Christmas Rush

on December 11, 2008

Yes, I’m late posting. Sorry! I meant to write this last night, but I’m late on my book. Yep, that’s right, late. I hate being late on my books because it makes me feel like a slacker. And it seems that from Thanksgiving to Christmas, everything is in a rush. Time goes by faster. It’s two weeks until Christmas and I’m not done shopping. I’d hoped to type THE END by tonight (and shop all day tomorrow), but I’ll be short and be writing through the weekend.

The good news is that I’m really happy with the story. This doesn’t usually happen for me until after editor revisions. So, being paranoid, I’m thinking, “Oh, no, if I like this, then it’s total crap, because usually I hate it until my editor tells me it’s okay.” And what if I think it’s good and then my editor hates it?

The second good news is that it’s clean, so unless my editor completely hates the story and the direction it took, the revisions shouldn’t be too heavy. I like revisions, in fact I look forward to them, but there are heavy revisions (THE HUNT, TEMPTING EVIL are two examples) and lighter revisions (FEAR NO EVIL, SUDDEN DEATH.) So I’m hoping for the lighter side . . .

One reason–the primary reason in fact–that I’m running late on the book is because my editor is talking to me in my head. I can actually HEAR her as I write tell me to add more emotion here, or why is he doing that, or this scene is confusing. You’d think that this would be good, right? Uh, no. I used to write only to the voice of my characters and, good or bad, the book got done on time. With SUDDEN DEATH this happened too but later in the book and I ended up deleting 140+ pages and writing the entire book from scratch (except the first chapter) in three weeks. Why? Because the first meeting didn’t work and no matter how I tried to make it work based on my pre-conceived notion that Jack and Megan had a past, it did not work. They did not know each other. And that had been threaded through the book and every scene was leading up in a hugely contrived way to their first meeting. So it all had to go. And the result? Much stronger book.

With FATAL SECRETS that wasn’t the problem. I didn’t have to delete much. The problem is that AS I’M WRITING my editor is talking to me about my character decisions. So every scene is taking a huge amount of time to write. Getting past chapter two was incredibly hard for the first time in 11 books. Then I had 150 pages . . . and realized I had so many threads that I couldn’t possibly tie them all up.

One thing I often do, especially at the beginning, is send out a lot of possibilities. Some of these become red herrings, some of these become important to the investigation, and some I delete in revisions. I usually don’t know until I finish the book what I need to keep and cut and expand. With this book? Almost as soon as I’ve written it, I know. That’s very much unlike me. So I had 150 pages and there was this little shift in my muse, and I realized that I had too many separate storylines that wouldn’t possibly be resolved satisfactorily by the end of the book. I was pushing the boundaries of suspending disbelief. Ironically, all these stories are based on things that really happen, but to have ALL them happening in one place with my heroine in the middle of it . . . um, no. So I’ve cut everything down to two primary, seemingly disconnected cases that my heroine is working simultaneously.

The story has clicked into place. I can picture the ending, I know my characters, and I’m rushing to get to the final showdown (and I hear my editor telling me to slow it down, expand the climax, build up, etc.) So I’m writing the scenes that I would normally write during revisions . . . which is adding a chunk of time as well.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the way I used to write. Dump the story out there as fast as possible and then heavily edit and revise. I tried to do it when I saw the deadline looming. But I physically CAN’T. I can’t turn off this voice that is questioning what I’m putting on paper. I’ve tried increasing the volume on my iPod, but that didn’t work, either, and I just got a headache. The pros to this is that since I’m editing as I go, my book is tighter and cleaner. The cons? It’s taking longer.

The only thing I can hope for is, in the end, the story and characters are strong, believable, and the book is satisfying.

While I’ve done about half my Christmas shopping online, there are still things I need to go and get. What about you? Are you in a rush this Christmas? Have you finished your shopping (I don’t like you) or haven’t even started . . . or somewhere in between? In light of the economy, do you find you’re making more gifts? (I used to buy Borders gift cards for my kids teachers; this year, we’re making sugar cookies.) And because we’re all readers and/or writers . . . books are a big thing in my house. Everyone gets books. Have you been shopping for books as well? Any sleepers we should know about?