Life in Bettieville

People ask me all the time, “How do you write a whole book?”

That’s easy. When you love something, you manage to do it. Sure, creating roughly 850 pages of manuscript (in 11-point Dark Courier) a year for the past three years, 325 pages of which eventually become a contemporary romance and 425 a mainstream women’s fiction, may sound daunting, but I consider myself fortunate. With my writing (and with the all-important approval of my respective editors,) I can create my own world. Call it Bettieville.

The whole process, from germ of an idea (“Hmm, I think I’d like to do a rags-to-riches Cinderella story”) to an entire novel (in this case, my own From This Day Forward) can be frustrating, especially when I hit a brick wall (there’s a lot of those in Bettieville, despite my efforts to bulldoze them.) So when I’m ready to take a break from contractually obligated manuscripts, I pull out my story outlines that are in progress. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens. Other times a light bulb goes off in my head, the missing link that makes it all come together, or the subplot that’s needed to meet the word count. Having a ready synopsis helps me keep on schedule.

Of course, ideas can come from anywhere, so my antenna is always turned on when watching the news, or when skimming through magazines, or when watching those Lifetime TV movies. I once got the idea for a fake pregnancy subplot for my romance A Love of Her Own from the latter, and an article in People magazine filled in the blanks for the aforementioned From This Day Forward.

Then there are the books that practically write themselves. Sometimes the storyline just flows, like the juice in that glass you accidentally knocked over. The ideas for my books Prelude to a Kiss, Straight to the Heart, and Where There’s Smoke came to me in the snap of a finger, and they were the easiest to write.

Funny. I always dreamed of writing mainstream women’s fiction. The happiness I felt when I obtained my first contract for this will always be a vivid memory for me. But although I knew this was my first preference, I found that I enjoyed writing romance too much to just stop. Why wouldn’t I? I wasn’t pressured to write to anyone’s specifications but my own. When I felt like I couldn’t write a fresh-sounding love scene, I stopped including them until I was ready to tackle them again, four books later. When I wanted to write about a heroine with an extensive sexual history because I was tired of heroines with just one miserable sexual encounter in their past or heroines who only knew one sexual position (including one who had been married [?!]), I was given the green light (that book, A Love For All Seasons, will be out this spring.) And no one insisted that I write an organized series (I have done series, but unofficial and unplanned,) which are very popular in romance but not a particular favorite of mine. So I continue to pound out those 850 pages annually for both genres, loving every minute of it.

The best thing about Bettieville are the people who drop by, i.e., the reading audience who enjoy my work. I don’t write because I expect to get rich from it. I write because I love doing it. Of course, reader requests are important, and I do listen to and plan to honor their requests asking for more about particular characters. On the other hand, being able to write what I want to write is, as they say, priceless. The public can be very fickle, and my personal tastes are admittedly a bit offbeat. Like most writers, I have to be true to myself and write what I love to write. I have no interest in being a hack, like the James Caan character in the movie adaptation of the Stephen King novel Misery, who'd grown tired of the character that made him wealthy and provided for his daughter.

Ah, Bettieville, where I get to indulge myself by creating stories I want to tell. It’s the best place on earth for me.

Life is good.

1 comments:

Patricia W. said...

Bettye:

I dropped by and I enjoyed your posts. I like the idea of Bettieville. I think I'll create a Triciaville. I have yet to complete a whole novel-length manuscript, partly time management and partly uncertainty as to how to get from beginning to end, but this year I definitely will.

Thanks for the great New York stories. NY will always be on my favorite places list.