In THE APPLE ORCHARD, Tess, an art provenance expert, keeps her handwritten notes in the freezer. Our dashing hero, Dominic, discovers this habit of hers (along with her other less-than-attractive habits, such as drying her undies by draping them over lampshades, and subsisting on Red Bull and microwave burritos, when he visits her apartment.
I refuse to claim ownership of the undie-drying trick, but I admit to keeping my work-in-progress in the freezer.
It’s a well-known fact (around my house, anyway) that I write the first draft of a book in longhand. This is a habit I started since before I even knew how to read or write. At age 2-1/2, I used to scribble on paper and tell my mother, “Now, write this down.” And bless her, she did. All my stories were about a girl who was chased up a tree with Bad Things after her. To this day, that’s pretty much what all my books are about.
As a teenager, I lived in Brussels and then Paris…I used to carry around notebooks (cahiers) filled with terrible angsty poetry and pictures of Jackson Browne pasted within the pages. Later, when I started writing novels (grad school; not that it had anything to do with my master’s program), I was so broke that I had to use half empty cahiers left over from high school. Since I hated (still hate) to type, I only wanted to type up each page once, so I would get the story down by hand and then transcribe. These days, I use Dragon Naturally Speaking and read the text into the computer. Ann Tyler once said writing by hand is like knitting a book. Its crafty! And you don’t save the wrong version or lose text (unless there’s a house fire). So the habit has stuck with me. Maybe I was Amish in a past life, I dunno.
Why keep it in the freezer? Well, until I type it up, there’s only one copy in existence. To a writer, losing a large chunk of her book is comparable to losing a limb. You can never get it back! So if there is a fire or some other disaster, I figure the freezer is likely to be the last place to be destroyed. I suppose I could use a fireproof safe, and I even have one, but who has time to find the bloody thing, remember the combination, and stuff the pages in there? The freezer is always there, filled with aforementioned microwave burritos (aka the Deadline Diet).
THE APPLE ORCHARD is my umpteenth book. I’ve stopped counting. I have been a published author since 1987 and I write a lot. In that time, the essence of publishing hasn’t changed. Since the days of the cave man carving stuff on the cave walls, people have wanted stories, and storytellers have wanted an audience. That is still the case. The changes are really a matter of format. Publishers consolidate, methods of publishing change, but readers and storytellers are forever. Thank God.
To emerging writers, I still have the same advice: Tell the story that’s in your heart, and don’t hold back. Write a book the reader will want to melt into. And for Gods sake, learn your craft. Do NOT try to publish anything until you have nailed the basics (grammar, spelling, usage, syntax) and the refinements of writing. Readers deserve your very best, always….There are practical techniques a writer can use to keep the pacing of the novel strong, by introducing
unexpected emotions, twists and turns, actions and reactions. You want to leave out the stuff the readers going to skip, anyway.
End of lecture. Please let me know what you think of THE APPLE ORCHARD. Stop by my Facebook page and join the conversation, enter the contest and have a fabulous month of May!
Oh, big PS: THE BEEKEEPER’S BALL is my next hardcover novel, due out on June 24. There’s a special signed edition at B&N offered at a very nice discount.