“How I Write” by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof 2006
I listened to this book as an audio book so any comments that I have can only be referring to that format. I drive on average of 3000 miles a month so if you have any questions regarding what audio book to listen to I can recommend many ranging from children’s to adult — scatological humor to college level history courses and anywhere in between. This sort of falls in between!
Janet has been writing this book for ten years — ever since her web master daughter, Alex, started her website and there was a Question and Answer page to the website. Ina Yalof is a non-fiction writer and a professor from New Hampshire who is the “straight guy” to Janet’s funny responses. Alex reads the questions that they use from the website and sometimes, when they need examples, Lorelei King reads from the Stephanie Plum novels. This is a very casual book in a way — like a conversation. Just think of it as if you were having coffee and donuts with four great ladies. Alex asks a question, Janet responds, Lorelei gives an example in her classic Plum voices, and Ina provides a little non-fiction addendum at the end for clarification.
This book is dated in some ways. When people pose web site questions Alex responds about dial-up connections and making sure that your web site is easy to load. I suppose that is still an issue, but less so now and yet the premise is sound you do want your web site user friendly.
Some of the most encouraging things I got from this book:
1 – Janet wrote for 10 years and received rejection after rejection.
2 – Janet was 43 when she published her first book.
3 – Janet wrote 12 romances and decided that they weren’t really making her happy — she wanted more adventure and a chance to character build.
4 – Tell the world you are a writer, this will force you to write.
5 – Write something every day — even if it is just a sentence.
6 – Be a professional, show up.
7 – If you have too many ideas and you think the one you are currently writing is sucky and want to change, pretend she is standing behind you to slap you along side the head. Finish what you started. Ask a friend you trust about the manuscript and see if it can be changed and then write the next idea — it is better to finish the idea and place it in the bottom drawer for you have proven you aren’t a quitter and you can finish things. Janet has three stories that never got out of the drawer, but they are done. This is how you learn.
8 – Once you have a finished, polished and reworked manuscript send query letters to agents (or go to conferences like CrimeBake!) and make sure you enclose a self-addressed stamped postcard.
9 – If an agent asks for a synopsis, send it immediately with another self-addressed stamped postcard.
10 – Ditto with the manuscript. Make sure to write on the envelope … requested manuscript with the agents name clearly printed so it does not end up in the wrong pile.
Janet’s scariest thought? At 6 AM when she is staring at her blank computer screen she is afraid that her last best sentence was written the day before.
Janet’s thoughts on when to start the next novel? The moment you have typed “The End” on your previous work. Well after you have celebrated with a trip to the store for Cheese Doodles, pineapple upside cake and donuts!
If you are looking for a doctoral dissertation about writing — you will have to keep looking; however if fun encouragement is what you need right now, this is your book!