Hollywood Couch & Water Tour
The Writing is Never Easy
Writing is not easy. Not as a business. Not as a creative endeavor. But for me, writing can be filled with joy.
For the past year I've worked on a contemporary romance. And I love this book. I continue to love the book even though I struggle to write and then rewrite the manuscript each and every day. Perhaps that is why my entry to the Harlequin Presents Contest
was so effervescent. Now please, do not mistake effervescence with ease. They are two separate words.
Every story, every chapter, every storyboard, every outline, every sentence, every word takes work. However, it was with great joy that I discovered as I worked on my entry that two amazing characters came forth. Ease? No. As I've said. Writing is never easy. But joyful? Yes. I believe the joy came from the intensity of the attraction these characters felt for each other. And the tight word count in which I, as an author had to convey this intensity. There is something, I found through this entry, thrilling about needing to convey as much as possible about the chemistry between two people in so few words. But yes, the characters and their story came fast. But does that mean I didn't work on the pages?
I am an author. And every author works. We work on craft. Just because a story comes fast doesn't mean it's not rewritten, tinkered with, rewritten again. We should all know, based on one of my favorite authors, just because there is speed in the writing doesn't mean there isn't work. Not that I will ever be nearly as talented nor as prolific as the great Nora. A girl can dream.
I end with this... There is no greater gift given to an author than a story to convey. Who knows where the stories come from? I don't ask. I merely write the words.
Classic Romance Something New
So... A few months ago a good friend of mine (Ally Carter
) said, "Maggie, I think you should write a category romance
"A what?" I replied.
"A category romance
," said Ally. "You know from Harlequin
." And although I often read romance because I am all about the love and the Happily Ever After, I am embarassed to say I hadn't read a category romance in years. But because Ally is a little bit psychic (don't tell her I told you..actually she probably already knows) and because she's sold a BILLION books I decided I'd listen to my dear writer friend. I got on line and ordered a couple of these little treats.
Oh. My. Goodness.
They are like mini-milky way chocolate bars! Fast, addictive and sweet! The books are four dollars, I can read them in a few hours, and they are REALLY GOOD! Before I knew it I had consumed a whole bag...wait...that was the chocolate...I had read a whole dozen.
Then, because I am a writer...I started thinking about characters. Two characters. Then I started surfing and I found a contest
! Not just any contest but a big contest...at Harlequin
. I was in the midst of my 5th rewrite (which felt like my 20th rewrite) on my contemporary romance and I wanted the freedom the joy of writing new characters. So I did. I sat down and let these two fabulous characters spring to life. Wrote a one page synopsis and shipped it off to the UK with barely a moment to spare.
Flash forward four weeks. And I get a phone call. A phone call with a 44 prefix. Now I have friends in London but usually they don't call at 8:15 am.... This phone call was the lovely Joanne Grant! Telling me that although I wasn't the bride, I got to be a bridesmaid in a flashy little dress. I was a runner up
!! Out of 544 amazing entries! Wow! Talk about thrilled, excited, astounded! What fun to dash off this lovely little chapter (that practically wrote itself) and then become a finalist! I get the honor of a critique by Bryony Green, an amazing editor. And every writer loves working with amazing editors!
I am humbled. And honored. And thrilled. Thank you Joanne. Thank you Bryony. Thank you Harlequin. And thank you to my good friend, the psychic, Ally.
As I plow through yet another rewrite of my current manuscript...is this 5 or is it 6? I can no longer remember I am both enchanted and disheartened by the process. Enchanted in that I always have something new to learn in every draft. Whether it be about a character, a plot layer, or my craft this job provides me with a steep learning curve each time I sit down to write.
And the disheartened bit?
Well I often wonder, as most writers do, whether the writing is good enough. Whether the writing will ever be good enough to tell this story. And that constant wondering (aka fear) although it acts as a magnet to get my butt in the chair can also be a drain on my psyche. When faced with the idea of yet another rewrite that potentially could change an entire book I initially become paralyzed.
