In The Fire
by Jane Porter
Having just spent six days in San Francisco with fellow writers at
Romance Writers of Americaís annual conference, Iíve found it hard
to come home and unplug from social interaction to become the
solitary writer again. Iíve attended 12 of the past 13 RWA
conferences but this one was my favorite. Some years Iíve struggled
with fear and inferiority at the conference; after all, 2,000 women
attend the conference and 500 authors sign at the big literacy event
on Wednesday night, but this conference isnít about competition.
Itís about growth. We as writers arenít competing with other
writers. Weíre competing with ourselves, constantly challenging
ourselves to improve: How to write better. How to write stronger.
How to write smarter.
So confidence is good in this writer life of ours. And tough mental
focus is even better.
Returning from San Francisco I knew Iíd have to tackle revisions on
the book I turned in late July, and it was a book Iíd already
struggled with for months. This particular story didnít write the
way I expected it to, and despite weeks of revisions it still didnít
come together to my satisfaction. Reluctantly, I handed it over to
my editor for her input and she agreed with me. Book just wasnít up
to my par. So now I take this manuscript and salvage the parts
that work and re-vision the rest.
Fortunately, over the past eight years of being a published author
Iíve learned that editing and rewriting are my best friends. Being
a revision warrior is essential if I want loyal readers, readers who
will make me an auto-buy. To succeed in this business, I canít
afford to be lazy or self-indulgent. I canít afford to get tired,
either. Rewriting is truly a girding of oneís self, and I approach
this next step of revision as though my life depended on it. And in
a way, my writing life does depend on it. My reader base expects
magic. I must find that magic.
So this book, already my troubled delinquent child of a book, is
being stripped to its bare bones. Iím on chapter four of the
rewrite which leaves just 420 pages to go. 420 pages of questions
and decisions, decisions that may or may not improve the story.
Decisions that may or may not be the right ones.
Intellectually, I know I can pull this off. Iíve done it before and
I can do it again, so this is the part of me I listen to. The part
listen to is the fear, or the insecurity, or the panic that timeís
passing and Iím not getting enough done.
If Iím working hard, and doing my best, Iím getting enough done. My
mental toughness runs the show now. The tough self that rolls up
its sleeves and says, you can do this, because this is who you are
and this is what you do.
My family doesnít understand this part of my career. They donít
know why a book doesnít work or why revisions can be so
challenging. They just know Iím preoccupied and intense and a
little fierce. Fortunately my writer friends understand this
process. They know that when weíre faced with fire, we have to go
through it. Thereís no jumping over it, or running around it. The
only way to get better as a writer is to do it. One word at a
Is writing hard? Yes. Does it make one crazy? Pretty much. But
is it worth it? If youíre a writer.
In the end itís all about craft, and the story itself. Mediocrity
has no place in our business. Phoning a story in is unacceptable.
My readers are smart. My readers deserve respect. The best way I
can show them my respect is doing the work that needs to be done.
Each time, every time.
With that said, itís not always easy and not always fun. But itís
real. And that makes us better writers, too.
And this is one more way good writer friends can help. Over time
Iíve come to surround myself with writer friends that push
themselves, too. We all have high standards and we know that
writing is a risky business. We realize that weíre constantly
revealing ourselves in our work. And while itís difficult to write
while feeling vulnerable, writing from that honest place will allow
us to write not just good, but great books. The secret then is
giving ourselves permission to reach high, knowing we just might
fail. But if weíre aware of the risks then falling isnít a surprise
or shock, and falling and failing wonít be debilitating. Instead,
falling and failing gives us the opportunity to try again. And in
trying again we have yet another opportunity to succeed, and this is
how we learn our craft and build our books.
And this is the calling. Weíre to aim high, dream big, and write
Jane Porterís July 2006 release, Flirting With Forty (5 Spot), was
picked by Redbook Magazine as its Red Hot Summer Read before being
optioned as a Lifetime Christmas 2008 TV movie. Jane's newest novel,
Mrs. Perfect, (May 2008, 5 Spot) has also received tremendous
acclaim from her readers. www.janeporter.com