I hit the email Send button Sunday night at 8pm, which means that YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS is in the hands of my editor as you read this. It also means I’m brain damaged, so don’t expect much.
Last time, some readers asked for more about the writing process, and this seems as good a time as any to provide some of the many Valuable Insights that stun one over umpty bazillion years of writing for a living.
Here’s one: It isn’t over until it’s over. When I send in the manuscript the first time, I do jump up and down with joy but it’s not the big bounce you’d expect. This is because, before very long, that hunka hunka deathless prose is going to bounce right back at me. It’s called Revisions. There may be authors who get it all exactly right the first time around but that is not moi.
I leave some holes in the plot or there aren’t enough smoochies or some curst thing or other. And for you, Elaine McCarthy, who asked about Dreaming Up Stuff, let me say here and now that I would pay good money for the secret to dreaming up smoochies with the same ease I experienced early in my career, when I was fresh and innocent–and when, perhaps, less was demanded of us in this area. Which is not to say it ever was a piece of cake. Such scenes are deeply dependent upon the personalities and problems of the characters involved. This is because the smoochies in a romance are supposed to be about emotions and the development of a committed relationship. It is not supposed to be merely an exercise in finding interesting variations on fitting Tab A into Slot B. I am not writing the Kama Sutra; I’m writing a love story. OTOH, one does like to make it interesting.
They do get done eventually, and then I don’t remember the trials and tribulations of making it interesting while still keeping it romantic. In this way, writing a book is like giving birth: One forgets the pain. Sadly, there are no epidurals for writers. But I digress. (When do I not?)
Revisions. I like them, because it’s a time to unload some of the responsibility, finally. It’s the first time anyone else reads the book–and my Anyone Elses are experts. Early in my career, I did give the manuscripts to friends, to look for ghastly errors and such. I’ve found that method unsatisfactory. People tend either to get caught up in the story (not a bad thing, I admit) and not notice problems or they get caught up in minutiae, and fail to see the big picture. A good editor sees the big picture and can tell you where the gaps are or where it’s too crowded or not full enough or whether it doesn’t flow well in Chapter X–and, yes, whether the smoochies pass muster and why or why not.
One finds on reader loops that many people are quite clear about what works for them and what doesn’t. I wonder, though, if they’d be able to suggest what would make a problematic book work. If a story element or a scene is confusing, would they be able to pinpoint where the author’s wandered into Confusion Land or what she might do to clarify things? I’m not sure I could do it. And I’d have an extra hard time doing it if, for instance, I wasn’t wild about the genre or subgenre. Or maybe wasn’t nuts about the author’s style. Or disliked a certain type of character. And could I look at the book from the perspective of readers who love that genre or style or type of character?
What about you? How do you think you’d do, sitting at the editor’s desk? Your dream job or your nightmare? And if you’ve done it, what do you think of the job?