It's been three months since I celebrated my "win" -- 50,000 words of a novel. I promised I wouldn't stop there; I'd take you through the entire process, from draft to publication (if the novel is so fortunate to get that far).
So, what has this work-in-progress been up to all this time? Well, it's been marinating. Sitting in a metaphorical drawer while I dabbled in other things. Writers need distance from their drafts, especially first drafts. They need to return to it with fresh eyes and an objective perspective. What felt like fabulous writing at the time may reveal itself to be a load of suckage. What originally looked like dirt may turn out to be gold.
When it comes to a first draft, my process is typically to pour it all onto the page: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don't expend too much time stressing over word choices or carefully mapping out scenes. That comes in revision. Keep in mind that this is not the way all writers write, or a rule of any kind. It's simply the way it works for me.
Once the draft is done and it's marinated (and three months is a rather ideal marinating period), my next step is to print out the entire manuscript (this one came out to 196 pages, double-spaced), pull out what was once my grading pen, and read the draft from start to finish, annotating along the way. No page goes unmarked--that's not a rule, just a reality. Most of my notes typically take the form of questions--I'm talking to the text, as well as to myself, from reader to writer. When I like something, I'll make a check mark. Always nice to see those check marks. When I don't like something, I'll try to identify the problem. Wordiness is often the biggest offender, along with too much "telling" and not enough "showing," and repetition of words, phrases, action, etc. The best is when I've made myself laugh, or even cry. I note that as well.
What's cool is when the notes come to me when I'm not reading -- driving in my car, standing in the shower, waiting to fall asleep. I have to find a away to get the note out of my head and on paper, somewhere, so I'll remember it.
First drafts are shitty--no getting around it. Nothing wrong with that. As long as they've got potential. As long as, while I'm reading it, I think, "Yeah, I can work with this."
And I'm happy to say, I did, and I can. I remembered how excited I was about certain parts during the drafting process, how much I liked one character in particular. I was pleased to see he didn't lose any of his appeal. If I don't fall in love with my characters (especially the guys), then I've not done my job. I was in love with this guy the moment he appeared on the page. That didn't change three months later. I was also pleased to see that it was in better shape than I'd initially thought.
I finished reading and annotating the entire manuscript in three days.
The verdict: It needs work (duh). The last twenty pages were in the roughest shape. It's also going to need a new title (which disappoints me, because I initially loved the title I'd come up with. However, I think I can salvage that title for a future project). But I'm excited to begin the revision process, and that's an excellent sign. I'm excited to dig in and play in the sand. For me, that's where the work is, the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. The joy is there too. (And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.)
We're halfway through #ChickLitLove week. To review, Monday's post was a Q&A with our beloved Andi, and yesterday, to celebrate the official launch of She Has Your Eyes (and it was a fabulous day), I posted the first three pages of the novel.
Today you'll hear from David, our beloved escort-turned-art dealer. Questions were provided by Tracie Banister, author of Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy.
Enjoy. He even surprised me on a few of these.
Celebrity you've been told you look like: Early on I was told that I looked like a young Chris Noth (aka Mr. Big, for those not in the know). This crazy author chick says it’s in my smile. Apparently I have a nice smile.
Naughty food you like to indulge in: Reese’s peanut butter cups. Although how can anything so simply and delectably perfect be naughty? (Then again… insert your own innuendo.)
What you wear to bed: Depends on the time of year. Pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved thermal tee in the winter; boxers and a t-shirt in the fall and spring; and boxers only in the summer. I’m not a sleep-in-the-nude kind of guy. At least not on a regular basis… (I’m going to regret answering this question, aren’t I.)
Favorite body part of the opposite sex: The torso. Does that count as a body part? Basically from the breasts to the pelvis. Maybe I’ve taken too many figure drawing classes, but to me that entire section is the essence of femininity. Ruebens and the Italians especially made it appealing. The curves, the flesh, the lines and shape… yes.
