More from Jennifer Crusie
Published: June 7, 2004
|Jennifer Crusie is the author of 15 romance novels, including Bet Me (2004), Faking It (2002), Fast Women (2001) and Welcome to Temptation (2000). The original How I write interview with Jennifer Crusie appeared in the July issue of The Writer . |
Here are some additional topics that Jennifer talked about during her interview.
One of the biggest influences was probably Dorothy Parker. Jane Austen, certainly. …I didn't read a lot of romances before I started writing them. The ones that I did read, I didn't realize were romances. I came out of left-field into the [genre] and then found Patricia Gaffney, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Judith Ivory.
…But I think more than anything, it's just culture in general. Movies influence me and TV influences me … I've learned a lot watching Joss Whedon's stuff--Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel--because he does so many interesting things with metaphor. With an MFA, I had a strong training in literary fiction, and you look at some of the things [on TV] and they're so over the top you think that can't possibly work, but it actually works because it is over the top.
What a lot of the pop culture things do, especially things that really swing wide like Whedon, is act as an anti-toxin to the background of literary fiction that wants you to be detached and ironic and never become melodramatic and sweeping. But that's where all the fun is, and that's what I'm learning.
With Bet Me, I really did think my career was going to be over, because it's very much a fairy tale. Very much an over-the-top true love romance. And I knew critics were going to savage me for it. But that's the way the book was writing; the book has an integrity of its own. And there's just a point where you say, "well, they'll just have to come after me," because this is the way the book needs to be written. And that was fun. It felt wonderful not to have that weight crushing down on you--"be careful because they'll come for you." Because let's face it, they're going to come for you anyway.
Every book is different. If I'm doing a book on con men, I'll get every book out of the library or from Amazon that I can find on con men. There's usually something physical in the book, something tangible, like snow globes--or right now the book is Mexican folk art--and I'll collect that and have that sitting around.
I don't do a lot of revising as I go. I often go back and read what I've written the day before, because that helps put me back in the rhythm. If I see anything obvious, I'll fix it, but the revision process is really [for when] the discovery draft is done. At that point I start --that's when all the left-brain stuff comes in--and I start looking at turning points and counting how many pages I have between turning points. Not because I think there's a set rule, but just because if you have 150 pages before your first turning point, your pacing is gone. And I'll know that while that turning point has to be in there, I have to move it up some way. And a lot of times it's by cutting--the first act is often so full of explanations and a lot of exposition--you have to pull all of that out. At that point I'm looking at the turning points as markers, as far as this is where the pace should pick up, this is where the stakes should get higher.
I start looking at individual scenes, especially scenes that don't seem to be working. Who's the protagonist? Who's the antagonist? Does it arc? All that analytical left-brain application that will focus all the great right-brain stuff that I sort of threw up into the computer. And so I do a lot of that and it takes a long, long time.
I do--I've never counted, because it's hard to count on the computer how many revisions you've done--but at least two dozen--I think a lot of times more than that.
Then after that when I'm polishing, I do one [revision] where I just look for 'ly' words because I love adverbs, so I go through and take out all the adverbs I can.
I do one where I read it aloud. It takes a while, and it's horrible to read it out loud--I hate the sound of my stuff being read--but that's where …you find the places where you're explaining too much. You find places where the rhythm is so off that it doesn't sound real anymore.
I'll go back and do another revision for every speaking part in the book. I will read every scene that person is in from that person's point of view to make sure that there's no place where that person's saying, "Tell us, Chauncy, how you felt about that," instead of having a real reason to speak, so that they're all three dimensional. There's just a mass of [revisions] that I go through.
Pay no attention to market trends because it's not going to do you any good to study them anyway. By the time you've identified a market trend, and then written a book and sold it to somebody, and then they've put it into production--even if everything goes beautifully--it'll be 2 years after you've spotted that trend at which point everybody will be writing those and no one will be reading them, because it's been done. So, as Polonius said, "to thine own self be true."
--Posted June 7, 2004