Thursday, May 11, 2006


If you heard a loud scream of joy at around 5 p.m. CDT today, that was me, celebrating the fact that the book has been officially turned in to my editor. I'm sure I'll have revisions to do for her, but for now, it's off my plate. I spent the last couple of days reading it straight through, trying to get more of a reader's view on it (though changing a few words, here and there). I feel really good about it now because when taken that way, it reads well as a whole. It's easy to get hung up in a chapter or scene and not see the big picture when it takes longer to write a scene than to read the whole book.

Of course, that means it's now time to look back and see what I learned from the process of writing this book:

1) A lot of the things that I thought were time wasters or procrastination tactics are actually an essential part of my creative process.
I have a bunch of silly little things I like to do before I start working on a book. First I have what I call a "staff retreat" to get myself in the right mindset. I set aside a weekend or a few weekdays and hole up watching movies that remind me of my story in some way while generally acting like I'm on vacation. Once I have a rough plotline worked out, I like to make a "soundtrack" for the book, picking out songs that remind me of scenes I have in mind, that inspire scenes, that capture feelings or that embody the characters. Those are just two examples.

On this book, I ended up not doing them, and I think that was part of my problem. Instead of doing my usual retreat, I re-read the first book and then proofed the galleys of the second book before getting to work. I started out to make the soundtrack, then decided I was wasting time listening to CDs to find songs when I should have been working. But looking back, I think that three days going through my CD collection might have ended up saving me a month of work because that process helps me distill the thread of what the book is really about, and I had to write a draft before I figured that out this time. I think the retreat is also essential for getting me in the right mindset.

2) I have a bad habit of thinking on paper.
This may go back to those seemingly silly pre-writing rituals that help me plan the book and brainstorm it ahead of time before I start actually writing. When I'm writing and I come up with a new idea for what could be going on or what the characters could be doing, instead of going back and working that into the scene, I tend to write a new scene. I think this means I need to plan better and get over my reluctance to go back and tweak an earlier scene instead of plunging forward.

3) That twenty things list.
This was the simplest-sounding but most life-changing tip I've picked up at a writing conference in ages. You just make a list of 20 things that could happen in a scene or in a book. Making that long a list forces you to get beyond the usual and be more creative. It really helped me in revising this book, and I can't wait to use the technique from the start on the next book.

When I get back from booksigning and then the conference in Daytona Beach, I need to make time for a retreat so I can get started on book 4. It's due in September (gulp!).

Oh, a little housekeeping: I made some minor revisions on my web site earlier in the week, mostly just removing old events and adding review links. I haven't been posting about each and every review here because I figure if you're reading this, you don't need a review to persuade you about my books. I'll do a more major update, including some behind the scenes stuff on Once Upon Stilettos, when I get back from Florida.

Now I can kick back and relax while watching the season finales of My Name is Earl and The Office tonight. Then I'll have to get to bed so I can get up in the morning and head to Austin for my signing Saturday.

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