Writing is such a solitary process. Sitting alone at the computer with only your ideas awaiting their translation into black-and-white. However, for me, the creative juices keep flowing wherever I am or whatever I’m doing. The new story keeps me company whether I’m gardening or running errands. Editing, however, keeps me locked in my chair and rewriting what I thought was a fascinating manuscript. My editor picks the story apart like a vulture on road-kill. In The Shadow Of The Lighthouse was too long. I needed to cut 60,000 words, bringing the total word-count down to 100,000. Then I needed to put the first chapter toward the end of the book. I wondered if it would ever be published.
I’m what is known as a Pantser in the writing world. I don’t outline, chart character development or pre-determine what will happen in each chapter. I write the story that’s in my head (first draft). Then I begin researching, making sure my scenes are accurate to the period of the story and give my characters life (second draft). The third or fourth draft goes to the editor and the hard part begins.
That’s where I am now, and have been since last December when I received A Beacon In The Dark back from my editor. I’ve made the requested changes, only to have more changes noted. It’s frustrating, especially since a third book, It Started With Besse, is waiting in the first draft stage. I love writing . . . I hate rewriting. However, I’ve found a part of editing which allows me to travel back to wonderful places.
Whenever possible, I travel to the locations I’ve written about to make sure I have my facts correct and get the “feel” of the surroundings. In The Shadow Of The Lighthouse took me to Marblehead, Ohio and Port Clinton. There were also side trips to Kelleys Island and Put-In-Bay. A Beacon In The Dark took me to the Waldorf Astoria in New York, Norfolk, Virginia and the plantations along the James River. Back in the early 1970s, I was given a book of Notable American Houses.
A two-page photo of Westover plantation caught my attention. I thought it the most beautiful house I’d ever seen. So when I needed a Virginia plantation for my story, it could only be Westover. I searched for information, which at the time was limited since the house was, and still is, a family residence. Then in 2011 following the Romance Writers of America conference in New York, I drove to Virginia. Only the grounds were open to the public, but that was enough . . . I fell in love with Westover. I took pictures of everything and spent hours walking the property and sitting on various benches. Through the many photos of the house and outbuildings, I was able to make my story come alive. The sounds of the river and the scent of the huge boxwoods will always be with me.
I may be sitting at my computer editing, but I’m not alone. My memories of Westover are with me, encouraging me to add this-or-that little piece of information I’d forgotten during the last edit.