Thursday, January 22, 2009

Separating Fact from Fiction

So one of the most frequent questions I get when I call into book clubs is "How much of this book is taken from your own life?" I got the same question for The Department as well, which is sort of funny because the protagonists are wildly different. But I guess there's a tendency (and I do this too) to look at the author's photo on the dust jacket and somehow insert him/her into the story. It's really interesting to be on the other side of the coin (jacket?) now though because this question always amuses me a little (not in a bad way): like people don't understand that what we do is write fiction, as in, we actually do really make this stuff up! :)

I know that we've discussed just how much of yourself you should put into your novels in the past, and by that I mean, I think if your plots/characters are too similar to you, you can often get stuck when it comes time to be creative, but in thinking about it (as I do when I'm asked this question about how much the plot line echoes my life), I guess there is a very fine line to walk. It's funny, actually, because Jillian, my protag in TOML, is actually nothing like me. I really didn't relate to her circumstances or her problems, and yet, I was able to give her her own voice, her own world totally outside of mine. I think what was important here was that on some level, I emotionally connected with her situation. I mean, like most women, of course I've had an occasional "what if," and that shared spark of a moment was enough for me to bring her to life. That readers are convinced that she is me (or vice versa) should, I guess, be a compliment, no?

The same thing happened with The Department. I actually get emails from people who think that Natalie's story was mine, and that the book was actually a memoir. Again, there were elements of Natalie's life that I related to - for example, her quest to be in touch with her exes, as I'm happy to say that I've kept in touch and am friends with many of mine and wish them all the happiness in the world - but obviously, I'm fortunate enough to never have had cancer, nor been in many of the situations that Natalie found herself in. But yes, on some emotional level, I clicked with her.

I dunno - it's just a funny thing. I guess that's really what I'm musing about - not that any of you might care! But do you guys do this? Put the author in the plot? (And as I said, I do it myself, but I've gotten better at it now that I realize that, indeed, this is a work of imagination!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Editing (Ugh)

Question of the day: I am intrigued by the fact you edit 50 pages at a time. I usually write the whole MS and then edit once it is complete. I would love to know whether you've always done it this way, or have experimented with different ways, and why this works for you (knowing that everyone is different!).

This is by no means a hard and fast rule for me. But I've found that it really helps me with continuity and refreshing my brain as to small details I might have overlooked or plot lines that I now need to focus on. As I've said before, I don't write an overall outline as I go - again, for me, it just messes up the idea that I write where my characters take me. For example, in Happiest Days, I had originally conceived one of the main characters to vacate the plot at about page 75. Well, a lightening bolt hit me last week that - huh? - isn't it so much more complicated for everyone if he sticks around? Why not try that? So I am. It's a harder choice, writing wise, but I think it's a smarter move for the book. If I'd mapped out the book religiously ahead of time, I wouldn't have even given myself the freedom to really dig deep and consider this option.

But I've digressed. So, because I keep all of the details in my brain (something that I know doesn't work for everyone), I really like to refresh myself on what I've recently written. I helps me keep momentum with not only my enthusiasm for continuing to write (I often discover that what I've written is better than I thought), but it really pulls me into where I need to go next. So that's my reasoning.

I should note, however, that once the manuscript is complete, I definitely go back and read it from the beginning and do an edit that way too. Frankly, I could do never-ending edits - hell, there are still lines in both of my books that I wish I could change. But c'est la vie. At a certain point (for me, that's when my editor and agent say, "Perfection,") you gotta let go.

How do you guys go about your editing process? I'd love to hear.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm Tweeting

Hey guys, I know that some of you had urged me to join Twitter...and I just did. Ugh, I'm not sure if I'll regret it or not, but for now, I'm diving in. I'm still figuring it out, but if you're on there, find me! Back tomorrow with writing-related stuff.