Nora Roberts

Update – Book-in-a-week…in two Months

I said I’d come back here with an update and it’s an update I don’t mind giving.

I did not write six pages per day for five days this week, However, I learned something vital – if you keep writing, you keep writing. Simple, ain’t it? 

The muse, like a muscle, when lazing around too long, turns to mush. It’s harder to get it into top form because each time you start, it’s like starting a new workout routine… or worse, starting to work out for the first time. You have to keep the muscle moving, working, in order for it to reach maximum potential.

After pushing through my first day of real, wrist-numbing writing, I found myself, once again consumed by my story. That’s a good thing. I heard the characters’ voices again. I saw them moving, they way they gestured when they spoke. Their clothes, their environment. The beauty of Book-in–a-week is that you’re immersed in your characters’ world and that makes the writing fluid.

I confess, I broke a couple of huge Book-in-a-Week rules. I re-read my work. A lot. And I stopped to research various locales via Google Maps – Street View. I had to. I’m the kind of writer who winds up preoccupied with story blanks and must fill them in if I’m to move the story forward. It’s okay. It’s my process.

And so, because of my process, I didn’t write six pages per day this week, I wrote four. I’m happy with that. That’s sixteen pages more than I had before – and, if you’re doing the math, then yes, that means I wrote for four days so far. Today will be my fifth. And, for the record, since I write single-spaced pages not double, that’s actually 32 pages in four days so, in fact, I’ve written eight pages per day.

No matter how you look at it, writing daily – in solid blocks or in ten-minute spurts – is the not-so-secret secret to getting the story down. Of course I’ll need to polish, but the ‘story’ is there and as Nora said, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Speaking of Nora Roberts… I attended a writing lecture about a month ago and heard that Ms. Nora writes her first drafts with just dialogue. Once the chatty bones of her story are down, she goes back into the story to add those details that make Nora’s work so unique.

Why does it matter? Because everyone has their own method. And as my wonderfully wise and encouraging critique partner often says, “Trust your process.”

Onward.

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Edits and Revisions

There is no question most writers enjoy writing but not editing or revising. It’s a simple fact that the creation of a story is more enjoyable than the repairs of that story. I see it as having and raising a child.

Pregnancy, labor and delivery are not exactly easy but through your sweat and determination you have this beautiful creation. Perfect in its newness, its innocence. It is love at first sight.

Then comes the hard part. The guiding, the lectures, the tantrums and frustrations. The times you want to throw up your hands and give up, go running from the house. But you don’t. Because this is your baby and you want it to be all it can be. It’s love. It’s dedication. It’s a total reflection on YOU.

As is the story you write… and must revise.

Revising, to me, is like dealing with  a child’s troubling teenage years. It’s a test of patience and of love. A time when all the beauty and innocence you saw and felt at that first stage, comes back at you as if your input was a vile, unappreciated thing and must all be undone. It’s a battle of wills and understanding. Emotional standoffs grounded by love you know is there but cannot hold quite as closely as before.

And then, suddenly, there’s peace. A sort of understanding and middle-ground-met. A balance of your vision for your child and your child’s vision for her or himself. It’s that respect which allows your child go into the world armed with the ability to stand alone and make you proud.

The difference between all that and revisions is time. You have nearly two decades to work with your child and while revisions may seem as long, they, in all honestly, should not be. 😉

Mine however, have gone on longer than the writing itself. To be fair to the writer in me, I will acknowledge that the editing process has gone well throughout the story. It’s simply the opening which stumps me. And after several revisions of that opening, I’m still not happy.

I have now set a deadline. By this Friday my opening will be good or it won’t be. Either way, I will be sending queries. It’s up to me – and my muse, of course – to decide whether those queries will be for work I’m proud to call my own or work I’m embarrassed to put my name to.

So, for much of this week, I intend to read. Oh, how hard that work will be. You can imagine a dramatic sigh here. I will read openings from some of my favorite authors – like Nora Roberts, Lisa Jackson, Jude Deveraux, Linda Ford, Kate Pearce and more. And I will see how and why their opening pages work. And then, filled with the wisdom and motivation of those I admire, I will revise my opening pages and send them off into the world to, hopefully, stand on their own and make me proud.

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BIAW (Book in a Week)

Yup. You read that right. Book in a Week.

I took a workshop by that title about two years ago and it was one of the gems I refer to with each new project. The main gist of it is this – write. Yeah. That’s it. Write.

For a writer, that’s a powerful word because it means so many things. It means the obvious – write. But it also means – don’t look back, don’t judge, don’t worry. Write.

The fabulous Nora Roberts said something every writer should remember. She said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” The Queen of Book in a Week-dom, April Kihlstrom said something else every writer should remember. She said, “The first draft is for your eyes only.”

So what if it’s crap? If it is, refer to Ms. Roberts’ comment and be happy you have pages to edit.

I have the tendency to write a sentence, study it, disect it and revise before going on to the next sentence and starting the process again. I’m a slow writer because my inner editor is a bitch. Nothing is ever good enough and so I always go back over what’s been written and wonder if it can be written better. You know what? It can always be written better.

Enter Book in a Week.

What’s the point? To get the words – the story – down with the least amount of distraction. To keep the story moving forward – not just on the page, but in the writer’s mind. Once the events are down, in pretty prose or shorthand, and ‘The End’ is reached, THEN the writer can go back to page one and add layers and texture.

April Kihlstrom was gracious enough to agree to an interview on this blog. In it she helps ease some concerns over the BIAW process. Take a look at it here and see what she had to say.

The hardest part of BIAW, I think, is banishing that inner editor. Writing is fun. And since it’s a creative process, there is no ‘wrong’ way to do it, despite what the inner editor says. That’s why it’s vital to lock it away.

And so, next week will start the BIAW marathon for me. I will have a very rough draft of my entire story by this time next week. It’ll be my muse’s chance to play. And when playtime is over – and only when it’s over – I’ll release my inner editor from solitary and let her have at it.

I picture Lucy and Ricky, with my muse being Lucy – all playful and mischief-making, and my inner editor being Ricky – all gooey-eyed over his partner yet logically cleaning up much of her mess. They meld together beautifully but look how much fun they are independently.

Writing is fun. Keep it fun and the story will flow. It has to because there will be no doubt. No looking back or revising. Writing is play and I intend to play with my writing this week.

Muse and Editor? Kiss goodbye. You’ll meet again a week from today and not a moment sooner.