I liken this moment of paralysis to standing at the foot of Mt. Everest after sumiting five times in the last twelve months, taking a deep breath and beginning to climb yet again. And although with each climb I know the perils of the mountain a little better I can only prepare so well. Storms whip up. Blizzards. Ice fields. Equipment fails. Oy what writer hasn't fought with their computer or word processing software at some point? And still I climb on, upward into thinner and thinner air.
Because I love the feeling of the words rushing by, I love the sound of all the voices in my head, and most of all, if I'm completely honest, I love the view from the top. Looking down at all the consonants and vowels I've formed in millions of ways to make thousands of words and hundreds of sentences. All the tippity tappity sounds of my fingertips on the keyboard and hours of work culminate in one book. One book written by me. And really, I guess, that finish, the mountain of pages that lie before me after each and every rewrite, my view of the world, is well worth the climb.
Love In Translation by Wendy Tokunaga
's latest book Love In Translation
was just released. Wendy agreed to stop by and answer some of my questions about her process and her latest book. What inspired Love in Translation?
Many things. LOVE IN TRANSLATION is my cockeyed valentine to Japan, which is a place I’ve both loved and loathed, a place that has fueled both fascination and frustration. And it is also a place that has had a huge impact on my life and writing. I also wanted to explore what it means to be a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan and the benefits and downsides of that status and what happens when a gaijin sings in Japanese. I also am fascinated by the concept of the homestay, (something I never experienced), and how that would impact someone as an adult who grew up in foster homes and who never experienced a real family. What do you consider the heart of your story?
My stories seem to have several “hearts,” or at least I see them that way. In LOVE IN TRANSLATION it’s how Celeste Duncan, a woman without a family, finds one in a foreign culture. It’s also about the power of music on the soul and heart and the meaning of finding your own voice, both in the singing sense and the identity sense.What comes most naturally for you to write, dialogue? plot? character? What’s the hardest?
Easiest for me is plot and that’s what I try to spend time sorting that out on the first draft. I also like to “talk out” my plot to friends and keep refining it that way. The most difficult is slowing down and spending time on description. I don’t care for long passages of description, but you must have some. So I try and strike a happy medium, but it isn’t easy for me.What has brought the greatest joy since you were published? The greatest angst?
I’d say the greatest joy is having readers who appreciate your writing. And the greatest angst is in working hard to keep those readers and gain more.What do you love about being an author?
There’s so much that I enjoy. First, it’s great to be paid for something you love to do. But I also find it inspiring to help other writers. I enjoy telling my story of woe on my road to publication and let others know that they don’t need any special connections to the publishing world in order to get published. I like to promote the message that you should never give up. And if you work hard, keep at it and be flexible, your publishing dream may come true. I also like helping other writers make their work the best it can be.What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?
That often you won’t discover the real story you’re trying to tell until the revision process.How do you promote your books? Are you going on tour for this book? Any upcoming signings?
I do a lot of my own promotion for my books, much of it online. I’m on MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, have blogs, a website, etc., etc. It’s fun, but it can be overwhelming sometimes. I actually was dreaming in Tweets the other night and I often spend way too much time thinking about what my Facebook status should be. I generally do readings and signings in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have events coming up for promotion of LOVE IN TRANSLATION in early December in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and Corte Madera, which are all listed on my website. And I may be doing some more in January. At some of the events I’ll be performing “The Wishing Star (Nozomi no Hoshi)” the “theme song” from LOVE IN TRANSLATION, which is the fictional song portrayed in the book brought to real life. I also really like appearing at writers conferences and I’ll be at the San Francisco Writers Conference in mid-February. I’ll also be teaching a class called Your Novel: The Road to Publication at Books Inc. Opera Plaza in San Francisco in January.What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel that is a different departure for me: it has very little to do with Japan!