Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE JOB OF WRITING by Maryann McFadden





First there’s the dream of writing a book. And then, if you’re lucky, there’s the job.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, and that dream followed me into middle age, a long and winding journey that took me away from writing and then back to it again. In my forties, I entered a Master’s program and then wrote my first novel, THE RICHEST SEASON, with high hopes of being published. But then the dream began to fade, as the rejections trickled in, and in. You get the picture. Until I took matters into my own hands and self-published it.

Guess what? I got the deal I’d always…yes, dreamed of. I became a full-fledged author. And writing books became my full-time job.

The biggest difference in writing the second book as opposed to the first, is having a deadline. You are no longer simply accountable to yourself, and no longer working on the muse’s schedule. As an author under contract, you are working for your publisher, in my case Hyperion Books (owned by Disney, you know “when you wish upon a star…” which a friend used to sing to me as I dreamed of my book getting taken). Okay, back to the job of writing the second book.

Having a one year deadline was a bit terrifying, to say the least. My first novel took me 3 years, but I was also selling real estate full-time. Now I was going to write full-time. But as often happens to me, my life got in the way. My daughter needed me to help each week to care for my granddaughters while she taught online. My mother-in-law’s Parkinson’s worsened, and my husband and I pitched in a bit more. And my own mother was still suffering from an autoimmune illness, so I was spending time with her at various doctors. Needless to say, fitting writing into that schedule wasn’t easy.

I realized, as all this was unfolding around me, that an opportunity was presenting itself. I was now officially part of the “sandwich generation,” women, and men, caught between the needs of their children and grandchildren, while also helping with their aging parents. In other words, my mother and daughter were the bread and I was the bologna! What a great topic for women’s fiction. And so my plot was born, a fictional “sandwich generation” story, with 3 generations of women. Not us, believe me.

As I began to make progress with my writing, I would find days where I got nothing done, too exhausted from babysitting, or distracted at my mother-in-law’s to concentrate. And for me that was the hardest thing, having to get the momentum of the story going again. Sometimes I simply had to read through the entire manuscript from the beginning all over again, just to get the thread of the story going in my head again.

While I wrote this new novel, creating a fresh cast of characters, I was constantly revisiting my first novel, THE RICHEST SEASON, to proof catalog copy, jacket copy, and all the little, exciting details I’d waited my whole life for. I wanted it all to be perfect, so it wasn’t unusual for me to halt the new book in its tracks, to spend a few days honing these tiny pieces of text that would hopefully convince booksellers, and then readers, to pick up my book.

After those few days, content that the book jacket was the best it could be, tantalizing without giving too much away, I went back to the new book. Switching gears became second nature, after a while, and before I knew it, I had half the novel finished. I submitted it to my editor, terrified.

After all, it had taken me 3 years to write my first novel. This was a six month effort. Two long days passed and then I heard from my editor. She loved it!

I kept writing, breaking again to agonize over covers, write copy for my new website, get business cards and book marks made up (again, agonizing over ever line of text). Soon, it was time for THE RICHEST SEASON to debut nationwide in hardcover. And I was still writing the second book.

The book launch party kicked off about a month of events in the northeast and the south, with me traveling to signings, stopping at stores along the way to sign stock, fielding e-mails from book clubs (yeah!) and interviews with newspapers and radio stations, as well as some local TV. During this wonderful, crazy, busy time I was still…writing the second book. It was due 6 weeks after the launch, and it didn’t seem possible I could get it all done.

But I did. When I finished my book tour, I went to Cape Cod, where my second novel, which became officially titled SO HAPPY TOGETHER while I was on tour for THE RICHEST SEASON, is set. I spent nearly 2 weeks at my sister’s house, writing 10 hours a day, until the book was finished. I submitted it to my editor and…she loved it! So did my publisher! So do I!

Having a deadline, I’ve decided, is not such a bad thing. If not under pressure, I know I would have taken longer to write the new book. Writing with a contract simply means managing your time a bit better, learning how to switch gears, juggling family demands, and deciding that, ultimately, you want to keep living this dream.

I am living my dream. I’m writing my third novel. And as I write this new cast of characters, I’m still living with the previous two, as I meet with book clubs for THE RICHEST SEASON, handle interviews for the launch of SO HAPPY TOGETHER next week, and wonder just how many people can possibly talk in my head at the same time!



Maryann McFadden is the author of THE RICHEST SEASON, now out in trade paperback, and SO HAPPY TOGETHER, debuting July 7. You can learn more about Maryann, or visit her on her upcoming southern tour, by visiting maryannmcfadden.com.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. Enjoyed reading.

River Jordan said...

Thank you for sharing how we all juggle family matters and creative inspirations. Monday I leave to pick up the Adorables and bring them back for vacation at the same time that I promote Saints In Limbo, check on Mom, do Zaza wonder things to make memories, and yes, finish that new novel in full brew and due at the end of the summer. Suddenly I'm not so alone. :)

River

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