Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Kate Hewitt

You know how there are people you should just hate on principle, but you just can't because they're so dang nice and wonderful? Yeah, that would be Kate Hewitt. I should hate her because she has FOUR young children at home, yet she manages to be unbelievably prolific. And good humored. And nice. And she lives in New York City.

And she writes great books. And did I mention she's so nice? I can't not like her. ~sigh~

So give a huge Playground welcome to fellow Presents author Kate Hewitt.

Kate Hewitt on Waiting

No one likes to wait. I’ll admit I’m not the most patient person, although I’m trying to improve in this area. Even when I take a good book to a doctor’s or dentist’s office, I can’t help but get annoyed if the wait extends past say, 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, a writing career involves a lot of waiting. Anyone in this business, whether aspiring or multi-published, knows that when you send your beloved manuscript to an editor, the wait can be looong. Like months or even years long. We’ve all heard the stories about manuscripts languishing on an editor’s tottering TBR pile for years—just like we’ve heard the stories about people who heard back in maybe a day. Or an hour. Generally I want to shoot those people. Nicely, of course.

And of course, there’s more waiting in a writing career. There’s waiting for an editor’s response, and then there’s waiting for a response to revisions. There’s waiting for the book to come out—usually around a year after it was accepted—and then there’s waiting for the money you made on that book—which is another year. Just as a quick (no pun intended, really!!) example, my first Harlequin Presents, The Italian’s Chosen Wife, was first submitted in July 2006, officially accepted in February 2007, released in January 2008, and I received royalties from its sales in November 2008. And that is actually pretty much a best-case scenario in terms of time.

So, waiting. We writers do a lot of it. But I’m not here to moan about the waiting (I just heard from my editor on my 12th book, so it’s all smiles here, really!). I’m here, actually, to praise the power of waiting.


Yes, really. Waiting—even, perhaps especially, enforced waiting—can give you perspective on your manuscript, your career, your creative process, even yourself. It gives you distance and objectivity that can be really hard to achieve as a writer, because we hug our stories so tightly to ourselves. Waiting can recharge the creative process, and sometimes it gives you those beautiful ah-hah moments. What’s an ah-hah moment? Well, for me, it’s the light suddenly going on in my brain, and I realize the crucial element that has been missing in my story, or how to fix a scene, or how to write the next chapter.

And the ah-hah moments always come when I stop brainstorming, or even thinking about the story, and just let my mind stew in its own juices for a little while. I wait. Then, when I least expect it—maybe I’m rocking my one year old at two in the morning or playing checkers with my five year old or brushing my eleven year old’s hair [yep, I have a lot of children!]—I get it. The ah-hah moment. It’s like an electric charge to my soul. Of all the writing moments—from thinking of an idea, to writing the first sentence, to getting that charge of realization, to writing The End, to holding the book in my hand, to holding the check in my hand, the ah-hah moment is my favorite. But there’s no guarantee I’m going to get it; it’s a little like waiting in front of an elevator and not being sure if it actually goes to your floor or that the doors are going to open [which in my ancient apartment building is a distinct possibility, alas]. So you need to wait—and hope. Think, and perhaps pray.

Now I write four books a year and I can’t necessarily wait for that little muse to land on my shoulder. Sometimes I just need to plunk down in front of my computer and write, even if it’s not something worth keeping, even if it’s painful and hard, because I’ve just got to get some words down. But there are some times when I recognize it’s better to close the laptop, take a step back, and wait for clarity, for creativity, for the ah-hah moment. Even if waiting is hard, or boring, or you forgot to bring a book to read.

Have you got an opinion about waiting in the writing process? And what’s your favorite part of writing? Just to make things fun, I’ll pick a winner from the comments posted and that person will receive a copy of my November Presents Extra release, Royal Baby, Forbidden Marriage.

Happy reading,
Kate Hewitt

Visit Kate's website at www.kate-hewitt.com. And you can read the first chapter of Royal Baby, Forbidden Marriage by clicking below:


Kate Hewitt said...

