Writing What You Know

The first draft of MURDER AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS was really terrible. And it had a terrible title. And it was terribly dull. Why all the terribleness? Because all I did was spit out background information…on my life as a new lawyer with a new job in the only movie studio in Orange County, CA. I dozed off several times during the writing, but I kept saying, to no one in particular since most of my writing time is spent alone, “This is important stuff. I lived it, so it must have been.” NOT.

I shuffled the background material around a bit and gave it a new title and sent the manuscript out to literary agents. I was either ignored or rejected by all, but one generously provided a comment. Big name New York agent said that the only thing he liked about the manuscript was the title. Naturally, that put me into a deep funk and I swore off writing forever. After all, I wrote what I knew, and isn’t that what writers should write, even in fiction?

Two weeks later, I was rarin’ to go. The need to write can be overpowering, quashing the ego and the primal urge to vacuum the house and paint door jams, which sometimes pops up when one must write, but one feels slightly unsure. And most especially, I now knew that I needed to keep background material to the bare minimum. I had to write something that made me constantly ask, “What comes next?” I confessed (to myself) that my own legal life was not the stuff that dreams are made of and that no one was interested, not even myself. But I could possibly create a legal life that would be far more fascinating (or so I hoped) than anything I’d experienced. To do so, I asked myself the constant question, “What would I never do?” And hence, my heroine was born.

About one hundred drafts later, I was done. How did I know I was done? I sat behind the keyboard and discovered there was little-to-nothing to change in the manuscript. I’d started in March 2012 (this was the draft riddled with background information) and ended in November 2014. Along the way, I learned and re-learned and wrote and re-wrote. It was one of the most wonderful, hair raising, tantrum inducing, yet exhilarating experiences. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into that first manuscript. But it was worth it.

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8 years ago


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