|I write as much in my head as on a computer screen. I spend a lot of time with the characters, letting them talk to me, show me things in their lives, and whisper in my ear. When I can let go and listen is when they tell me the best stuff. Sometimes I have to ask them to wait until I can get to my computer to write what they're saying.
Which all sounds crazy and weird and mystical, but writing is a bit of all of these. It's the ability to crawl so completely into another person's head that you can make a reader believe that a character exists. It's the ultimate acting role, and I love it.
I'm not the kind of writer who hates the process. I can't imagine working at a job I hate, even though I've had to at various times to pay the bills. My adult family thought the Crocodile Hunter was a lunatic. My kids loved him and still mourn his death. I think he was a very lucky man who loved his job as much as I do. I just don't do mine on television. People should know, though, that it's okay to like what you do and do what you like. A career doesn't have to be about the money, because I certainly don't write for money—I don't make much. It's about what you want your life to be about. What do you want to look back and see when you're ninety? Do you want to see decade after decade of drudgery or do you want to see yourself throwing yourself down a sand dune after a lizard, screaming, "Crikey, she's a beaut!" I choose to follow my own lizards, and they've led me on some fun trips.
I start most days with e-mail. I wear what I want, which, since we moved to Texas, is shorts or jeans. Sweats don't cut it here. My cats come to work with me. Scarlett sits next to my computer to keep me on task or just shed the screen, depending on her mood. I don't have a boss, so I never have to call in sick. I don't have to ask for time off, and I take my lunch hour, or not, depending on how much I've written that day or how loud the voice is yelling. The only interruptions I allow are kid things (doctor's appointments, lessons for my son who's being home-schooled, or any of a billion other distractions kids invent for parents). Occasionally, I meet some writer friends for lunch and a critique session. Sometimes I do a school visit.
Every day I have horse chores to do, and some days I ride. Since we moved, I can ride pretty much whenever I want during the day. We don't have lights for our arena, so night time is out. Jazz, a registered Arabian gelding (JFK, Jr is his registered name.) is shown at left. I love my horses, and while it's more of a money pit than money maker, I wouldn't have it otherwise. We just bought two babies! Another pure bred Arabian. He looks like he'll be either gray or brown with a flaxen mane. The other is a filly who is half paint and half-Trakenher. She fits in with our other paint mares since she's that soft red-chestnut with white spots. As soon as I find the cord to download pictures from my camera, I'll post pictures. I imagine that horses will figure in my writing someday. Everything else I am passionate about does.
I don't have a word or page limit. I write until the voice stops talking, my kids get out of school, or my hands hurt too much to keep going, whichever comes first.
I edit as I write a novel. I usually start a writing session by reading what I wrote the day before and fixing blatant errors, such as spelling and grammar. When I'm stuck or know I've written in an inconsistency, I'll revise. I rewrite a lot. I have a list of words I search for and delete when a draft is complete. My son made me a tombstone with "RIP Dead Verbs" on it, as well as some of the dead words. They include get, be, grow, begin, start, appear, think, thought, feel, smell, sound, look, turn, just, hold, and become. Unfortunately, there's no word program that does all the tenses of these words, so I end up having to do multiple searches for each word. If you avoid these words your writing will be livelier and more interesting.
I have an agent, and she usually sees my work before my editor does. My editor at Dutton is great and gives me lots of good feedback, which doesn't mean I agree with everything she says or that I like to hear it. Authors tend to think their writing is perfect, but as with everything else, it never is. We all need coaches to make us strive for that perfect performance, book, or song. My editor is my coach. She forces me write better.
I don't outline my books, which means sometimes I end up in some unexpected and wonderful place, and sometimes I wind up in a blind alley and have to backtrack or throw out a bunch of pages. Sometimes I have to trust my characters when they go off on a tangent and follow them. Sometimes I have to say, "Enough! This doesn't have anything to do with the story you asked me to tell."
My office doubles as my sewing room, which works when I need a break to think. I need privacy to work well. I can't have someone looking over my shoulder commenting on what I've written (other than a cat). The voices of the characters vanish when someone living shows up and starts talking to me.
I've always wanted to write, just as I've always loved to read. It's great that I'm doing what I've always dreamed. I wish this happiness for my own kids and for all kids.
Do what you love. The money will follow.