When I asked my Facebook ladies what I should write for this blog, as usual, they came up with a zillion great ideas. One of the main ones was what advice I would give myself if Iwere just starting out. What first came to mind is Get Rid of Him NOW. But I don’t think that’s what they meant.
I have to say that I was dragged into the world of social media kicking and screaming. I couldn’t see myself posting all those little platitudes that I had seen on Facebook. But after being on the end of some serious nagging for over a year I said I’d only post if I could tell the truth about writing. In my long career I couldn’t count the number of people who have given me a little smirk and said, “So what do you do? Sit around and wait for ideas, then write them down?” Oh how I wish that were true! Another question I often get is, “I have an idea for a book. Why don’t I tell it to you, you write it, and we share the money?” I’m often asked if I even have an editor. It seems that people believe that after you’ve had a book make the NY Times Bestseller List you become a saint and no one dares correct your work.
What I decided to do was post five days a week and tell, day by day, what goes into writing a novel. The agony and the ecstasy, so to speak. I started with my book True Love. My editor, Linda Marrow, made me rewrite a chapter 3 times. I vented my annoyance and frustration on Facebook. I liked the first two versions — but I reluctantly agreed that maybe the third one was better. I shared with readers how I often can’t figure out how to tell the information needed to make the story go forward. After the book was done, I went into a depression when I was told I had to take off my prologue, something Linda and I agreed was one of the best things I’d ever written. I vented about how much I truly hated the title that was given to the book. To me it is TO SEA FOREVER and always will be.
In my next novel I wrote 50,000 words and Linda threw out all but 12,000 of them. That hurt! But after I picked myself up off the floor, I told my Facebook buddies how this gave me the freedom to write what I’d originally planned, which meant ghosts and reincarnation.
My point in all this has been to show that writing a novel isn’t what people assume it is. I work hard to come up with ideas. I never, ever wait for an idea to come to me, but I search for them. I pace and fret. I make notes that start with, What the hell do I do next?! As for the thought that it takes one idea for a book, I hope I’ve shown that it requires hundreds of ideas. How do I show that my main characters fall in love? What scenes do I create to tell their personalities and how they interact with each other and with other people?
In spite of my initial trepidation, Facebook has turned out to be wonderful. Writing is so very solitary and it’s nice to have such great interaction. And we have both changed. Now I often say, “I’ll ask my Facebook ladies.” For the first months I had readers telling me that I should stand up to my editor and not let her boss me around so much. Now they write, “What does Linda think of the chapter?” Other writers post and say it makes them feel good that someone else has so much trouble with their books.
Sometimes I worry that I’m taking the mystique out of being a writer, rather like a magician revealing secrets, but when my readers tell me how much they enjoy the posts, it’s all worth it.