Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At least she's honest. Sort of.

In which we see how being the child of a writer makes you weird.

Bedtime tonight. We are discussing Tink's class production of Strega Nona.

JACQUI: How did the play go today?

TINK: It was hilarious. This kid's hat fell off and he kicked it into the audience. It landed in front of some guy... (hijinks ensue) ...and then the paper pasta came landed on a fifth grader ... (more hijinks)...and he threw the hat and it kind of floated for a minute -- the door was open and some wind had come in and --

JACQUI: Wait. Tink. When did this story stop being true?

TINK: (chuckles in acknowledgement) Yeah. A long time ago.


TINK: Can I finish now? It's a really good story.

JACQUI: Yeah sure.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In which I preach patience and mix metaphors

(crawls up out of hole, squinting into spring sun)

On our last episode of Jacqui's Room, Jacqui disappeared into her office with a book idea. It's been a month, and the real life peanut gallery is curious: "Is the book is done yet?"

I would love to tell you the book is done. But then again, I wouldn't. Any book that I could write that quickly, even a picture book, is probably not very good.

Recently, someone told me about her book series. "We'll be releasing one a month..." she said. And all I could think was "One a month?! That's literary fast food."

The question is: do you want your food fast, or do you want it carefully crafted and delicious? If you want to write it right, you have to be patient with yourself. Sometimes you have to let it simmer, you have to beat on high for the full two minutes and then taste it. You have to go slowly.

The worst part is this: sometimes, you have to wait and see how it comes out. You can't tell from the outline or the recipe if it's going to make a good dessert. You have to write as much as you can, stop blogging for a whole month, become totally obsessed, and just get it onto the darn page. And then, once it's out, sometimes you read it and, well, crap. It doesn't work. It's fallen soufflé.

Sometimes we get so attached to what we've written, because it's really good or because we've already spent so much time on it, or because someone, somewhere once said they thought it had potential. Plus, we've heard all these stories about writers who did eleven drafts or got rejected 126 times and THEN the book was great. So we spend hours and weeks and maybe even years banging our heads against the wall, trying to add sugar or prop up the collapsed side, ruining the poor thing even further with our tinkerings, when what we need to do is scrap the soufflé, no matter how hilarious and brilliant it is (and trust me, it is hilarious) and write another book. If writing a book is a love affair, sometimes you have to break up. There are other fish in the sea.

Now, the good news is that sometimes, once the words of that ex-boyfriend book are done screaming in your head and bothering everyone around you,* when you can hear more clearly, another, quieter voice pipes up and calls you. If you don't let the first book go, you can never follow the next one. And who knows how great that next one is going to be?

* and trust me, they were bothering EVERYONE around me: I got a call from my agent and she said, "I was up thinking about your book last night."