Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Writer's Life

By: Marie Force

Writing is a lonely, solitary pursuit. For months, even years, we spend large chunks of time with imaginary characters who, for the time they're with us, are as important to us as any of the "real" people in our lives. When I'm neck-deep in a book and it's going well, I wake up thinking about what I'm going to write that day and go to sleep thinking about what comes next. Often, I even dream about it. I force myself out of the bubble to work the day job and to take care of my family. But when I'm making beds or driving or drying my hair, I'm plotting. Despite this immersion, for all the time that I'm taken over by a story, only my family and a close friend or two even know it's happening.

Once the book is finished, you expect the world to pause to acknowledge this enormous accomplishment. But in my experience it goes something like this: "That's awesome, Mom. Congratulations! What's for dinner?" It can take months, years, and, in some cases, a lifetime before anyone knows that you've created this place and these people and these situations that you hope will touch just one reader. In the case of Love at First Flight, I overheard the conversation that spurred the idea for the book ten years ago. I finished writing it three years ago in an all-night marathon of creative energy that's never been replicated. Three years is a LONG time to wait to share something you're so proud of and so excited about with the world. It's a long time to wait to find out if anyone likes it, if the passages that made you cry as you wrote them will make someone else cry when they read them.

So then what's in it for us? Other than the thrill of creating that world and those characters, where's the pay off? Since Line of Scrimmage came out last September, I've discovered that the ultimate reward is in hearing from people I've never met who tell me they were touched by Ryan and Susannah's story. This week, Donna, one of the faithful followers of this blog as well as my personal blog and Cheryl's sent me this note:

You caught me on the 1st yard line and ran me down the field for a Touch Down!!!! OMG!!!! This is truly a Game Winner.
I haven’t read a book this good since LaVeryle Spencer.
Ryan and Susannah were so real. Their true love, and anger, tears and laughter, trust and distrust, pain and sorrow, their unbelievable sizzling chemistry. It’s a totally believable story, the focus was not just the love relationship between a man and a woman. It was about family and forgiveness. These “ordinary” people are warm and vulnerable and you portrayed them so sympathetically. I loved Ryan from the first handoff of the ball. I never let go. He had this fire, warmth, strength, and he was downright sexy. I loved Susannah, hated Susannah and I wanted to just shake her. She was sweet, savvy, strong, and vulnerable at the same time.
I understand her distrust, but Ryan was so unbelievably in love and devoted to her and with putting that marriage and their life back together. He was a wonderful Hero.
And Henry was a total Creep. I wish Susannah’s dad would have punched him in the head. All I could think about was the bowtie and Pee Wee Herman. He made my skin crawl. A excellent, selfish, rotten villain.
But Ryan Sanderson is the kind of person and professional athlete that you can look up to. You sure put a lot of life’s hard lessons in this book. You wrote a fabulous book and I can’t say enough great things about this book and your style of writing and I see a wonderful career in contemporary romance. This will be a best seller. I can’t say more than, you blew me away. And you’re awesome. I can’t wait to read the next book. You deserve a Super book Ring.


Can you spell P-A-Y-O-F-F? Thank you, Donna—and the many others—who have written to me about Line of Scrimmage, for your kind words, for your appreciation of what I was trying to do with the story of a marriage in crisis, and for making all the time and energy that went into creating Ryan and Susannah so entirely worth it. Nothing in my life, short of the joy I take in my children, can match the feeling of getting an e-mail like Donna's, letting me know that my book connected with that one reader.

To Donna and all the others who've taken the time to write to me since last September, thank you so much for making this writer's life complete. You were well worth the wait.

13 comments:

  1. Great post, Marie.

    And I agree with every word in Donna's note. Scrimmage IS that special.

    To me, it's the best kind of contemporary: a real love story about decent people who are trying to get it right. It's the kind of contemporary I search the book stores for and rarely find.

    I'm looking forward to First Flight.

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  2. You know what a huge fan I am of your book, Marie! I loved it and it turned me into a romance reader. My daughter too as it was her first romance book! Can't wait for LAFF.

    Indeed the letters are what it is all about (Not that I'm not praying for the mega paycheck either! LOL!) I have gotten my fair share and it never gets old. Knowing your words have touched another, whether profoundly or in a simple way, is an amazing feeling.

    It is all the more reason I get so irritated at the negative comments that may chase potential readers away. I guess I am a bit peeved these days but I can't help but wonder if there are possible Donnas who will never pick up that book that may mean something special to them because someone else thought it their purpose to bash that book just because it wasn't their thing.

    Ok, mini-rant over!

