If writing and revising were the goal, none of us would ever get to the publication stage. I firmly believe that everyone has a line they cross when they are no longer improving the art they are producing but hurting it. But how do you know when you’re there?
Have you ticked off all the basics?
My friend Joyce was the one who taught me about the importance of that first line in your book. I’m a journalist so I naturally write in the inverted pyramid that includes a kick-ass lede, but I threw that concept out for my fiction writing, inverted pyramid after all is about revealing the story from most important info to least. With fiction you build to that most important moment in the story. Joyce talked me into bringing one thing about the lede into my fiction writing: the hook. This is just one example of the basics. You’re not done your writing without these kind of basics.
Is this a book you will be proud to talk about and market?
Introvert or extrovert, the success of your book is going to require that you go out and talk about it. A lot. So don’t put something out there into the universe that you are not super-excited about. I’m still answering fan-mail about my first book, and I still get called into classrooms to talk about it. Truth is that eight years after the publication of Jewel of the Thames
, I sometimes need to reread bits of it to remind me where we are in Portia’s story.
If this isn’t your first book, have you been tracking what you’ve learned?
I have a couple of word docs that are just for things I’ve learned from writing my first books - one for the Portia series and one for the Pickles series. In my Portia doc you would see a sentence reminder to remove all references to eyebrows and what Portia’s eyebrows are doing in a scene. This was something I did A LOT in the first book and that my editor helped me correct, so it’s now in my word doc so it doesn’t happen again. In my word doc for Pickles, I’ve got lines about using paws instead of hands, and the consistent spelling of raccoon and a reminder to vary the voices of my characters to better reflect their personalities (ie: Emmy - speaks in staccato rhythm, short sentences, lots of action verbs).
I’m curious, how do you keep writing in the face of a future where this may not be your best work anymore?