This week’s theme is candy, but since I spent last week’s post waxing rhapsodic about twinkies and chocolate and cheetos, I thought I might branch out a bit.
Last night, I was stuffing invitations for our school gala, sitting around the dining room table at a neighbor’s home with half a dozen women, the usual corps of volunteers. A few were friends, a few others I met there. My job was stuffing a precise number (7) strands of red and siver tinsel into the clear cellophane envelope. Brainless work, for certain, but a good opportunity to chat, which I never get enough of.
One friend, Angela, mentioned to the others that I was an author.
And suddenly, the questions started:
How long did it take me to write the book?
About four or five months of full-time writing.
Do I plot out my books ahead of time, or just write whatever comes to me?
I outline basic action for all of the scenes, and use a whiteboard to figure out how it all works together — a technique called storyboarding I used back in my advertising days, and borrowed for organizing my novel from the prolific Janet Evanovich. I know a lot of authors prefer to work organically, and sort of let the scene or the characters move things along, but personally, I need to get the logistics out of the way. If I know I need to get from A to B, it’s a lot easier for me to play around with the dialog, the funny parts, the sad parts, the mushy parts.
Do I ever get writer’s block?
No, I don’t believe in it. I have slow days when every sentence requires a great deal of concentration and effort and I end up with is a page or a paragraph of warmed-over mediocrity, and I have smart, funny, fabulous days when the words just flow out of me and I can barely type fast enough to get them down on paper.
Do I know John Grisham?
Have I ever been on Oprah.
Sadly, no. But my bags are packed and waiting by the door.
One of the women in particular seemed fascinated. I suspected she might be a writer — maybe she had 375 pages stuffed in a drawer somewhere, and was too busy or too perfectionistic or too timid to let them out. But I asked, and she said no.
“I just love books,” she said smiling.
And I suddenly remembered how great it is to be a writer. It’s easy to forget, I guess, when you’re knee deep in it. When seems like the old publishing joke might be true, “the only good author is a dead author.” When a book you sweated over and poured your heart into ends up with a title you don’t recognize or a cover you hate. When you feel you’re at the mercy of reviewers who don’t know you, who are overloaded by the sheer number of books dumped on their desks every day. When you can’t stop obsessing over your Amazon numbers. When you spend more of your day promoting your books than actually writing them. When you miss writing, but you’re afraid if you stop promoting the books you’ve already written you won’t ever sell another one.
It’s easy to forget.
But (gasp!) here was a woman who actually liked authors, who apologized for being so interested, for asking me so many questions about what I do all day.
And talking with her helped me to remember how great this life really is. How great it is to walk into a bookstore and see your book there. To spend your days tinkering with words, searching for that perfect turn of phrase. Laughing at your own jokes. To write something and have it published, and read. Or to meet someone who wanted to meet you because she read your book. Loved your book. Because it meant something to her.
This gig, being a writer, is sweet.
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