Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just A Brief Word

Don't really have time for this, but this incredible chore of whipping my novel into shape makes me want to say a few words about the whole writing thing. I have never done this before, and I promise I won't repeat it until I am on my book signing tour.

The making of this book is coming to an end in a a couple weeks, that much is certain. I'm done. Just a few more corrections, one more reading, and then I'll have done the best I could with it. It was not an easy process.

When I began writing I had only one scene in my head, the one where Jon and Naomi meet again after all those years and she drops the tray with the plates in the hotel lobby, and everything started out with that. I had no idea where it would lead me, and least of all that it would end with a shooting at the Academy Awards. But there you have it, your characters do what they want once you breathe life into them.

My hubby gave me my first laptop for Christmas three years ago when he could not take my lamenting about not having the right means to write a book. I remember how I clutched the stupid cheap Toshiba thing without any idea how to even open it, and with no knowledge at all about how to use it,  but the first words were written one day after New Year and the first draft was done in July last year. And how proud of myself I was then, thinking I had written a book. The end was still missing, because how do you go on after one of your main characters gets shot, right? Hard choices.

Then the hubby was run over by a car and badly hurt, I got sick with the stupid thing I'm still fighting today even though it is now under control, and with the treatments and the suffering my mind just went away and nothing happened for  a long while. It's true I opened the file every day and stared at my writing, but where imagination should have been there was only something like grey cotton and stupidity. Thank God my older son is a medical doctor, and he made me visit all those specialists and hospitals and got me back in shape, but it took a long while and a lot of whining on twitter, too.

It was July again before my brains finally cleared enough for me to come up with an ending and I could start the editing.

This was a turning point for me.

Writing a story is not writing a novel.

I'm not published yet and I don't know if I ever will, but I now know where the real work in writing lies. It's not the creating of a story in itself, it's the shaping of a book that is the hard part, the endless hours of concentrated and relentless editing, and I'm even now hiding my head in shame at how I sent out the first (unedited!!!) chapters to a publisher on the spur of the moment, so proud of myself and so sure I had written something really worthwhile. I apologize to that publisher from all my heart and ask them to please toss out that mail if they still have it, and, well.... *groan*.

Someone said to me the other day, when I was once again complaining about the dire work of editing, "A first draft is what you want to say and the edited version is what you want others to read." THIS should be engraved on every writer's forehead. Take this to heart, writers. NEVER give anyone your first draft to read if you don't want to end up in a heap of shame on the floor. Trust me. I know. Edit until your eyes and fingers and brains bleed. Kill your darlings. Kill every word, sentence, paragraph and even scene that won't propel the story forward, even if it is the hottest, steamiest love scene or the best dialogue. If it does nothing for the storyline, out it goes. You can always keep your first draft for your own enjoyment if you want.

I have this dream, and as Walt Disney one said, "If you can dream it you can do it." One day, I'll be at the Oscars myself and see the movie they made from my novel nominated there. When (WHEN) I have a publisher I'll make them send me all over the English speaking world to do readings and talks and shake hands and whatever else is necessary to make this novel a bestseller. I'll make both them and myself rich and famous. Others have done it, I can do it too.

And you know why this is? Because I owe it to myself and to all the others who helped me along on my way to ending this book.

My hubby, because he did the housework and went shopping and let me sit here in silence for so very long, for talking me through my phases of misery and self-doubt and writer's block and never gave up faith when mine wavered. And for buying me yet another new laptop when I got uncomfortable with the first one, and two more before he finally lost patience and got me the MacBook that finally made me happy and shut up about computers.

My kids; the older one, because he kicked my butt all the time and his belief in me never weakened, not for one moment. And the kid for having all the patience when lunch was not ready on time.

And my  twitter pals. Most of all Bunny and Leslie who kept telling me that my writing was GREAT AND TO PLEASE SHUT UP WITH THE WHINING ALREADY AND GO ON! And painting pictures for me of how I would go on a reading tour even if no publisher accepted my book and they would set up Tupper Party-like events at their houses and make all their friends buy my novel, even it had to be self-published. And all the others, my so-called "beta readers", the many who read the thing while it was still in the making and urged me to go on, it was lovely and they wanted it all.

Well, folks, here it is. In a few weeks it goes out to a publisher, and I hope it will be accepted. But if not, I still did it for all of you, and I hope you enjoy the read. Thank you all for being my loves and my friends. You gave me my life.

Oh, and one more word: There will be other books from me in the future. So don't despair once you reach the end. ;)


  1. It has been a joy to watch you finish this book. I fell in love with the characters and your style of writing and will be elated when you are finally published and sharing your stories with the rest of the world. You are a darling woman and I wish you the best.

  2. It all makes perfect sense, but writing still remains a complete mystery; viz., how in the dickens do you do it? Thanks, Mariam.

  3. As a dear friend told me (he has several books published) "Writers have to write." He had encouraged me for years and I resisted. Write and write hard, my friend! :-) <3

  4. Thanks for the post, Mariam! It IS hard work to write, but it is even harder to keep going, it is hard not to lift your butt from the chair 2 or three months after starting, but to finish the first draft and then the next version and the next and the next. Starting with a new book is magical, but nobody really imagines how life will be 6 months later! I usually experience a deep, dark, miserable crisis. The main thing is to get through. Afterwards, I know I'll finish. And when the last version is done and sent to my editor, I don't want to see this stinking rug ever again. But - strange enough - after a couple of weeks, I reread it, checking my editors annotations, and I have to state: "Wow, it is quite good. It is not bad at all. Did I write that?" ;)
    Good luck, Mariam!

  5. Thank you, Rieke. For me it has been a constant up and down over the years. And yes, I know that "wow, this is good... did I really write that???" feeling too. Weird, isn't it? :)

  6. Well the bit I read was wonderful...and page 99 reeled me right in...can't wait for a signed first edition!!!!

  7. I have LOVED the process of you writing this book, and I have had the pleasure of seeing both the early version and the polished version. I can't put the thing down, it's that good.

    And I think you wrote this book for YOU, not for us. We love it, and we love you. When it's published, I'll want a signed copy, for sure.


  8. That's a great post, Mariam! I especially like that quote about your first draft vs your final edit, I'll have that one carved on the inside of my eyelids ;)

    Congrats on finishing the book, I hope to read it when it's published :)

  9. Love this blog post Mariam! I can certainly relate to the pain of editing and rewriting.

    I too have a similar dream as you (look at that, I rhymed!) MY dream is that my music will someday be featured in the soundtrack of a great movie! Hmmmmmm......

    Peace, Joy and Love

  10. BRAVO!!!
    I may make all aspiring authors (and some published ones) read this post.
    It is true - the real work starts AFTER the first draft is done.
    Well said!

  11. You are so right, Mariam. Edit until it hurts. So right! Great post!

  12. I love this post! You've taken every thought I've ever had and written it beautifully. Though editing is hard, frustrating and one of the most time consuming things a writer can do, it's also a growing experience. It's a chance for us to look at what we've created and polish it up. See what we started with and make it ten times better. No matter how many times we go over the MS we'll still see something we think we could make better. I think the true mark of a writer is knowing when to quit, when to let go of our cherished treasure and attempt to share it with the world. There's not a doubt in my mind you are a true writer. I read page 99.

  13. Great post, Mariam! No matter how much you hear people say that the work is only (at best) half done when your first draft is complete, it's hard to believe that until you actually live the process. But you're almost there and it's not a race and fingers crossed there'll be readers all over the world able to benefit from your efforts. Me first!

  14. Wow... thank you all. I'm a bit speechless at this overwhelming reaction to a brief blog posting... thank you, and hugs.

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