Thank you for that lovely introduction! And in case you don't win a copy of the book here, check my blog throughout October and November for other chances to win--any time I post the first sentence of a chapter, leave a comment and you're automatically entered! Plus at the end everyone who has commented will be entered in a contest to win six absolutely gorgeous cupcakes from the wonderful NYC bakery Crumbs, delivered straight to your door! :)

Smarty Pants said...

*perk* Did you say cupcakes? :)

I am not good at waiting. And I have been waiting a long time. I thought I would get better at it, but not so much. I guess waiting is better than getting a quick R back.

Angel said...

I think I've gotten better at the waiting game. Actually, what I've gotten better at is forgetting about my submissions while I go to work on something else. But when I do remember them... sigh. Okay, maybe I'm not that good at it. :)

My favorite part of writing is brainstorming that new idea, molding and shaping it until it is ready to write. So fun!


Problem Child said...

Down, SP, you don't get the cupcakes. (Anyway, you can make your own.) Those of us who lack kitchen skills, though, could use some cupcakes...

Welcome to the Playground, Kate!

I'm such a control freak, the waiting is always the worst -- because I have no control over it at all. I also lack patience, which made life very tough for those around me while I had stuff out on submission.

Still not liking the waiting now, either...

Playground Monitor said...

I learned the hard way how I should have waited to submit my first book. It wasn't ready but at the time I needed something to make me feel good and submitting that book (and ultimately getting a request for a full) accomplished that. But I also got a rejection. Next time I'll wait til I'm sure the book is ready.

Those cupcakes sure would make that rejection sting a little less. ;-)

Welcome to the Playground, Kate!

Sherry Werth said...

Hi Kate, and Welcome!
I haven't submitted anything yet, but I'm sure I will be praying for patience when I do.

New York City and four children! Bless you. I feel like such a slacker now. :D

Instigator said...

Cupcakes? Don't make me fight you for them, PC and SP. You know what happens when we start rolling around in buttercream.

Waiting? I suck at it. Patience is not a virtue of mine. I hope that I fake it really well (by that I mean I'm not calling my editor every day asking her what she thinks) but I also know that while I'm internalizing the struggle the pressure inside is building like a steam kettle. One day it's gonna blow and it ain't gonna be pretty.


Smarty Pants said...

Instigator said the magic word. Cue husbands.

I had cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery in NYC as part of a Sex & The City tour. I guess they were featured on the show. Apparently all the locals hate it now because the tours come through there.

I know this post is about waiting, but I'm so distracted by baked goods. Sorry, Kate!

Janet said...

"Now I write four books a year and I can’t necessarily wait for that little muse to land on my shoulder. Sometimes I just need to plunk down in front of my computer and write, even if it’s not something worth keeping, even if it’s painful and hard, because I’ve just got to get some words down."

Does this usually result in something you can use?
Or does it spark new and better ideas, maybe unrelated to your original one?

I always feel I should wait for a story idea that really excites me, so dismiss lots of ideas because they don't feel right or good enough. Which means a long gap between finishing one story and starting another (and a horrible feeling of failure and frustration.)

I'd love to be more prolific, so I was really interested in your post

Kate Hewitt said...

Thanks for all the welcomes! And I can understand how the cupcakes can be distracting, because they are amazing. And did I mention big? They're more like little--or even medium-sized--cakes.

I should have mentioned in my post another downside of waiting: the paranoia! It took 4 weeks for my editor to get back to me on my last book, and I managed to not really think about it the first week. The second week I started checking my email a little too often--like every three minutes when I was on the computer? The third week I didn't bother checking because I was sure my editor hated the book, it would need to be completely rewritten, and I didn't really need that kind of news. And then I finally heard, and it was ok. But oh, the process! It was painful.

Kate Hewitt said...

