From There to Here

    Barbie_40th_ann_1_3   From Loretta:
      
      I didn’t notice when the new refrigerator was delivered because I was typing as fast as I could to get my revisions done…
      Then I caught a cold.
      As Edith pointed out, we don’t get sick days.
      I had to take one anyway, thereby losing a day of work and having to beg for blog assistance.  Pat leapt to my rescue and filled in for me last Saturday, for which I give thanks  And virtual flowers.Bouquet_for_pat
      The revision dementia ended in another dawn-to-midnight marathon.  The work got done, and sent in.  I collapsed.
      Some days I ask myself, Why am I doing this?
      Like the line in the Laurie Anderson song, when her brain says to her, “Why don’t you get a real job?”
      All of which makes now as good a time as any to answer Susannac’s questions–or at least some of them.  Or part of some of them, because complete answers belong in the autobiography I hope never to write.
      <<As for questions, my biggest one (okay, related collection) for the Wenches is:
      How did you all go from zero to published? Did you futz about with it for years  before buckling down to write a whole novel? Or did you decide one day, "I’m going to write a novel", and voila! finished it 3-6-9 months later? What did you use to learn the craft – college classes? Books? Critique partner/group? Trial  and error? Which is harder for you – character or plot? How many completed manuscripts did you have before you sold? Is getting published the first time different today than when you first published?>>

      I decided one day, when I was in high school, “I’m going to write a novel.”  That went on for decades, for pages and pages in spiral notebooks (yes, we Wenches have much in common).  In between working on this Great American Novel Without End, I had various lives.  I was an English major in college.  But I wanted to be involved in fashion.  No, never mind; I wanted to be an artist.  I was one, too, for a while–complete with actual exhibitions, and a work in a statewide juried show.  Writingwoman_at_desk_1 Meanwhile, trying to earn my daily bread via this job and that, I ended up with a multifaceted job in academe, in an arts department, surrounded by artists, performers, composers, historians.  I wrote the usual administrative paperwork and p.r.  I even taught (badly).  I helped on a theater project for one prof, helped run an art gallery, typed some dissertations.  In short, lots of creative stimulation everywhere I looked.
      The job also offered connections.  Among other things, it led to my writing scripts for corporate video.  Actual pay!  For writing!  And while this freelance work had its aggravations, as all jobs do, it was fun.  I didn’t care what I had to write about:  sandpaper, drilling rigs, safety equipment, filing systems.  It was a chance to work with words, to make something out of nothing with words.  And get paid for it!  Did I mention actually getting paid?  Too, it was a great challenge to take an ostensibly boring subject (i.e., plastic tubing) and try to make the words turn it into something interesting–or even funny, sometimes.  I wrote for some living history museums and other cultural organizations as well.
      Whatever the topic, I tended to find it fascinating, exciting, even.  Picture the Crocodile Hunter (and oh, I shall miss him!) and you have a good idea of my outlook; though, being a shy person, I was less ebullient than he.  This ability to wax enthusiastic about something simply because one is writing about it is very useful to writers.  Spending so much of our lives alone, living in our heads, we need to provide our own excitement, applause, laughter, tears–as well as conversations with people who are not there.
       So when I did finally settle down to follow my bliss, as Joseph Campbell so aptly put it, I had years of experience in things like sustaining my own interest, along with pacing and dialogue and getting the point across quickly, not to mention DEADLINES.  I also had experience in making something out of nothing:  Clients rarely had a clear idea of what exactly they wanted to accomplish, let alone an outline, so I learned what questions to ask, and how to build from odds and ends of ideas (in turn building on what I learned as a visual artist).  For good or ill, it’s my current technique.  My mind is not now, never was, and never will be linear.  I’m either trying to make a Something out of scraps of this and that or trying to make order out of chaos.
      Lady_with_pen_1_3 No creative writing courses in my life–but lots of papers in college in addition to the writing described above.  I read Writers Digest for years, from cover to cover, and all of Lawrence Block’s books on writing novels.  But equally important, I had been a reader all my life, and probably absorbed at least a little by osmosis.
      No critique partners, either.  But after the first book was done, I did give it to my secretary–who was English, lucky me–and she helped me with British usage, as well as a great deal else.
      I had partners in my work, though.  Always have.  Many of them, including my Princess and the Pea sister .  For now, though, to keep this from turning into my autobiography, I’ll just point to my husband, with whom I’d worked on numerous video projects.  He urged me to follow my dream.  Strongly urged.  OK, he nagged.  Thanks to his unflagging er- encouragement, the first novel did get finished in about two years–while I was still working in academe and freelancing in video.
      At the time, several publishers still accepted unagented submissions and a great many were putting out traditional Regencies–definitely a different world from today.  I sent my first book ISABELLA over the transom, and promptly started writing another, as Writers Digest recommended.  A few months later, to my very great astonishment (because Writers Digest had taught me to expect many rejections before acceptance) the editor called and asked me if the book was “still available.”  Wasn’t that sweet?  As though the publishing houses were trying to break down my door. Isabella_orig
      As in Susan/Sarah’s case, my process was long and meandering, but once the book went in, things happened quickly.  I, too, am glad I knew as little as I did at that point.  It’s like my feelings about Georgette Heyer.  If I’d read her before I wrote my first couple of Regencies, I wouldn’t have had the temerity.  Even now–in spite of surviving deadline madness and wanting a long stay in a sanitarium–how I got from there to here still amazes me.