How many people you've said "I love you" to: It’s not about how many that makes an “I love you” so meaningful for me, but the person(s) to whom I said it, and the depth of that love. I told my father I loved him before he died. It was the only time I’d ever said it to him in my adolescent or adult life. Maybe I’d said it as a child—I don’t remember. I certainly hadn’t felt love for him in a long time, so my telling him was a big thing, a genuine moment. And he told me he loved me too. I’ve carried that around with me ever since. And then there’s Andi. My greatest regret was not telling Andi I loved her the moment I admitted to myself that I did. I was too afraid to back then, and by the time I did it was too late. Thank God for second chances. I don’t take such things for granted anymore. My heart can’t afford it. And now, with Wylie…
Relationship deal-breaker: I think Andi would have to murder someone at this point, we’ve been through so much together. Either that, or if she forbid me from eating Reese’s peanut butter cups. Yes, that one is definitely a deal-breaker.
Your first kiss - How old were you? Did you instigate it?: Twelve, I think. Sixth grade. Two girls in my class read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, and decided to throw a party with Spin the Bottle and that other one where you go in the closet and make out with someone. (I never read the book; I only heard from two other girls that there was a party-kissing scene.) I got paired up with Kimberly Someone. It was an OK kiss for me, I guess. I have little memory of it other than the "closet" being a creepy crawl space under the basement stairs and my not knowing that I was supposed to French kiss her. I would've tried to cop a feel, but she held both my hands when she kissed me. She also didn’t seem to mind that my tongue stayed where it was. Besides, she smelled like punch. That I remember.
She managed to slip a Valentine heart into my coat pocket, lunch box, class desk, you name it, every day for the rest of the term. That, it turns out, was just as creepy as the crawl space under the basement stairs.
My second kiss, however, was a thing of beauty, as was she. I'm keeping that one to myself.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings? If so, describe: I like art everywhere except on people’s bodies. Don’t know why, but I just never got into it. Andi’s not really into tats either, so what’s the point of my getting one other than to turn her on?
Favorite alcoholic drink: I go through phases—vodka cranberry, amaretto and orange juice, just about any kind of microbrew (although Sam Adams makes a lot of good beer)… Andi has the equivalent of lactose intolerance with alcohol, and her husband was killed by a drunk driver, so we don’t have much of it around the house unless we have company.
Describe your dream girl: Have you met Andi? If she’s a dream, then may I never wake up.
Tomorrow: Meet Maggie (Andi's best friend)
Friday: No blog post, but
She Has Your Eyes is finally here! If you follow me on Facebook, you probably already saw the first three pages I teased you with. If not (and why aren't you? ((winks)) ), here they are here. I'll be doing ebook giveaways all week.
Welcome back, David and Andi. We're happy to see you.
This week kicks off #ChickLitLove. Click here to see the many authors participating in this Valentine's week promotion. This week also kicks off the launch of She Has Your Eyes, and I couldn't be more excited. But rather than hear from me, I thought you'd like to hear from Andi herself. Questions were provided by Tracie Banister, author of Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy.
1) What three qualities do you find most attractive in a partner? A good sense of humor, intelligence (namely, someone who reads), and a guy who can rock a pair of blue jeans and a black t-shirt.
2) What’s your idea of romance? I used to go for the traditional stuff—candlelit dinners and red roses and whatnot. Then I met Sam, my late husband. He used to surprise me with carpet picnics on the top floor of the library at Edmund College (where he taught), colorful post-its with nothing but smiley faces on my pillow or hidden in my gradebook, or he’d call and play a song over the phone for me—and it didn’t necessarily have to be a love song. I downright melted when he went with “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. There’s so much romance to be found in everyday things. David (the current man in my life) is very much the same way. It’s his little gestures of thoughtfulness that are the most romantic to me.
3) Who's your favorite on-screen couple (Film or TV)? I think every girl from my generation wanted to be Samantha and Jake in that final scene of Sixteen Candles, with the cake and the kiss and the Thompson Twins song. God, I still drool over it. And I got my Jake Ryan. Twice.
4) What's been your most embarrassing moment in regards to the opposite sex? Honey, I could fill a book.
5) What was your first impression of your partner or crush? How accurate was it? When I first met David, he was in another line of work and went by a different name. I thought he was a bit full of himself. Overconfident. A player, even. And in a lot of ways, he was all of those things. He also was—and still is—alluring and charming as hell. But the more I got to know him, the more I saw that everyone who knew him loved him, except the one person from whom he needed it most—his father. He finally received that love, and even his father’s respect, I think. But all those years without it took its toll. Sadly, I can relate.