Janet, that is a good question about when you wait for the muse or its equivalent and when you don't. I think there's a balance. Sometimes I know I just need to sit in the chair and write, even if I'd rather relax on the sofa with a glass of wine and a good book. I usually give myself 20 minutes of nonstop writing to prime the pump; if it's still not working, I'll stop. But usually it is. There are other times, though, when I know I need a break, and I've stopped feeling guilty about taking breaks--whether it is a day or a week or whatever. And while you should be excited about the story you're writing, sometimes you get *more* excited as you write and discover the characters. I've had a plot of a story that I've thought about too much before writing, and then I lose that initial excitement.

Smarty Pants said...

Kate, at 4 books a year, how long do you give yourself for the first draft, then revisions, before you submit it? Do you plot in advance, or plot as you go?

Curious about your schedule. You have to have it down to a pretty good science to do that book after book.

Kathy said...

Hi, Kate! Thanks for coming to play with us. ;)

Waiting? Patience? Two things I'm really not good at, and things I should strive for.

Kate, I'm very impressed with your 4 book a year schedule and four kids. I have four kids, but waited until they were nearly grown before I concentrated on writing, joined a chapter and so forth. I'm just getting started while you're riding a time-juggling rollercoaster. You appear to do it so well too. Kudos from one mom/writer to another. :)

I'm very interested in your process too. Andrea had good questions. Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you write a synopsis first then the book or vice versa? Where did you get your interest to write for Presents?

Btw, I love cupcakes!! Cheers!

Kate Hewitt said...

Great questions everyone! Keep 'em comng :) Let's see... am I a plotter or a pantser? A bit of both, really. I start with two characters and a germ of an idea and then I spend a couple of days sketching their bios, researching the locations and anything else relevant to the story, and then doing a very rough chapter by chapter outline, although I end up changing that along the way. Before I start writing, I need to know what the emotional conflict of the story is, and how that is *generally* going to give me the black moment at the end, although I might not know what that is exactly.

I am on a very tight schedule writing-wise, and I can only manage it really by being very disciplined with my time--and going a little crazy. My youngest is only a year old (the other three are at school), and so I can really only write during naptime and evenings, which is also the only time I can do everything else that needs to get done!! So realistically I only write for an hour or two a day, which doesn't feel like much and can be frustrating. But I think a lot during the day, and wrestle with plot problems, plan scenes, flesh out my characters, etc, so when it comes to actually writing I can generally get 2,000 words done in an hour or so. My goal is 10,000 words a week for 5 weeks, and then a week to polish and a week after that to collapse with a stiff drink ;). And then the madness starts again--I have 10 weeks in between deadlines.

Kate Hewitt said...

Oh, and someone asked me where I got my interest in Presents--really, I have no idea! I was not targeting that line at all (I'd been subbing to the Tender/Romance line) and I'd actually given up on writing romance (I was writing short stories for magazines) when I suddenly had an idea for a romance so I started writing it--and realized after about three pages that it was a Presents! I was shocked ;) But it was the right fit for my voice, which is intense and emotional and a little dark, so I'm glad that's where my home ended up being--that story was The Italian's Chosen Wife, btw!

I'm glad other people have trouble with waiting :) Is anyone waiting on a manuscript or submission or anything right now--and if so, how long have you been waiting for?

Smarty Pants said...

Since you asked, I have two fulls making the rounds through a couple editors. The first was submitted May 08 and the other Jan 09. When I think too much about it, I want to pull hair out. I'm bad at waiting.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer, but as a reader who waits, impatiently, for her favorite authors' next books, the waiting isn't easy on this side of the process either. However, their books are always worth the wait!

Cupcakes are always good to nibble on while reading :-)

Word verification: shess, something I would say when I have to wait.

Laurie said...

I too am a reader not a writer. I am in awe of the whole writing process. The discipline you must have to start and then carry on
to complete the book...revisions etc.

It must be so gratifying to hold the finished product in your hands!!

Kate Hewitt said...

Thanks everyone for playing ;) It's been fun being here. Since it's my daughter's eighth birthday tomorrow, I picked the #8 comment for a winner--so, Smarty Pants, send me your address and I'll mail you a copy of Royal Baby, Forbidden Marriage!! Good luck with your submissions--hopefully the wait will be over soon. Thanks everybody!!