  Or maybe not.  Maybe it’s the ability to survive such things, to have the temerity, that makes the difference.  I don’t know.  What do you think?
      

24 thoughts on “From There to Here”

  1. Wow, so interesting, Loretta! I had no idea how you got started, and it’s funny to see that we had markers in common along the way, like art and scribbling in spiral notebooks, and learning to write somewhere else before we applied it to fiction. Writing is one of the few professions where we tend to be largely self-taught, an amalgam of different interests, training, and experiences.
    I love the cover for your first book–so quaint it’s adorable!
    ISABELLA was reissued a couple of years ago, wasn’t it?
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  2. Wow, so interesting, Loretta! I had no idea how you got started, and it’s funny to see that we had markers in common along the way, like art and scribbling in spiral notebooks, and learning to write somewhere else before we applied it to fiction. Writing is one of the few professions where we tend to be largely self-taught, an amalgam of different interests, training, and experiences.
    I love the cover for your first book–so quaint it’s adorable!
    ISABELLA was reissued a couple of years ago, wasn’t it?
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  3. Wow, so interesting, Loretta! I had no idea how you got started, and it’s funny to see that we had markers in common along the way, like art and scribbling in spiral notebooks, and learning to write somewhere else before we applied it to fiction. Writing is one of the few professions where we tend to be largely self-taught, an amalgam of different interests, training, and experiences.
    I love the cover for your first book–so quaint it’s adorable!
    ISABELLA was reissued a couple of years ago, wasn’t it?
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  4. Fascinating, Loretta! Thank you. I think people find a way to do what matters most to them, even if they can’t do it in their preferred way. Tell your husband I said, “Thank you” too. 🙂 I’m very happy he nagged – and that you found a way.
    As for autobiographies… I suspect the Wenches could each write one more fascinating and fun than most.

    Reply
  5. Fascinating, Loretta! Thank you. I think people find a way to do what matters most to them, even if they can’t do it in their preferred way. Tell your husband I said, “Thank you” too. 🙂 I’m very happy he nagged – and that you found a way.
    As for autobiographies… I suspect the Wenches could each write one more fascinating and fun than most.

    Reply
  6. Fascinating, Loretta! Thank you. I think people find a way to do what matters most to them, even if they can’t do it in their preferred way. Tell your husband I said, “Thank you” too. 🙂 I’m very happy he nagged – and that you found a way.
    As for autobiographies… I suspect the Wenches could each write one more fascinating and fun than most.

    Reply
  7. Wow — another fascinating zero to pub story! Thanks for the story.
    PS I too once wrote construction vids — OSHA safety regulations, environmental cleanup — but can’t say I found it fascinating. I pray I didn’t put the poor construction workers to sleep during parts where they learned not to spill radioactive waste or how to avoid getting eaten by a rather large machine.

    Reply
  8. Wow — another fascinating zero to pub story! Thanks for the story.
    PS I too once wrote construction vids — OSHA safety regulations, environmental cleanup — but can’t say I found it fascinating. I pray I didn’t put the poor construction workers to sleep during parts where they learned not to spill radioactive waste or how to avoid getting eaten by a rather large machine.

    Reply
  9. Wow — another fascinating zero to pub story! Thanks for the story.
    PS I too once wrote construction vids — OSHA safety regulations, environmental cleanup — but can’t say I found it fascinating. I pray I didn’t put the poor construction workers to sleep during parts where they learned not to spill radioactive waste or how to avoid getting eaten by a rather large machine.

