Sunday, July 27, 2008

Putting the brakes on negative waves

After chatting with countless book clubs over the past 3-4 years, last night I was asked a question I'd never been asked before. Here it is: "You often mention books on your blog that you've really enjoyed. Could you also start posting the names of those you haven't liked?"

"No," came my reply, followed by this explanation...

Working alone, with little or no feedback for months and months on end, authors pour everything they've got into their work, and after writing & revising & restructuring a manuscript time and time again they then offer it up to their agent for consideration (if they have an agent, and I won't get into how hard getting one is other than to say the process is filled with the kind of rejection most sane people would never purposefully put themselves through.)

Moving on... After reading the manuscript, your agent's opinion will usually result in yet another round of revisions prior to the manuscript's release to a handful of carefully chosen editors at various publishing houses, each of whom will have their own opinion about what's working, what's not, if the book "speaks" to them, whether a P&L (profit and loss) projection can be done up that will be accepted by their bosses, and if their house will have room for the book on their already tight list.

After a book is purchased there will then be another round of revisions as your editor rolls up his/her sleeves and aids you in fine-tuning that rough diamond of a novel that's ultimately on its way to readers at the far end of the publishing assembly line where it'll be plopped into book stores to compete against an average of 150,000+ other novels each year. Then, when it is finally released, book reviewers will weigh in with their opinions (some who've sadly never written a book themselves) in a most public manner.

I think you see my point here, don't you?

Writing a novel (for those who manage to finish one that's saleable) is hard work; getting it published is equally difficult; growing & continuing to write while under a steady stream of critical scrutiny, not an easy task. And then having a fellow author bad mouth your book on his/her blog after it's released?

Not cool. Not even a little bit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The joy of late nights at my keyboard

I'm home, fully inspired and dying to write, but unable to FOCUS given my zoo-like household. Here. Let me show you a brief snapshot from yesterday... 10:00 a.m. The treadmill repairman just left. The phone's ringing off the hook, my voicemail is full, my kids are back from Grandma's & already in a full tilt argument. The doorbell keeps going off every 15 minutes, the cats are feeling neglected and making enough noise that I'm considering re-homing them, and the dog's back from the kennel but refuses to climb into the shower.

Fast forward 30 mins: the shower door bursts open and our 170 lb Newfoundland flies out covered in soap with me hot on his heels (dressed, but as wet as he is.) Upstairs I find two of my son's friends and a Fedex guy at the door (the Fedex guy is delivering french copies of The Penny Tree.) I tell the boys to come in and I sign for the books (apologizing for the calamity and my appearance) and when I look up there's a plumber parked in the driveway (here to fix a leak before friends arrive from Winnipeg next week for a visit) and a kid selling chocolate almonds is on his way up my front steps (fundraising for diabetes.)

And I'm sharing this with you because?

Because it helps people understand why I do so much of my writing late at night between 10 pm and 2 am!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Finding clarity & inspiration in Boston

I now know exactly how my character will feel as the sun rises and sets each day in Boston's Public Garden. I also know what it'll be like for him to watch the pedal-driven swan boats fill and empty time and time again throughout each day, and how hard it will be for him not to smile at the steady stream of kids that run through the Beacon & Charles Street entrance to climb all over the infamous 'Make Way for Ducklings' statues.

I've talked to maintenance staff, tourists, sketch artists, even a professional mime who often frequents one entrance. I've spent hours taking all kinds of pictures and scribbling notes, but until yesterday (in the midst of a flurry of inspired writing back in my hotel room) I don't think I fully realized what a difference coming here would make to my story.

If you're in Boston, wander through the Public Garden. You won't regret it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bound for the Public Garden

Tomorrow I'm driving 5 hours north to drop my kids off at my mom's, then 5 back to get home before flying to Boston for the rest of the week. I'm meeting my husband there, but he's got a packed schedule with his own work so that means I'll have four uninterrupted days to immerse myself in the novel I'm currently writing (insert enthusiastic whoop here!)

Keeper of the Pond is set in the Public Garden so I'm taking my camera and my laptop. I've been there before, but not like this, so after exploring every inch of the place (including the Boston Common) I plan to park myself in a quiet spot overlooking the pond and finish two key scenes the book hinges on. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If the label fits...

You've heard the stereotype before, haven't you? That many writers are unapproachable, eccentric, brooding drunks with inner demons that drive their creative energy? In some cases, I'm sure this is true, but not so with me. I'm not a big brooder, I rarely drink, and as far as I know I have no demons camped out in my subconscious. I do, however, have my oddities. For example, I have a tendency to talk a lot, especially when it comes to the topic of writing, the publishing industry, or any kind of anecdote or story. Yet I do my best writing when I pull away from everyone, stop talking, and become as reclusive and closed off as possible without completely neglecting my family. Not exactly traits that compliment each other, are they?

Yesterday I met a woman who said that after reading my novels she could tell I was one of "them sensitive types" and I smiled and thought, I'll take that label! After all, it only seems fair that writers are judged by the end result and not by our behavior during the creative process, don't you think?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day U.S. bloggers

Of course, it goes without saying that the U.S. is busy celebrating today, which also means everyone in the publishing world won't be back at work until late next week. I myself am curled up with a box of Robaxacet, as I have been since tearing a ligament in my back last week. Hopefully it will all be back to normal soon. In the meantime, here's hoping you either have your feet up or else you're busy chugging back a few well deserved drinks.