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  3. LOS was DEFINITELY a good one, and I know LAFF will be even better!
    You GO girl!!

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  4. That's so wonderful, Marie! And you deserve it! Thanks to Donna, and other fans who encourage us to keep on writing!

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  5. I hope ALL readers know how important their personal words of encouragement are to those of us who dwell in the screen-lit darkness of a solitary office.

    A positive letter can dull the sting of a bad review. A positive letter can raise an ordinary day into an extraordinary one. A positive letter can lift us out of a personal crisis and help us remember that we are, besides being mothers, daughters, co-workers, we are also writers, and what we write matters, even when the world says romance novels are of secondary importance.

    Yay for readers who take the time to let us know how they feel!

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  6. Hi everyone,
    Wow, you gals are up early on a Saturday. Thanks for all the lovely notes. I knew you guys would relate to this post since we're all in the same boat. I appreciate your kind words about Line of Scrimmage.

    Sharon, you have to turn a deaf ear--as hard as it is--to any negativity. Some people just won't get what you're trying to do, but I'm sure many more people will get it exactly. Enjoy them and disregard the rest!

    Publisher's Weekly was one of the only reviewer outlets that didn't like LOS. At first I was kind of bummed until I heard a NY Times bestselling author say on one of the loops I'm on that PW ignores her books. So you can see how the glass is always half full! I'm much more interested in what readers like Donna think. They have lots of friends who read! :-)

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  7. Awesome, Marie! And Donna is a sweetie:-)

    Your post had me laughing, because that's my life too. My family is supportive, but this is old hat now, so I get the congrats and then, yes, "What's for dinner?" I'm fixated on the wip at present, and only other writers know how hard it is to shove it away to, like, function as a normal human being. It's an itch, and it's hard not to scratch!

    Congrats on the lovely letter...it is definitely our readers who make it all worth it!

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  8. LOL, Kendra! I know you can relate. After writing "The End" 12 times now, they're like, AGAIN? Good. Now, can we eat? Or where are my purple jeans? (Shrieked at top of considerable lungs). Does she care that I'm attempting to write sparkling dialogue at that moment? Noooo! She's 13. She can't help herself. She wants her damned jeans! LOL

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  9. It's interesting to hear that writing is a solitary gig--especially when so much time is spent telling other people about your books :)

    But it's really great that we have a publisher that advocates pushing each individual book so we have a nice spread come each season! I might go crazy, but I get your books out there--which hopefully result is lovely reviews, but even more so, those special moments when someone is truly moved by your words to write you a note about it!

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  10. Hi Danielle,
    You are right--publishing is anything but a solitary gig, but getting to the point where you have something that can be published is very solitary. It's you vs. the empty page day after day after day. Then comes the editing, the revising, the rewriting--all done largely alone.

    To hear from someone who was moved by the final result is truly the ultimate reward. Thanks for all you do to make sure the right people--readers!--know about our books!

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  11. Thank all of you wonderful authors.
    Despite all the problems in your ordinary daily lives you continue to write those words that make us forget our daily hassles and we can laugh, cry, and scream and even howl or just say WOW!!!! Cheryl, you know all about making us scream, with your writing those irreverate, sexy and hilarious stories of Aliens. And Kendra, I was thinking about you when I was howling at the moon the other day. So Marie, after I land the spacecraft from that Galaxy far far away or come back from the Highlands and put my feet back on Mother Earth, I need to reach for books like yours. I have to get a reality check and live and love with these real people again for a day or two. But then I'll grab another book and be off on another literary adventure. Who knows Terry Spear maybe I might just grab your book from that TBR stack and let you take me away. I never know where you ladies will take me.
    So please keep your itching and scratching and dreaming and fantazing and putting it down on the pages. We'll keep reading.

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  12. Hi Donna,
    I hope you know your note made my week! It's such a nice surprise to hear from a reader--especially so many months after the book came out. There's been a burst of new LOS emails lately, which is always nice to see, but yours was too good not to share. Thanks again for taking the time to let us know that what we do matters to you!

    The Casa Babes love Donna!

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  13. Boy am I late to this party!

    But I had my chapter meeting today and *I* was the speaker, so it's not like I could flake and not go! :-P

    Marie, you are SOOOO right about those notes from readers. I have to admit that I've saved all mine in a special file and whenever I get a bad review (chin up, Sharen! There's no accounting for taste or lack thereof!) or I'm having one of THOSE days where everything I write seems like DRECK, I open that file and start reading.

    Absolutely NOTHING matches the wonderful feeling of knowing that a reader "got" my writing!

    AC

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