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A revised manuscript finally wings its way out the door. I’m posting this so you can see 1) this funny cartoon and b) the time stamp on the e-mail.
From: Susan Wiggs Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 4:55 AM
To: my long-suffering editor
Cc: my cheerleader of an agent
Subject: Daisy v. 2
The massively talented gals at Pens Fatales were nice enough to post this article last month. Here it is again in case you missed it. I would love to hear your strategies for carving out writing time.
I hear it from emerging writers all the time. I’ve got a great idea for a novel. I’m going to sit down and write it as soon as I…
…get my day job under control
…get my final kid into kindergarten
…out of jail
…get my finances in order
…fix my marriage
…finish painting the house
…pay off the car
…clean the can opener
…clean the rain gutters
…get the puppy housebroken
…retire from my job
…finish watching the third season of “Weeds”
…get my Bachelor’s…Master’s…PhD…LLB…MD
…pay off my student loans
…read all the Stephanie Plum books
…check in with my nineteen thousand Facebook friends
…upgrade my computer
…landscape the yard
…take a vacation
…host my book group
…teach my teenager to drive
…finish knitting this sweater
…forgive my parents
…get over my fear of failure
…get over my fear of success
…get permission from my parents/spouse/children/therapist
…hire an agent
…learn to use the subjunctive case
…stop smoking/drinking/playing online games
…figure out the business of publishing
…lose 20 pounds so I look good in my author photo…
You name it, and a procrastinating writer has said it.
Here’s a dirty little secret. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the cruel reality is this. There will never be a good time to write.
Life will always intrude. That’s what life is. Be glad for that. If you have no life, you have nothing to write about.
The good news is, there’s a simple solution. Make time for the things that are important to you. If writing your story is important, make time for it. Simple as that. Turn off the TV, leave the dishes undone, close your e-mail, grab a notebook and pen, and tell your family, “Don’t interrupt me unless your eyes are bleeding.” You’ll be surprised by the respect they give you.
The way you spend your day is the way you spend your life. So quit being your own worst enemy and start being your own best friend. Make time to write, even if you don’t have time.
Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She lives at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers’ group in a 17-foot motorboat. She’s been featured in the national media, including NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” and her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists.
The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Her latest novel, now available, is called Lakeshore Christmas. Readers can learn more on the web at www.susanwiggs.com and on her lively blog at www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com.
After the Daisy question, probably the most frequent query I’ve had from readers this month is this:
Q: “Why did you publish the latest ‘Lakeshore Chronicles’ book, Lakeshore Christmas,* in hardcover, after hooking readers into the series with paperback originals?”
A: I’m glad this question has been asked (and asked and asked) by readers. It is annoying to get hooked into a series at once price point–pocketbook-friendly paperbacks–and then to find the next eagerly awaited book as a hardback that costs more than twice as much.
The explanation is, it’s a balancing act between fulfilling the mass market needs (individual readers) with the hardcover market reads (libraries and hardcover fans). Having low-cost paperbacks available is a great way to build a readership. A reader is more likely to take a chance on an author she’s never read before if she only has to invest $8 or so in the book.
On the other hand, the lack of a hardcover edition creates huge problems for the public library. With their dwindling budgets, libraries can’t afford to buy many paperbacks, because they tend to fall apart. So that creates problems for libraries with tough choices to make.
When I decided to write a Christmas book about saving the library, the best choice seemed to be a hardcover edition, followed by a paperback edition a year later.
It’s not a perfect solution, and it doesn’t thrill me to ask paperback readers to wait. But anyone with a library card can read the book (or audio or large print edition) for free by taking this form to the local library and asking them to acquire the book.
That said, I should point out that the decision about a book’s format is made by the publisher. Sometimes the author is consulted, sometimes not. The publisher makes the call based on their goals and marketing research.
Question for readers–does your library provide a “patron request” service? I’m happy to say mine does! Thank you, Kitsap Regional Library!
I love when people ask me questions about books, writing and reading.
10 Questions for Susan Wiggs
1. What was your favorite book as a child?
SW: I loved so many books as a child, it’s hard to narrow it down. Yertle the Turtle by Dr Seuss was the first I bought with my own money. I sobbed over You Were Princess Last Time about a girl whose mean sister cut off her long, beautiful hair (I had long, beautiful hair.). Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was one I read again and again. The whole world is in that book–life, death, friendship, family, loyalty, humor, pathos, suspense, drama and an uplifting ending…everything I hope readers find in my own books.
