Heard From Editor

True to her word, I heard from my editor last week after delivering my manuscript of Jane in St Pete in early January. I’ve second and third guessed myself since then, but she said it was a “treat” to read and my characters were “quirky and interesting.” She’s sending it to the senior editor with a recommendation for a contract!!!!

There will be edits but nothing big, nothing like I imagined in my head. I am so relieved and pleased. Another piece of good luck landed last week, too. My Michigan chapter of Sisters in Crime wants me to lead a workshop in June. I’ll be the opening act for our star, Jane Cleland. What an honor. And if the virus still holds us captives in our homes, we will do it online.

My editor says it will take about two weeks to hear from her boss, so in that time I’ve been reading mystery short stories and trying to glean anything I can about writing the mystery short story. I have written a few. My vague plan is to dig out “The Charming Criminal” which formed the base upon which I built my secondary characters, Barb and George.

I am not a plotter, not really. I let the story take me where it wants to go. If I’m floundering in the middle of a long work, I step back and determine what needs to happen. Jane Cleland has a very good piece of instruction about how to deliberately plot a mystery and that helped, but still, my story tends to go its own way. I hardly know what I’ve done until it’s over.

However, my favorite part of teaching has always been planning the lesson. So my plan is to take “The Charming Criminal” apart to figure out how I put it together. Because I can’t find any books on the internet about how to write a mystery short story. Although, as a start, I’m reading the best ones published last year.

(OMG Joyce Carol Oates “The Archivist” from this collection is so good. Chillingly so.)

Some writers sneer when another author says their books write themselves. One guy said to give that answer about how you write is to be disingenuous. Nope. One example is the way I ended the book. My editor really liked it. She said it wasn’t the usual pages of monologue where the murderer tells all about his crime. Well, at the time, I was just going by intuition.

I did have to rewrite that last scene from scratch a few times. I tend to know (not always, but mostly) when things in a narrative don’t work. So I just keep trying until I get something that feels right. No idea my ending was at all unusual until my editor admired it for that very reason.

There will be edits and other writerly stuff to take care of, but for now I’m bursting with pleasure on my own little cloud of happiness.

Content is Queen

My heart sank a little at last weekend’s conference when Chuck Sambuchino, the keynote speaker, said he’d been writing, and steadily climbing the publishing ladder, for ten years.

I was first published in the ’80s, so that’s, uh, longer.

But Chuck did say something valuable, something I’d forgotten. He talked about how there is so much about being a writer we can’t control. We can’t control how our writing will be received by agents, editors, publishers, or reviewers. We can’t control rejection. We can’t control bad reviews. Novelists, unless they’re indie, can’t even control the cover that appears on their books. Bloggers can’t control page views or Google ratings or spammers or negative commenters.

The good news from Chuck is that there is ONE thing writers can control and it is the most valuable thing of all: our writing. We control the words on the page and there is no more heady feeling than that. We also control IF we decide to write. IF we put our butts in chairs and do it without getting distracted by Twitter. (Or is that just me?)

I took heart with Chuck’s words and as I revise my novel-in-progress, I vow to make those words the very best I can, because if they are good words, and good stories, people will notice. Content is Queen. It’s all we’ve got and it’s under our control.

Stand-Alone Sarah

Sarah’s Survival Guide is a free 40 page story right here on my website. Anyone can read it, even attach it to their tablet or reading device. Makes it sound like I wanted to do something nice for my readers. I do, of course, but the real reason Sarah’s Survival Guide stands alone is because my former editor asked me to consider taking it out. I was writing romance at the time, and Sarah’s subplot was stealing the spotlight from the main lovers. Sarah is still very much a part of The Paris Notebook, especially the penultimate scene.

What Sarah does not have in the novel is a point of view. Sarah’s story is not filled out as I meant it to be. That’s okay, I’m a tough old writer and have been edited many times. I also understand the rules of writing romance. So I’m not saying my editor was wrong. She was spot on. The problem was me, I had not written a romance. The wonderful folks at The Wild Rose Press knew I was not a romance writer, and through two novels helped me become one. Then when I proposed a women’s fiction series, they said YES. They said that was where I should be, writing women’s fiction, with more going on than true love. Nothing against true love! I’ll always have a love story or three.

Almost the minute I learned I needed to cut Sarah’s story, I began plotting. I was able to pull it out almost seamlessly. I added a few bits into the book so it made sense and I took all spoilers out of Sarah’s Survival Guide. Then, after paying a friend a shamelessly small amount for a gorgeous cover, I was ready to roll.

I don’t know how many people have read Sarah’s story. I have never, in ten years, quickly going on eleven, looked at my page views. But I love hearing people tell me they wished there was more about Sarah in The Paris Notebook. And that’s happened at least a dozen times. Every time, I say “You’re in luck! Click on Sarah’s Survival Guide on my blog.” I think it’s a sweet love story. It works as a short story, but if you read it first, you might want to know what happens next. Well, that answer is in The Paris Notebook.

Editors: Good News, Bad News

It’s funny. That little piece I wrote for BH&G has been bringing in the mail!! The editor has kindly been forwarding requests, all asking where they can buy my book! What a nice feeling. So thanks to BH&G for passing those requests along.

And the sad news is that my editor at PW has been let go. I can’t believe it. I’ve worked with the editor replacing him and he’s a good guy too, but geez. I just feel so bad. Only this week I got an email from my ex-editor, with my most recent review attached, just a bit edited, asking if the changes fit. He’s considerate like that.

His edits make me sound like a better writer…I’m getting the hang of the PW style, but he always finds a way to snap up a tired line withough losing the opinion behind it. I actually told him that, and I’m so glad I did. He wrote back to say we had “an excellent collaboration” and so we left things on a really sweet note. Still, I hate that he was let go.

The reason is “the economy” but behind that of course is the social change in the culture of the written word. My local Detroit newspapers now use only syndicated reviews. There’s no book page editor, no reviews by staff or local writers anymore. I know this is happening all over the country. My editor is not the only one to suffer such a blow. I hope he finds something wonderful very soon.