Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Does Novel Writing Ever Get Easier? by Guest Blogger, Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 60 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

A frequent question heard at writers’ conferences is:
“Doesn’t writing a novel get easier with every book you write?” I believe the vast majority of writers would answer that question, “No.” That is certainly how I answer the question.

As I write this piece for Novel Journey, I am in the early stages of writing my 62nd novel, and although I’m excited about it, I also know it will never quite measure up to the vision I have for it. There will be days I would rather sell shoes at the mall than continue with writing. Thankfully, those kind of days are few and far between, but I’m never surprised when they happen. They are familiar to me now after so many years.

The truth is that only my first book was written for the pure joy of it and without angst. It was also written without any idea what I was doing. This was long before email and home computers and easy access to other writers. I didn’t know anything about POV or plotting or motivation. I simply had a story inside of me burning to be put onto paper. It became my first published novel, warts and all (and by warts I mean about a thousand adverbs and more than one plot cliche).

For most authors, as least those I know, writing gets harder because we want each book to be better than the last. We try to keep improving our craft and enhancing our storytelling abilities. We want what we write to be fresh and exciting and interesting and satisfying. While knowing we need to meet readers’ expectations, we also don’t want to write stories that are carbon copies of our previous ones.

Most days when I sit down to write, I do so out of self-discipline rather than a flash of creativity. I have a deadline, and I must consistently meet my word goal every day in order to meet that deadline. More often than not, perspiration precedes inspiration. Some days, there is only perspiration, not a single word, sentence or paragraph coming easily. But that’s okay. I have learned over the course of my career that my feelings about my writing have very little to do with how the story is going, with whether or not it is any good. And sometimes I must simply get out the dross before I discover the gold.

I was asked by someone earlier today what’s my favorite part about being a writer. My answer? I get to go to work in my pajamas. LOL! Yes, I do think that is a wonderful perk. However, my actual favorite part is when I get that first glimpse of a story and its characters, that moment when an idea blossoms and I believe anything and everything is possible for it.

If you’re a writer, cherish those favorite moments, whatever yours are. Perspiration will come later. It always does.

February 2009

From the moment Gavin Blake set eyes on Emily Harris, he knew she would never make it in the rugged high country where backbreaking work and constant hardship were commonplace. Beautiful and refined, she was accustomed to the best life had to offer. Heaven only knew why she wanted to leave Boise to teach two young girls on a ranch miles from nowhere. He'd wager it had to do with a man. It always did when a beautiful woman was involved.

Emily wanted to make some sort of mark on the world before marriage. She wanted to be more than just a society wife. Though she had plenty of opportunities back East, she had come to the Idaho high country looking to make a difference. Gavin’s resistance to her presence made her even more determined to prove herself. Perhaps changing the heart of just one man may make the greatest difference of all.


Myra Johnson said...

From one writer in her jammies to another . . . a very inspiring post, Robin! I will never forget the first time I heard you speak, at the Houston ACRW conference (yes, back in the days when it was still American Christian Romance Writers).

And I used to listen regularly to one of your workshop recordings in which you pointed out that writing is our job, and we have to discipline ourselves to do that job whether we feel "inspired" or not. I haven't always lived by that rule, but more and more I understand why it's important.

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks for the good reminders, Robin. I always learn something good from you. :)

Maggie May said...

Wonderful to read how a writer's individual process works. The act of writing a novel is messy and always reminds me of the back and forth tides of labor.

Sheila Deeth said...

No jammies for me. I have to get everyone else up and take my son to the station before I can sit down to write.

Julie Garmon said...

Made my day! Thanks for the great interview. Loved knowing that Robin Lee Hatcher still considers selling shoes at the mall.

pat jeanne said...

Enjoyed reading this interview with Robin and her many books. Loved the advice to writers to cherish those special moments. All the best. Pat

Philip A. Kledzik said...

I am a new author to the Christian romance group. I've just had my first novel published in January. My second is going under contract this week. I am a ways into my third novel.
It was great to read the difficulties you have, and the ones I can expect. I've greatly enjoyed putting each of my novels into manuscript form so far. The difficult part (the dross) for me so far is the editing of the manuscript. My first novel was edited through my publisher (at cost) and the second I edited myself. It gets very difficult to enjoy reading my novel as I'm having to correct grammar and puncuation errors.
I'm hoping to have an agent for my third novel and possibly leave the huge editing to someone else.
Any further advice from you ladies would be great.
You know, I do have one question. How do I know exactly what genre to clasify my novels in? There is definately romance in both novels, and they also have Christian morals and ethics. However, they are different than the Christian Romances my wife has read. Any ideas?

Philip Kledzik
"An Issue of the Heart"