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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cry me a river: Why authors are crazy




So I decided last night that it was time to run Marc and Sophie's story through my laser printer, put all 442 pages of it in a box and send it to my editor in New York. I spent the evening printing, then burned it on CD to provide an electronic copy, careful to keep my eyes off the pages. I knew that if I started reading text I'd find stuff I wanted to twiddle with, and that if I didn't quit fussing over the pages it was never, ever going to be done.

I'm a perfectionist, and I'm never, ever happy with what I write — not entirely. But I think there's more to the end-of-the-book fussing than just wanting to get it right. Yes, I want it to be as good as it can be. I want it to be perfect, in fact. I want my stories to break people's hearts — and then put them back together again, stronger than before. How often do I achieve that? I haven't done it yet, as far as I'm concerned.

But in addition to the manic perfectionism, I hate letting go. My characters are people I've lived with — intimately — for a long time. I've been writing Unlawful Contact for a full year. That's a long time to have someone in the front of your mind 24/7.

The first time I finished a book, I expected myself to feel elated. I typed the last few words, fussed over them for hours, then saved. I cheered — and then started sobbing. The grief totally took me by surprise. It wasn't a minor thing — it was truly grief. The second time, I told myself I was ready. And still it tore me apart.

Ride the Fire was perhaps the worst. I dug deep into my own personal well for that story, delving into some of my own worst experiences to craft the characters. For six weeks afterwards, I could barely talk to anyone.

It's gotten easier in some ways since then. But it's still hard to say good-bye.

I left the shipping store feeling numb, got through the work day not even thinking about it. Then I got home and found myself in a furious mood. I was angry at everyone about everything. Then I read Aimee's post (below) — and I lost it.

Writing is such an isolating activity. For months an author sits at her computer, sinking into the lives of her characters, opening her own emotions to their feelings and experiences. Then it's over. The last page is written, and then what?

I imagine this all sounds very silly. I think if I weren't a writer I would roll my eyes and chalk this post up to frufru silly behavior of attention-seeking fiction writers. But it's real for me and for most other authors, not just in the romance genre. You have to love to write. You have to give of yourself. You have to use your own emotions. There are no emotional short cuts, no faking it. As Robert Frost said, "No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."

Given that I cried the last 40 pages of that story — and apparently haven't stopped — I hope you all have tissues on hand in February. Now all that remains is to wait to see whether my editor accepts the story. If she does, then the next stop for Marc and Sophie is your hands.

After having such a hard crush on Julian, it's nice to end the book feeling every bit as in love with Marc the Badass as I did with Dark Angel. I can't wait to share him with all of you!



And thanks again for your support!

7 comments:

Ronlyn said...

((((((((((hugs)))))))))))
Be kind to yourself. Take a day, relax, drink...simply enjoy being you.

I'm already crushing on Marc and I haven't even read his entire story yet. LOL...there's simply something about him that has held me captive from the first exceprt. I'm on pins and needles.

And, speaking as a fellow perfectionist I feel perfectly ok telling you, you did a WONDERFUL job. there's no way you couldn't have. ((((hugs))))

Bo said...

Aww,P.C.,I wish you didn't have to go through such a thing every time you finish,but I think it just shows that you really HAVE put so much of yourself into it,and if you didn't care,you'd be like 'Eh,it's done,good' and not even worry about it one way or another.While I don't want you to torment yourself,LOL,I think I'd honestly be afraid to read a book where the author hadn't expressed some kind of emotion over creating it.That Frost quote really does say it all.

I must admit,however,that I am giggling a little at the visual of you trying to 'avert your eyes' as it were,as you printed & burned to CD *G*

Have a drink (or two) and take a break,you have sooo earned it! ((HUGS)))

Debbie H said...

Oh, sweetie! If I were there, you would get a big hug and a stout drink! You will get your hug in July and maybe the stout drink, too. LOL

You are a wonderful writer, you know that from my emails and my tears. LOL I am such a sucker for a love story. You are right, the stories and the characters are with you 24/7. They sleep with you, eat with you and are with you're at work. They are your babies and it's hard to let go. I do understand the feelings of depression or anger afterwards.

