalized. Kind of reminded me when I was at a BEA authors’ breakfast the year before, and I asked the same thing of Chris Matthews of “Hardball” on MSNBC. He laughed out loud in that inimitable Chris Matthews way and said, “Ha! Better to sell it on eBay!” No, I thought, feeling slightly chagrined. He was so mobbed, I was trying to save him some time. Even so, I was under no illusion my many “fans” were thinking eBay about me. Seems most of them were librarians or booksellers, and WW would soooo fit nicely into that raffle basket…
Not that I cared. Truly, I didn’t. At this stage of my career, I’m just happy you asked. Writers are funny that way. We can be a cloistered folk, especially when we’re deep into a project, but if you want to get a writer’s attention, just ask her what she’s working on. If the work’s going smoothly, she’ll jabber on about it. If it’s going badly, she’ll give you a scowl that’ll melt glass.
I’m kinda at the in between stage right now, just starting a new project, and just pushing one out in the real world on Tuesday, November 18th. That would be The Laws of Seduction, the third book in my “French Kiss” series, and a bit different from what I’ve written before. It’s somewhat darker, but it was written at a very dark point in my life. I started it the day before my mother died suddenly, and worked through and finished it while I was still in mourning. In fact, this picture was taken just six days after her death and three days before her funeral, and to tell you the truth, as excited as I was to do a signing at BEA, I was pretty much in a daze. But I soldiered on. I think Mom would have wanted me to.
I’m somewhat better now, though I still miss her, of course. But out of all that sadness came something I’m pretty proud of. The writing, the plain work of it, got me through a very tough time by giving me something other than my grief to think about, and through it all, reaffirmed my conviction to the craft of writing. I knew then that if I could write through those dark days, I would never have an excuse again to not write when the times were so much better. Because as a writer, I was doing what writers do–write. I sincerely hope, with this next book, you’ll agree.
I’ll be hanging tomorrow at the Collingswood Book Festival in South Jersey, which for those latecomers is October 11, 2014. Be there or be square!
I discovered something about the nature of a long-term relationship last week when my husband and I decided to go away overnight. It was an impromptu trip, as we had come into a little extra cash and we hadn’t been away as a couple in four years. So I rushed to make hotel reservations as well as booking a spot on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry (that’s Cape May receding from aboard the Cape Henlopen). We were to take the ferry over in the morning, then spend the afternoon and night in the charming coastal town of Lewes, Delaware. Which is exactly what we did.
No sense giving you our travelogue–which was, briefly, the Delaware Bay crossing, a stay at a lovely downtown hotel, the Hotel Rodney, a visit to the state park, dinner on the canal at sunset, etc–but that’s not the point I’m wanting to make. The point is how a couple can change when they’re out of their milieu, how that change is a barometer of the true state of their relationship, as well as a portend of what they can expect when they come home and return to their reality. Let me explain.
I read somewhere over the summer, not sure where, that in order to keep a long-term relationship fresh a couple needs to experience new things together. It’s not enough to do them separately, as they need to bind over a shared event. We found this on the ferry and in visiting Lewes. Away from home and doing something together in a new environment, we were able to step outside our everyday lives and become almost different people. When we walked into our hotel room, drank beer at our canal-side table, ate ice cream on the sidewalk as we watched passers-by, we found a joy in our commonality of stepping outside the ordinary. Free of the static of everyday life, we were able to just live in the moment, getting into the thrill of the open sea, yellow beets and pistachios on our salads, mints atop our turned-down sheets. And about those sheets…
Yes, it was better. He was better–I was better. There’s something thrilling about a mussed-up bed in the afternoon (especially when you return from dinner and find it made up with those mints atop it). Being silenced with a kiss. Trotting downstairs to a hotel alcove past midnight for a can a Coke and Chex Mix–you’re starving, after all–wearing just a cardigan and the jeans you snatched from the floor. Finally falling asleep who-knows-when. Strange. We’ve been married well over twenty years, but the man I spent the night with surprised the hell out of me. His reactions to the newness all around us made him as fresh to me as if I just met him, giving me a new, exciting perspective on him. In those thirty-six-odd hours we spent together, I fell in love all over again.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, my goodness, remember what I write? How can I impart those first rushes of romance if I can’t feel it from the inside? How convincing would I be then? It’s a wonderful feeling, living the romantic life. Recharge often.
Over the weekend my wit ‘n wisdom was featured in Chuck Sambuchino’s fabulous Writers Digest column. It’s called “The Writer’s Journey: How Much (can) Someone Possibly Stand?” What I’m talking about is how much a writer has to go through to get where they want to be, the hours, the sacrifices, the research, etc. Here’s a snippet:
So there’s this, there’s all of this, and yet as hard as you work, shuffling schedules to make room for those two blissful hours alone, polishing that manuscript until it screeches surrender, querying in bunches and crossing your fingers, there it comes again, that blasted, callous bit of communication that so effortlessly denies you entrance. So you steal more hours, polish some more and once again type that header: QUERY: Historical Thriller 80k–and it’s almost as if you’re stuck in a copier churning out denied, denied, DENIED.
DENIED. Yeah, we all know what that’s like. Rejection, requery, resubmit. So why do we do it? What pushes us on. You don’t the answer to that, right? If you don’t, then, ask yourself, why not?
In case you’ve been living under a preconceived notion or two and don’t know where “the center of the universe” is, well, that’s pretty simple – it’s New Jersey of course! How can you think otherwise?
Hello there, the name’s Gwen Jones, and since you’re obviously of good taste, it’s no surprise you’ve found my website. I’m a writer of discerningly good fiction, more often than not that’s Women’s Fiction or Romance. I might as well tell you right from the jump you’re not going to get any of that schmaltzy prose out of me, whatever I’m writing. I’m fond of teetering on the edge, and so are my characters, and I’m not averse to tripping them up if I have to. My women are smart, sexy and know their way around a whiplash remark, and if their men can’t take it (or dish it right back) then they’re not their men for long.
Anyway, that’s the way I roll, so why don’t you take a look around. There’ll be much more to come in the future, but I think you have a enough to get you started. Drop me a line or two if you have any questions or comments or even some advice. Not like I’ll listen.