Suze here, with some big news for Scribe fans. Guess what? There’s a new Scribe in town, and we could not be more thrilled to have her join us. (Never fear! Viv will be rejoining us from time to time). Our newest Scribe is . . . drumroll, please! . . . Thea Devine! Please give Thea a big welcome.
Greetings, everyone, happy new year, and welcome to my first blog at the 7 Scribes. I’m so happy to be here, and I’m so appreciative of your kind comments and responses to my interview. (Click here if you missed it.) I do beg your pardon for not commenting that day — we had a death in the family, our beautiful, communicative, joyful and much adored mini-doxie passed away that Thursday. She was twelve and a half years old, originally my mother-in-law’s dog whom we took in when she was a two year old yappy, snappy, untrained puppy. She grew to be the The Best Dog ever over the ten years we were privileged to love her.
She is by no means the first pet we’ve lost. Five years ago, our elegant calico, Emily Bronte Cat passed away (yes, there was a Charlotte, an orange tabby fraternal twin). As we said good bye to her, I promised to memorialize her by putting her in a book. Which I did. Emily was a major character in “Satisfaction,” (Kensington Brava, 2004) and “Satisfaction” was the book about which a friend called me and said, “Your writing is different. Was it deliberate?”
I had no idea what I had done to make my writing “different.” I’d gone back and now again and looked at writing from my high school and college days, and I could see there were vestiges of how I write now, in the rhythm and juxtaposition of the words especially.
And it became clear to me (this is in response to Casey’s comment) that the more you write, the more you figure things out — like you don’t need twenty descriptive sentences to go from here to there when two will do, or there is one word that could take the place of four or five. Or there’s a more direct way to get to the crux of a scene.
Back when I started, we were writing 125,000 word manuscripts. There was lots of room for description, different points of view and subplots. It was also a daunting amount of white paper (this was pre-computer) –and eventually blank screen to fill. Books were denser then, rife with details, spilling over with emotion and multiple plots.
But now we’re writing for a speed read generation. Time is of the essence, even in romance, and we need to get from here to there in the most direct way. (Then again, the response to “Downton Abbey” kind of disproves that.)
My writing is different in some ways. I used to love to luxuriate in the imperfect tense — a lot of “was”s and “were”s — and I adored conjunctions — “and”s, and” but”s — until I realized that the line editor was cutting them right and left because it made the story sound more immediate. And more direct.
Lesson learned. So I’m trying to be more economical with my words while still maintaining my voice and the essence of the way I write. I ask myself if there’s a better way to phrase things, another way to get at what I want to say. My goal is to make sure the line editor has no work to do when s/he gets my manuscript (hardly ever happens).
It does make things more challenging.
My advice always is to keep writing and don’t let external things deflect you. It’s a solitary business and you have to learn to love your work, to trust yourself, and to retain your power over your fictional worlds and words.
By the way, everyone loved “Satisfaction” and Emily the cat. I’ve reread it because I still don’t know what I did in it that was so different. But (oh those “but”s) I keep trying to figure it out.
What do you think? Has your writing changed? Have you found that by writing more you learn more? Have you used a beloved pet in a story?
Thea Devine is the author whose books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the author of a dozen novellas and twenty-five historical and contemporary romances, the latest of which is The Darkest Heart (Gallery, June 2011). She’s currently working on a sequel.