How I write: Jennifer Crusie
Published: May 28, 2004
|It's no surprise that Jennifer Crusie's romance novels consistently make the Romance Writers of America's Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year, or that her latest novel, Bet Me, is a bestseller. Her success can be attributed in part to her spirited and spunky heroines, who are just so, well, normal. Minerva Dobbs, the heroine of Bet Me, for example, struggles with her weight (ultimately abandoning a low-carb diet in favor of Krispy Kremes and Italian fare), a critical mother, frizzy hair and her on-again, off-again romance with the not-to-be-trusted Calvin Morrisey.|
Crusie, who started writing at 41, taught art and high school English before quitting to write full time. She holds a master's degree in feminist criticism and an MFA in fiction. An animal lover, she lives in Ohio with assorted cats and dogs and is currently writing a mystery.
Credits: 15 romance novels, including Bet Me (2004), Faking It (2002), Fast Women (2001) and Welcome to Temptation (2000).
I started a Ph.D., and I was researching the impact of gender on narrative strategies and read romance novels for the first time. ... And I loved them. It was the first time that I'd ever read a book and thought, "I want to write this."
I have no schedule. It's more of a global approach--I think about it for a long time, I research it for a long time. I write bits and pieces of things that I think might be in there, and then the story kicks in and I write from 4 p.m. until 4 a.m., sleep for 12 hours and then get up and write again. So there's a stretch where I'm writing constantly and stretches where I'm not writing at all.
I do a collage with the book where I go through magazines and look for things that look like the book--I just know instinctively. ... I'll think this represents this and this represents this, and I'll glue them down together and suddenly it's a whole new insight into the book. I do that in the prewriting section, but I also keep doing that as I write. If I see a picture, I pull it out, and a lot of times as the book starts to slow, or I start to lose a grip on it, finding something and pasting it suddenly may open up a new window into the book.
A lot of it is trying to get everything down on paper so I can see what kind of story I'm writing and what it means. ... I always have a theme to start with, but it's never what the book is about--it's more of a crutch for me to get started. Then I've got this huge heaving mass of way too much stuff but in there is the story. It's like being a sculptor--you just cut away the parts that don't belong and there's your statue. It's a very inefficient process-- don't recommend it to anybody. But I've tried being more organized, and it doesn't work.
Bet Me is my 15th book and by now you'd think I'd have a grasp on how this works. I don't know whether I'm procrastinating (because it takes me so long to get to the writing point), which is what I've been beating myself up with, or that I have to actually write this book in my head first and pull all this stuff together--and when I've got it all there, then I can start to write. Before this last book, I would have said procrastination was a terrible problem, but I don't think it is. I think it's part of the process, because I've tried to force my way through it and the writing I do is just terrible. There's no life on the page whatsoever.
The best advice anybody ever gave is to write the book you want to read but can't find, because that's your story. You're the only person who was born at the time you were, to the parents that you were, who had the experiences that you had. You're the only person who's equipped to write your story, so if you don't write it, nobody will.
--Posted May 28, 2004