Now, when will there be ARCs? Contest?

{{{HUGS}}}

Just guessing - but I can see the emotional toll it could take. It's like a baby that you birthed and raised right from the beginning. Now it's time to open the door and let the baby who has grown over time out and others might not appreciate all the hard work that went into the nuturing process.

Aimee said...

Awwww, I feel awful!

My post was supposed to be uplifting, not make you cry!

I meant what I said though, the book is wonderful, the climax was heart pounding, and the emotional scenes are heart breaking. But in a GOOD way, it really reminds me of things that are important.

I think one of the most wonderful things about ALL of your stories is that they are REAL people that step off the pages with how they behave. They don't care about being "politically correct" or walking the high road. They make real mistakes, feel real emotions, and love honestly. I get so tired of stories where you can't help but roll your eyes and think: "Yeah, THAT would happen"!

I'm so sorry if my post was the last straw & upset you honey, it was not at all what I intended!

All I have left to say to you Pamela, is this:

Never stop writing.

I love you girl, you can call me for a melt down anytime!

Nina C. said...

I agree with the other comments; it's so sad that you get so upset when you finish with a book. Take extra good care of yourself now! I've sent you some chocolate to make you feel better ;) xxxgaby

Ronlyn, thanks so much. I just read something in a writer's magazine today that said, "Writer's block is just another name for perfectionism." D'oh! Yeah, I guess that's part of it — trying to get it perfect.

I'm so glad you have a crush on Marc. So do I. Why can't I sleep with my own heroes? That really irks me.

I hope you're taking care of yourself and getting lots of rest! The big day is coming!

Bo, I think you're right. If I didn't care, I'd be like, "Well, that's done. Good. Now off to watch TV." But the characters feel so real to me that it's like having to say goodbye to friends. Thank GAWD this is a series and I'm able to bring back my friends. Julian gets a huge redux in this book (which I'm sure didn't make Aimee happy at all -- lol!)

Debbie, there probably won't be ARCs until late winter — probably January. That's IF I still have a February pub date. I have no idea when the book is slated for release. It was so late, after all. And thanks! i'm looking forward to the hugs and drinks in July. Um, that's THREE WEEKS. The RITAs are in THREE WEEKS. Holy shite!

Kristie, it IS very much like a pregnancy/birthing process, complete with the inevitable hours of transition. LOL! Only it's not in your belly, it's in your heart and brain. I've always compared it to that. Instead of epidurals, I get wine. :-)

Can't wait to meet you face to face at RWA! Did I tell you they're probably rereleasing RTF with the never-published epilogue?

Oh, Aimee, dear, please don't blame yourself! I was teetering on the brink anyway, and your sweet message just opened up what I was trying to keep shut. It's actually a good thing because I was able to get it out.

And THANKS for all that you wrote here. I try so hard to make the characters real, to breathe life into them. I was never able to read contemps because the heroines were so goody-goody that I couldn't relate to them. And the heroes often felt as real as a plastic Ken doll. Tanned with no balls. LOL!

I hope you DO come out this summer. I can't wait to meet you in person. We've been friends for a long time, girl. And what's with the bunny? You're cuter than the bunny!

Nina, tusind tak! Jeg fik chokoladen igår! I can't wait to devour it! And congrats on your rather sudden and exciting move to Eire! One of these days we're going to be tromping around Eire and Scotland and Copenhagen together (and you can show me the fjords of Norge). But for now I'm just waiting for your newest address so I can send you another book. I love this trade deal, though my son keeps trying to eat my chokolade. LOL! Ha' det så godt! Knus og kram.

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Favorite Writing Quotes


"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
—Emile Zola

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day."
—James Joyce

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
—Jane Austen

"Writers are those for whom writing is more difficult that it is for others."
—Ernest Hemingway

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
—Kurt Vonnegut

"The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar is the test of their power."
—Toni Morrison

"No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."
—Robert Frost.

"I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
—the character of Chaucer in
A Knight's Tale