    Reply
  10. Susan/Sarah, it was funny reading your post because there were so many overlaps. I think this is true for Susan/Miranda, too. And yes, ISABELLA did come out a couple of years ago in a Signet “double” edition, with its sequel THE ENGLISH WITCH. Having all my Regencies reissued as Signets had special meaning for me because, early in my career, Signet authors like Mary Jo and Pat welcomed me into their inner circle.
    Susannac, I’ll pass on your thanks to my spouse.
    Susie–I will admit that making the safey videos was a challenge, partly because of all the tedious detail and partly because it was so SERIOUS. My husband loves to tell the story of how a client was criticizing this and that and dh said, “You mean, you want us to make it more boring.” And the client said yes, it was too entertaining.

    Reply
  11. Susan/Sarah, it was funny reading your post because there were so many overlaps. I think this is true for Susan/Miranda, too. And yes, ISABELLA did come out a couple of years ago in a Signet “double” edition, with its sequel THE ENGLISH WITCH. Having all my Regencies reissued as Signets had special meaning for me because, early in my career, Signet authors like Mary Jo and Pat welcomed me into their inner circle.
    Susannac, I’ll pass on your thanks to my spouse.
    Susie–I will admit that making the safey videos was a challenge, partly because of all the tedious detail and partly because it was so SERIOUS. My husband loves to tell the story of how a client was criticizing this and that and dh said, “You mean, you want us to make it more boring.” And the client said yes, it was too entertaining.

    Reply
  12. Susan/Sarah, it was funny reading your post because there were so many overlaps. I think this is true for Susan/Miranda, too. And yes, ISABELLA did come out a couple of years ago in a Signet “double” edition, with its sequel THE ENGLISH WITCH. Having all my Regencies reissued as Signets had special meaning for me because, early in my career, Signet authors like Mary Jo and Pat welcomed me into their inner circle.
    Susannac, I’ll pass on your thanks to my spouse.
    Susie–I will admit that making the safey videos was a challenge, partly because of all the tedious detail and partly because it was so SERIOUS. My husband loves to tell the story of how a client was criticizing this and that and dh said, “You mean, you want us to make it more boring.” And the client said yes, it was too entertaining.

    Reply
  13. LOL on the client who wanted your safety video scripts to be less entertaining! My SO is a health and safety guy, and much of the success of his teaching and training business was that he was very entertaining. Clearly, you needed clients with a better sense of humor. 🙂
    <>
    I’d definitely agree that the ability to survive, the temerity to think our words have value, and sheer pig-headed tenacity, are all essential components to a long-term writing career. I also send thanks to your honey for his sturdy encouragement.
    Mary Jo, hoping Loretta is now rested enough to enjoy her new fridge.

    Reply
  14. LOL on the client who wanted your safety video scripts to be less entertaining! My SO is a health and safety guy, and much of the success of his teaching and training business was that he was very entertaining. Clearly, you needed clients with a better sense of humor. 🙂
    <>
    I’d definitely agree that the ability to survive, the temerity to think our words have value, and sheer pig-headed tenacity, are all essential components to a long-term writing career. I also send thanks to your honey for his sturdy encouragement.
    Mary Jo, hoping Loretta is now rested enough to enjoy her new fridge.

    Reply
  15. LOL on the client who wanted your safety video scripts to be less entertaining! My SO is a health and safety guy, and much of the success of his teaching and training business was that he was very entertaining. Clearly, you needed clients with a better sense of humor. 🙂
    <>
    I’d definitely agree that the ability to survive, the temerity to think our words have value, and sheer pig-headed tenacity, are all essential components to a long-term writing career. I also send thanks to your honey for his sturdy encouragement.
    Mary Jo, hoping Loretta is now rested enough to enjoy her new fridge.