With Sam, I felt at ease them moment I met him. I think he was like that with everyone. He was also funny, right off the bat. I could probably count on one hand the number of days that went by during our courtship and marriage where I didn’t laugh with him. And he, like David, was rather gorgeous, albeit a much different look, appearance-wise. I still miss his smile, and the warmth in his eyes.
6) How have you coped with break-ups in the past? Well, when my ex-fiancé, Andrew, broke up with me, I picked up and moved…
David and I went through a break-up too. I had been a bit of a mess when we were together, still trying to get over Sam's death. I took a year off and finally got my act together, and realized I very much wanted to be with David. We got back together, and I think that year off did our relationship a lot of good, as painful as it was for us to be apart.
7) Which hot actor would you want to be stranded on a deserted island with and why? Rob Lowe, because Sam looked like him. Or Chris Noth, because David resembles him. Of course, there’s Matt Bomer, who resembles neither Sam nor David (although his character on White Collar, totally has David’s charm and schmooze factor) and is gay, but he is hot…
8) What is the craziest thing you've ever done for love? Well, I took some lessons once, in… from… I’d rather not say.
9) PDA: How much is acceptable? I assume you mean public displays of affection? A kiss. A hug. Holding hands. Even a little making out. You know, the sweet stuff. But when tongues and other body parts make an appearance, it’s time to get a room.
10) What is the best relationship advice you've ever gotten? “Men aren’t mind readers. You have to tell them specifically what you want.” David had told me that a long time ago, back before he went by David. I think it’s one of the reasons why Sam and I had a great relationship, especially when we were still dating. But I sometimes forget to do that, especially with David, which is kind of ironic. It’s good advice for any relationship, be it platonic or romantic or familial.
Coming up this week:
Tuesday: The official launch of She Has Your Eyes. An excerpt and giveaway
Wednesday: Q&A with David Santino (aka "Dev")
Thursday: Meet Maggie, Andi's best friend
Friday: Ask the author! I'll answer questions about She Has Your Eyes or any of my other books
A reader posted the question below on my Amazon Author Page a couple of years ago, and I wanted to share it -- and my response -- with other readers. Of all my books' endings, Ordinary World's seems to resonate with readers most, sometimes positively, and sometimes (unfortunately) negatively.
If you've NOT read Ordinary World, then STOP READING HERE. But if you have and would like to know my perspective and intention behind the ending, please read on.
Here's the original question:
"Elisa, I loved Faking It and Ordinary World, but I was puzzled by the last sentence/thought at the end of Ordinary World. What did you mean when you wrote that Andi's life was "fabulous" with Sam, but with "Dev," it was just "ordinary?" Does it mean that she's finally come to terms with the fact that she'll never have Sam again and to cope, she'll just have to accept her current circumstances? Or that life with "Dev" the escort was just ordinary, implying that a life with David could be something more? Thanks."
Here's my answer, updated and expanded:
This is an excellent question, and one that seems to have puzzled and been misinterpreted by many readers. My intention with those last lines was not to imply that Andi had "settled" for David, but rather that she had discovered that an ordinary world is one of imperfection, joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, etc. She had idealized her life with Sam so much that when he was gone, the pedestal she'd placed him (and their marriage) on shattered with the rest of her life. The consequence was that when she lost him, she had a difficult time moving forward or letting anyone else in, even someone who was so willing to stick around through her bad behavior and inertia. She'd had difficulty trusting that life would or could ever be so good again, and was afraid that if it was, then it would somehow betray her previous happiness, or worse, her loss.
In Andi's new context and new way of thinking, "ordinary" wasn't plain or mundane-- it was a healthy balance. Thus, life with Dev (David) is one where he (and their relationship) is off the pedestal, and they are both on solid footing. And this, she has learned, is a much better way to live. She wants to live in that world with him. What's more, she has learned to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
That final "Life with Sam was fabulous" was the idealized falsehood. Not that he wasn't wonderful, or someone she loved deeply. But he was human and flawed. "Life with Dev was ordinary" was the real deal. She found that place, and was happy to be there.
What was your initial reaction to those last lines when you first read Ordinary World? Do you interpret them differently now having read this post? Feel free to share any comments, even if you didn't like the ending, or still don't.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.