I’ve written a lot of books. I’m not even talking about the 24 chihuahua killers I penned back in my fantasy days, the books I consider my writerly education. I’m talking about the books I’ve written since first being published by Hadley Rille Books back in 2010. There were three of those. Then there were three romance novels with Kensington/Lyrical. Then came The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) with HarperCollins/WilliamMorrow. Now there’s Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story, again with HC/WM.
But there are more.
After Bar Harbor, I wrote another four novels before Varina became my all-important “second book.” Between Varina and now, I’ve written another I haven’t even told my editor about, and I’m working on yet another I’m thinking that, when the time comes to pitch, will be a better fit.
That’s thirty-seven completed novels, if we include those chihuahua killers.
Currently, I’m working on #38.
My basic process is a bare-bones outline and a few character sketches before I start. Other than that, I wing it. That usually brings me to a point, about 3/4 of the way to THE END, before I have to go back to page one and get all my little plot-ducks in a row so I can finish the story. Then there’s draft two, maybe a third read-through before sending to my agent for her feedback. Another round after that, and the book is as done as it’s going to be before sending it out to find a home.
Remember, I said, “basic process.”
It would be nice if it held true for every novel. It doesn’t. Like with this one I’m currently calling Tommy And The Tagalongs Play Asbury Park. I did the basic, bare-bones outline, and character sketches. I only got about halfway through before going back to page one, because I’d eliminated a key plot point that ended up draining the whole story of hilarity and tension. But I’d gotten a good hold on my characters, so–cool. I went back to page one, added the plot point, hilariousness and tension, and then realized one of my characters had the wrong name. Absolutely. No big deal, right? Yes and no, because Esther was one kind of character, but Mim (Miriam) was slightly different. Okay, again–cool. I really know my characters now! Back to page one–rearrange/tweak/smooth–only to get bogged down about 2/3 of the way to THE END because, though I know my characters like beloved aunties, something wasn’t right. Something felt…contrived.
And it just hit me, moments before opening this page and writing it all down as much to share as it is to settle it in my own mind. My story has four ladies of a certain age, and only two of them got perspectives. As any woman of any age can tell you, we are crafters and creators of our own stories, thank you very much, and neither need nor want anyone telling them for us. Not even old and dear friends. Especially them, because they’d never gotten a story straight in their lives to begin with, so how can you trust them now?
So here I go again, back to page one, to insert those points-of-view currently missing. This is the stuff that makes my skin tingle and my hair follicles prickle. This is writing. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes, it’s not. I appreciate the easy, but I loooove the skin-tingly, hair-follicle-prickly not, more. So. Much. More.