    Reply
  16. What a wonderful story, Loretta. IMHO, there’s nothing like having your hubby ‘in your corner’ when giving writing a go for the first time. (or any other time *g*)
    To answer your question from my perspective… yes I think it takes an incredible dose of boldness to be a successful writer. Or as MJ put it, sheer pig-headed tenacity. Having such qualities is hard for me. I am pig-headed, no doubt. And bold, to a fault. Until rejection comes to play, then I melt into a timid mouse. But, I’m finding with people like you and MJ and Sherrie and all the other Wenches and wenchlings, I can find the courage to go back and fight another day. Because, if you and the other Wenches did it and others are trying and succeeding, there is hope.
    Nina, thankful for Word Wenches

    Reply
  17. What a wonderful story, Loretta. IMHO, there’s nothing like having your hubby ‘in your corner’ when giving writing a go for the first time. (or any other time *g*)
    To answer your question from my perspective… yes I think it takes an incredible dose of boldness to be a successful writer. Or as MJ put it, sheer pig-headed tenacity. Having such qualities is hard for me. I am pig-headed, no doubt. And bold, to a fault. Until rejection comes to play, then I melt into a timid mouse. But, I’m finding with people like you and MJ and Sherrie and all the other Wenches and wenchlings, I can find the courage to go back and fight another day. Because, if you and the other Wenches did it and others are trying and succeeding, there is hope.
    Nina, thankful for Word Wenches

    Reply
  18. What a wonderful story, Loretta. IMHO, there’s nothing like having your hubby ‘in your corner’ when giving writing a go for the first time. (or any other time *g*)
    To answer your question from my perspective… yes I think it takes an incredible dose of boldness to be a successful writer. Or as MJ put it, sheer pig-headed tenacity. Having such qualities is hard for me. I am pig-headed, no doubt. And bold, to a fault. Until rejection comes to play, then I melt into a timid mouse. But, I’m finding with people like you and MJ and Sherrie and all the other Wenches and wenchlings, I can find the courage to go back and fight another day. Because, if you and the other Wenches did it and others are trying and succeeding, there is hope.
    Nina, thankful for Word Wenches

    Reply
  19. Jo, I think meandering is true for a great many of us, because those “overnight” sucesses, as in acting, for instance, happen after years of learning and earning a living.
    Mary Jo, it was weird that some clients thought that if it was entertaining, the audience wouldn’t take it seriously. But there also was the insecurity, in that a video program is like a document, where a live session is ephemeral. And we often dealt with committees…. Need I say more? OTOH, we did have clients who seemed so serious at first, and who’d say, after we turned in a treatment, “Make it more fun.”
    And these experiences did build stoicism, thus preparing me for that fun phase of writing novels known as REVISIONS. Oh, and the other fun phase, COPY EDIT. Aaargh.
    Nina, having someone totally in one’s corner makes a huge difference–whether it’s spouse or sibling or friend–absolutely. As to rejection, it’s always horrible, I think, for everybody. The question is whether we can bounce back–or at least stagger back–to fight again. (Cue Rocky theme.)
    Oh, and the fridge is really cool. *g*

    Reply
  20. Jo, I think meandering is true for a great many of us, because those “overnight” sucesses, as in acting, for instance, happen after years of learning and earning a living.
    Mary Jo, it was weird that some clients thought that if it was entertaining, the audience wouldn’t take it seriously. But there also was the insecurity, in that a video program is like a document, where a live session is ephemeral. And we often dealt with committees…. Need I say more? OTOH, we did have clients who seemed so serious at first, and who’d say, after we turned in a treatment, “Make it more fun.”
    And these experiences did build stoicism, thus preparing me for that fun phase of writing novels known as REVISIONS. Oh, and the other fun phase, COPY EDIT. Aaargh.
    Nina, having someone totally in one’s corner makes a huge difference–whether it’s spouse or sibling or friend–absolutely. As to rejection, it’s always horrible, I think, for everybody. The question is whether we can bounce back–or at least stagger back–to fight again. (Cue Rocky theme.)
    Oh, and the fridge is really cool. *g*

    Reply
  21. Jo, I think meandering is true for a great many of us, because those “overnight” sucesses, as in acting, for instance, happen after years of learning and earning a living.
    Mary Jo, it was weird that some clients thought that if it was entertaining, the audience wouldn’t take it seriously. But there also was the insecurity, in that a video program is like a document, where a live session is ephemeral. And we often dealt with committees…. Need I say more? OTOH, we did have clients who seemed so serious at first, and who’d say, after we turned in a treatment, “Make it more fun.”
    And these experiences did build stoicism, thus preparing me for that fun phase of writing novels known as REVISIONS. Oh, and the other fun phase, COPY EDIT. Aaargh.
    Nina, having someone totally in one’s corner makes a huge difference–whether it’s spouse or sibling or friend–absolutely. As to rejection, it’s always horrible, I think, for everybody. The question is whether we can bounce back–or at least stagger back–to fight again. (Cue Rocky theme.)
    Oh, and the fridge is really cool. *g*

    Reply

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