Bless everyone who has been talking about process for the
past couple of weeks, especially this guy, who always makes me think. I fear I was being held prisoner in a marketing hell,
surrounded by brambles with thorny ridges and forced to babble incessantly
about promotion, publicists and press releases. Granted, these are all
exceptionally important, but who am I kidding? I’m a writer. A writer. Man,
that feels good to say out loud.
This little epiphany has been building. I finished Book 2
and turned it in. What a relief to have that off my shoulders. And I decided to
try something a little different for Book 3. I planned, and plotted, and came
up with a comprehensive 12 page synopsis. It starts at the beginning and goes
through the end. Before you say “Umm, JT, DUH!” realize that I’ve only ever
written a synopsis AFTER the books are done or have been in process for a
while. This is new territory for me.
I’ve always fought against doing this, because I really
enjoy seeing where the story takes me. Well, I don’t have that choice anymore.
Now it’s someone else who wants to know where I’m going prior to me leaving the
station, and I’m thrilled to provide that for them.
Realizing that I’m doing this right, and that I can plan, is
a good feeling. Because there was a time when that wasn’t the case.
When I was trying to write my very first book, (I thought it
was a book, I found out later it was a novella) I hit a huge wall. It wasn’t
writer’s block. It was "I don’t know HOW to do this" block.
I’d been reading a great deal at the time, and was
fascinated with John Sandford’s PREY series. I’ve told the story before – I was deep into the series and said to myself “I can do this.” Ah, hubris. I sat
myself down at the computer, started to write. The first page came out with
such ease that I got up and did a dance. I’d written the opening for my first
novel. It’s quite a feeling. The next thing I knew, I had the first chapter. A
woman had appeared as a main character. She was a cop. She was a young cop. She
was a young homicide detective. No, she was the Homicide Lieutenant. She would
get involved with an FBI profiler. On and on and on.
There was just one problem. I had no clue how to make that
into a book. I typed and typed. Taylor Jackson (she was Bethany Taylor then) became a one-dimensional
character, pretty and intelligent, but lacking in those qualities that make an
iconic character come to life. The story was progressing, but things just
weren’t right. I knew that deep in my heart. I was writing a book, but it sucked.
Doubt crept in on its silent little cat paws and settled like a fog in my
All stop. My college writing teachers were right. I’d never
get published. Why was I doing this?
I nearly gave up. But I got disgusted with myself for those thoughts.
I mean come on, anything worth having is worth sacrificing a little ego for,
I took a different tack.
I sat down with a notepad and one of Sandford’s novels, and
I outlined it. I started at the beginning and went chapter by chapter. I looked
at the point of view. I looked at the pace. I looked at the frequency with
which his main characters appeared, how they interacted with the story and the
other characters. I did what I’d been good at in college, deconstruction. Looked for all the things that weren’t being said.
The little lightbulbs began to turn on again, one by one. I
still had a ways to go, but after tearing apart how one writer did it, I taught
myself how I needed to do it. I wrote the book. And yes, it sucked. It
was fine, just nothing special. So I stole the best parts from it and wrote
another. That one went a little easier, and got my agent’s attention. It still
wasn’t good enough. It all came together on the third try. I was lucky. Very,
As I start my newest novel, I look back at the road I took
to get here and feel so blessed. I have a lot to learn. But I’ve also learned
so much by paying attention to how the people I enjoy reading write their
My question for you – what did you do the last time you were
hopelessly mired in self-doubt and unable to move forward on your life’s
Wine of the Week: I did something different this week. All I
can say is I’m mad at Barry Eisler. I’ve been reading about Caipirinhas in his excellent
books, and found myself at a Brazilian restaurant in Nashville this week
that serves them. I was feeling frisky and decided to try one. I am completely
addicted. Hubby and I bought some Cachaca rum, a bag of limes and
sugar in the raw and have been making them at home. They are wonderful and
totally addictive, taste like a sweet margarita. So thanks, Barry, for leading me
PS. I’ve been reading Stephen King’s ON WRITING today and am further convinced that I want to read his novels. One problem. I’m a big wuss, which is why I haven’t been reading him. Can you recommend a couple of King titles that won’t leave me with nightmares for weeks?