2. What is your favorite book right now?
SW: An unfinished novel called Daisy+Logan+Julian, by my favorite author (me). I’m not being facetious; I really do love this book and I’ve wanted to write it for a long time. It’s about continuing characters from past books, and I can’t wait to write their story. But I do have to wait, because I have other deadlines to meet. Soon, though!
3. What book do you like to give away as a present?
SW: I Like You by Amy Sedaris–it’s everyone’s childhood in one big, funny book. Meeting God In Quiet Places by F. LaGarde Smith is a comforting book about walking, meditation and prayer. And Literary Feasts, a cookbook with photos and recipes by famous authors with an intro by chef Greg Atkinson; the proceeds go to raise money for libraries.
4. What book are you reading right now?
SW: The Reserve by Russell Banks, about privileged families at an Adirondack Mountain retreat in the 1930s. It’s wonderful! And Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, who passed away suddenly this August. Wonderful book on storytelling.
5. What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t yet gotten around to?
SW: The da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I believe I’m the only person on the planet who hasn’t read it yet.
6. What book would you have liked to have written yourself?
SW: Same answer as #2 above–the book about Daisy from my series, The Lakeshore Chronicles. I wish I was already done with that book! I feel so much pressure to do a good job, I’m almost afraid to start it. I don’t want my readers to feel let down.
7. What book (not your own) should have made the bestseller lists?
SW: Love in Bloom by Sheila Roberts–a book about all the loves that fill a woman’s life. It’s wonderful, the kind of novel you want to share with all the women you know. And Oxygen by Carol Cassella, an absorbing page-turner with a huge heart and many intriguing twists. Both books deserve a wide audience. In the children’s arena, Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee and Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors should have been bestsellers.
8. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
SW: David Copperfield (I’m a sucker for writers in novels), Huckleberry Finn, Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo) and Frodo Underhill from The Lord of the Rings. All of them were such strivers; they never gave up. My favorite romantic hero is (no surprise) Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Restraint can be so sexy. I wish someone would explain that to Barkis.
9. Who is your favorite fictional heroine?
SW: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh–she inspired me to be a writer. Jo March from Little Women –another writer who never gave up on her dream, even when her bratty sister burned her manuscript. I cried harder then than I did when Beth died! And Jane Eyre, who never gave up on love.
10. What is your “guilty” reading pleasure?
SW: I never, ever feel guilty about reading anything. All reading is good. Books that are dismissed as frivolous by some readers can be life-changing for others, so I would never want anyone to feel guilty for reading anything. I sure don’t!
Step one – open shitty first draft.
Step two – print out in word draft mode, light colored ink.
Step three – put on extra strong glasses and bright lamp. Rewrite every single page until it looks like it’s bleeding. Be aware that you might need a lot of physical space for laying out the pages. Clothespins are key. So are Post-It notes.
Step five – type in handwritten edits.
Step six – go back to step 2 and do it all again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Barkis is not too subtle when he wants to go for a walk….
My name is Susan and I’m a WordPerfect addict. It’s every bit as essential as my Clairefontaine notebooks and Shaefer Javelin fountain pen (peacock blue ink, please). WordPerfect is not perfect, but for writing a novel, it’s close.
And then there’s Word. The industry standard. Do not ask me why. The first time I saw “Clippie,” I thought I was hallucinating. C’mon, Clippie? Am I not enraged enough by the program itself?
But let’s be fair. Word has one huge virtue. I love the way it prints out a draft. A draft, I am forced to tell you, I created in WordPerfect. Word is too stupid to open it, so while In WordPerfect, I click “Save As” and select some version of MS Word.
(Side note–My nomination for dumbest upgrade ever? When New Word refused to recognize Old Word, thus creating the doc to docx confusion.)
But back to the draft. My early drafts are riddled with side notes or comments, the little hidden things that say “this is dreck–revise later” or “sheer genius,” (rare) or “then, a miracle occurred…” They also contain research material, continuity notes, deleted sentences I’m not ready to let go of, questions to ponder, you name it.
When you print out the draft in Word, it automatically prints those side notes oin a nice little column on the side. If a note is long, it continues it at the end of the document.
I love this feature! But I hate everything else about Word.
Are there Word-defenders out there? What do your drafts look like?