It is actually kind of fascinating to see how manuscripts evolve over time. Every now and then I'll come across something and think “what the hell was I thinking when I wrote that?” But, when I think more about it, I realize there was once a scene there that has changed drastically. I was at a little cocktail party last week and ran into a man whom I had spoken with on the phone before but never met. He, after a long career in business, has started work on a novel and he sent me a copy of the manuscript to review. I was impressed. I think he's got something good there. While we were talking he asked me how long it takes me to write novel. Well, so far I've only written two of them and I worked on both of them for several years. I think he was comforted by that.
He told me that he read that prolific and popular novelist Nora Roberts writes a book every 45 days --- 45 days!!! Holy cow! Actually, I just recently started one of her books because someone else was talking bout her. I'm only a couple chapters into it and it's very light and very easy to read and enjoyable if you don't mind improbable silliness. A woman running away from an abusive husband comes to island with very little money and no plans. She just happens to wander into book cafe in time to overhear an argument between the owner and an employee who is quitting. It just so happens that the woman is a fabulous cook and she can step right into the job this minute and her muffins drive the islanders mad including the very dishy local sheriff who just happens to wander in and order a muffin and also just happens to be single. Oh, did I mention the woman happens to be gorgeous and young? And that her employer just happens to own a cute little house out back that is not being used so she can live there? Well, that's as far as I've read so far....
My friend Clare is reading my manuscript and I'm enjoying listening to her observations as she proceeds with it. She already hates the bad guy. Good.
The truth is there is a lot of improbability in every story --- at least the ones that tantalize us. Someone once said that the best stories are the ones in which one of the characters has a secret. I love that because, of course, secrets are at the heart of most of my stories. Secrets fascinate.
When Mark and I were working on his book he was very secretive about certain parts of it and he wouldn't let my have each chapter until he felt certain that we had completed work on the last one. Even then he would rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I started saving the many rewrites so we could go back and see how the changes aligned with other parts of the book. We had many a fight over these changes --- something that always drove him a little crazy. He'd storm off in his truck and not talk to me for several days. I'd keep busy with other things. Then, eventually, there's be a knock on the door and he'd be standing there, manuscript in hand, and say, “Okay, let's try it your way.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I cherish those memories now.
It is Sunday morning of Fiesta. Somewhere nearby someone is playing a very plaintive tune on an accordion. It is cold and gray this morning and I'm a little tired from last night's festivities. There is another party in the neighborhood today --- if it doesn't get rained out. Maybe I'll just stay home and work on this book.
The truth is there is a new set of characters bubbling up in my subconscious. I have been thinking about them for awhile and they are becoming insistent. Time to get to work.
Thanks for reading.