This looking back Perilous Pauline thing has been interesting. And good for me. I’m remembering some things about the writing process that I thought I would never forget.
When you write your first novel—and even your second or third—you are pushing your boundaries because it’s all new and the boundaries are mostly about your own expectations for yourself. It’s about believing you can write another book and another. And figuring your process and voice.
I wouldn’t say that writing has much of a comfort zone. Even if you stick with the “safe” in your writing, just putting your work out there results in reviews and other whacks upside the head (though I have been very fortunate in the majority of my reviews). And “back in the day,” when I first started publishing, putting my work out there meant rejections from agents and editors, long before I got to the reviews part.
I did two things that were both right and painful, when I embarked on the book that would become Byte Me.
The first right/painful choice was to commit to write a book based on a single character. The Last Enemy was so well received by my two publishers at the time, and the main character in The Last Enemy had a couple of brothers, so I went out on a personal limb and asked my editors if they would be interested in stories about the other two brothers. I got an enthusiastic YES from both of them.
Followed by panic from me. What was I thinking? I’d written three books and all of them had been finished before being submitted to editors for vetting. Now I was proposing to write two whole books that weren’t even ideas yet! All I had were a couple of guys. Okay, I had settings. And they had a mom. And jobs. But I need stories. I needed plots. I needed heroines and villains and opposition.
The good news was, I only had to write one book at a time. So I focused on a brother. Jake was, like Matt in The Last Enemy, a US Deputy Marshal. What would his perfect match look like? What would she do?
And that’s when I made my next right/sort of wrong/painful choice. I’d heard a quote somewhere, said by someone famous that went something like, “If your hero is a fireman, then your heroine should be a suspected arsonist.” My memory is not great, so I managed to edit out suspected.
So I made Phoebe an actual—not suspected—thief. Worse, I made her way smarter than me.
I wrote myself into several corners while working on this book, but I learned something very important, too. That if I put in real work on creating my characters, they will become my ally in telling their story. Phoebe helped us find our way out of those corners. She worked with me all the way to The End. And she helped me face the next book with more confidence.
Remembering Phoebe and my other “first characters” is helping me with my latest project. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to do it “right,” that I’d lost sight of my own process. I can feel my insides relaxing (my characters are telling me, “Finally!”), and I’m excited again.
Because in the end, I do this because I like writing. I like telling stories.
For more about the story behind Byte Me, check out my interview on my website. I interviewed myself about all my novels. I even interviewed me about what it was like to interview me. Hey, you have to be a little crazy to write novels. (Grin)
So, do you ever look back on what you’ve learned? Use it to help you in the here and now? Ever gotten advice from fictional people? (Yes, that is a trick question. LOL) All comments are entered into my monthly drawing for an AnaBanana gift basket ($50 this month in honor of NaBloPoMo). Winner will be announced in the first blog post in December. 🙂
Pauline has been lucky. Her characters have helped her out of dead ends and corners multiple times. In fact, I think they have formed a support group for themselves because they are sick of it. To meet my characters and to find out that yes, they are way smarter than me, check out my books on my website or in the tab of this blog. 🙂
Buy Byte Me in audio and digital.
Used print editions also available (in a variety of past covers!).