I love the planning stage of a new manuscript, when I open a fresh shiny new document and just begin to ramble on about who these people are that have taken up residence in my head. Oh, the things I sometimes put down! Why did he hide that single piece of broccoli in his mom’s underwear drawer? Why didn’t she haul off and punch that bitchy girl in 9th grade who started that horrible rumor? What did he really think when he opened that present from Santa on Christmas morning when he was 8 and saw the wood working kit he’d wanted so badly but had been afraid to ask for? Why did she choose to do that?
Creating characters is fun, but it’s also a responsibility. You want characters that your readers can fall in love with; characters they can identify with. They need to be complete people. A lot of the things I write about these characters in this first document, never make it, per se, into the finished novel. But they’re all pieces of the whole people I am trying to get to know, whose stories I need to tell.
I have a friend who’s a writer, of novels and screenplays, a gentleman who is multi-faceted and multi-talented, who disagrees with me on one major point. Well two, actually.
I’ve gone back to being a “pantster” you see—an author who writes a story by the seat of her pants; as opposed to being a “plotster”—an author who has a detailed, step by step outline. Notice I said, I’ve gone back. I was one, then the other but now, as I am working on my 50th title, I have reverted to being a pantster, which isn’t as haphazard as it sounds. It means, I’ve come to trust the combination of skill and talent within me to let those two entities work, no holds barred.
The second thing we disagree about is this next statement that anyone close to me has heard me utter: if my characters don’t step up and take over the telling of their story by mid-point in the first draft, then I have a very serious problem. “That doesn’t make any sense,” my friend will say. “YOU are the author! They’re not the authors! YOU are in charge!”
Indeed, I am. And if I don’t know my characters so well that it seems as if they just take over, then I don’t know them well enough to tell their story.
I love the editing process, both my own, and the edits I get from my publisher. I love a good, hard, clean edit. I want to become the best writer I can be, and that will not happen if all anyone ever tells me is that I’m good. False modesty and all else aside, I am good. I know that, even if I don’t always feel that. What I need from my editor is to know how I can become better.
Being a writer isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. It’s who I always have been, even when I was sidetracked doing other things; even if the world has only known it for the last nine years.
And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t take a moment to be thankful for this amazing life I have—amazing because I get to do my dream job, and it’s even more fun and fulfilling than I ever dared to dream it would be.