Okay, first the incredibly good stuff. There's a recorded interview over at http://apub-blog.amazon.com/post/Tx3JFSSZ5DCGK2E/Celebrating-Anne-Stuart-s-40th-Anniversary-Then-and-Now where you can hear me talk about the business, talk with a devoted reader and leak some fabulous news! All that, and for today's deal you have the chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite! Just follow their instructions to enter.
Do I dare talk about publishers? Uh, no. Sometimes even my reckless brain kicks in. Instead I'll tell you a bit about the daily grind. Some of this is old hat to you guys, but I have variations on a theme.
First off, you have to write on a schedule. You can't wait until you're inspired, wait until the mood hits you, not if you want to be a working writer. And that's what I am. This is my calling, my vocation, my God-given talent and even my mission. Interesting how I tend to think in religious terms, as I did when I was a rock and roll nun. But there are things in my life that consume me, that drive me, and there's almost a religious fervor to it all. (Confession time: I'm an ultra-liberal UCC Christian who believes in karma, reincarnation, and that a Higher Power comes to you in whatever way works best, be it Buddha, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, atheism, etc. But talking about religion and faith - and I'm really talking about faith - is kind of tricky in a blog, Then again, have I ever really been worried about offending people? I don't want to hurt them, but if they're offended that's mostly their choice).
But I digress. In order to be a writer, you have to write. You have to want to write, or need to write. Many writers hate the process -- sometimes even I do. But if there's a story that's working for me I can sit in my recliner and totally lose myself (I write on a laptop, sitting in a recliner with the sleekest, purple metal lap tray -- I'll show you a picture:
Well, that photo is slightly huge but c'est la vie. (Autocorrect really wanted me to say "chest la vie.") Anyway, if I put the laptop right on top of my thighs my legs hurt later on, not to mention it gets hot. So I have a variety of lap desks but that one's my favorite.
So anyway, I get in my chair, I write, I fall asleep, I wake up and write some more. When the words are flowing I'm very fast. I once clocked myself at 8 pages an hour, which is about a thousand words. I would average 3k to 4k words a day when I was on a roll. When things are intense in a book I still write that fast -- typing really quickly helps, though sometimes I'm in such a trance that I end up typing really strange words in place of what I meant.
I love every kind of software. I play with Scrivener, Writer's Tool Kit, Power Structure, Persona, and half a dozen more. When i write I often use something called Vitamin R that allows me to set a certain amount of time to work and then a timed break, which tends to help. That way I can always put off checking my email until my break period, and it also forces me to get up and move around. When the writing is going extremely well I'll ignore the break and just go straight to the next work period, but it's a nice tool to break things up into manageable portions.
There's a limit to how long I can write. As I tell Richie, my windows start to fog up, and I stare at the computer blindly, unable to remember the hero's name. That's when it's time to take a break. And alas, I eat at the computer. Pretzel Goldfish are my current wickedness (I'm one of those strange women who don't like chocolate) and I'm trying to cut back on diet sodas. But if it fuels the process I tend to be lenient.
I write fast, and while I revise as I go, I'm by no means anal about it. I try to avoid major revisions unless I've taken a wrong turn, and then I have to stop and pull it apart before I can go on. But generally I'm a firm believer in Anne Lamott's Shitty First Drafts. I slap it all on the page and then fix it when I'm done, when the white hot heat of mad inspiration is over. (Or the day to day drudgery for some books, but almost always a combination of both). I don't often show the mss. to anyone but my editor unless I'm worried about it. If I've written something different, something I'm worried about, then I have a few friends I can trust. And I've almost always been capable of taking advice that works for me and ignoring the stuff that doesn't.
My delusions of grandeur are probably one of my most fortunate traits. It helps me weather the storms of rejection and bad sales and ugly covers and forced name changes and editors who don't "get" me and no money and all the other sins that flesh is heir to. (I like to quote Shakespeare). I love my books so much, some more than others, that it helps me keep the faith when the outside world is using me for target practice.
I'm not good at PR and blogging, This 40 day extravaganza is very much unlike me, but I'm having fun, because I figure I'm not trying to sell you books or help myself. I'm just enjoying looking back, and I'm trying to get as many freebies and 99 cent goodies out there.
The main thing that gets in the way of productivity and makes me chronically late on all my deadlines is the time in between writing. Once I actually get going things move along. It's starting that's the issue.
But in fact I'm starting something new, at the making notes stage (fountain pen and Clairefontaine notebook) and whenever I start writing the words start flowing. The ideas are just pouring out, but then, I suspect this will be one of those "gift" books, the special ones that feel as if they're dictated to you by a benevolent muse. Which reminds me of another thing about process.
I have this lovely recliner and my own office, and sometimes I can't stand to be in there. Sometimes it's as simple as moving the chair. Other times I feel called upon to move elsewhere. I've written some in the living room, which is an iffy proposition since my husband's at home. Other books I've written in the corner of my bedroom, looking out over the hills surrounding our small town. I love writing near water -- it makes the words flow, and I've written in m Uncle Arthur's cabin, my in-law's house on the lake, my Aunt Beatrice's house on the lake, or facing the ocean. I love both mountains and water (which is why we're thinking of moving to the Pacific Northwest).
And while I mostly compose on the typewriter, some books, or parts of books, want to be written long hand. I have notebooks filled with manuscripts -- there's something wonderfully tactile about a pen and paper. In fact, I've almost always written love scenes long hand.
And i always finish books in a white hot heat I spend most of the time plodding along, nowadays doing 1500 to 3k words a day, and then I write the last 15,000 words in a weekend. (Though I have to be careful, because my endings can sound a little rushed). I don't know -- it just feels natural, as everything in the book is falling together for the big climax. But that's what revisions are for.
And I embrace revisions far more happily than I used to. While I believe in my gift, I've lost my arrogance, which is a good thing to lose. Belief in oneself is crucial to survive being a writer, arrogance is unnecessary. But then, I'm older and wiser, Sister Yoda of the Romance World, the All-Knowing Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock (Madame Heap to you). I've been around a loooong time, and I've and to learn at least something in the process.
Process. The other thing is not to confuse process with product. Just because a book was hard to write doesn't mean it sucks. My absolute favorite books do come very easily to me, but I've slaved over some really good ones as well. And if you hate the process that makes for a miserable life. I went through a time when I was always trying to get to the next book. I just wanted to finish what I was working on so I could get to the next one on the horizon. It took me a while to realize that wasn't a healthy way to live. You have to love who and what you are now. Love the book you're with.
See, I can be taught. I don't know who said it first, but the older I get the more I realize I don't know.
But I do know how to write a romance.