From Barbara O'Neal
Please help me welcome Barbara Freethy, a writer I've known since we were both kittens. A prolific and versatile writer, Barbara has had one AMAZING summer, which has included putting EIGHT books on the New York Times bestseller lists. Currently, she has three books in the Amazon top 100, all romantic suspense, including Silent Run, Silent Fall, and Don't Say A Word.
Yeah, I know. I might have serious envy, too, if she were not one of the hardest working, NICEST women in the business. She deserved this a long time ago, and it's about time. Go on, read one of her books--you won't be sorry. Welcome, Barbara!
by Barbara Freethy
So I'm a Project Runway fanatic. I never miss an episode. I love the challenge of having to create something from nothing in a limited amount of time with very little money. The designers have
usually thirty minutes to sketch, thirty minutes to shop for material and then it's on. About halfway through the challenge Tim Gunn, their mentor, comes in to critique and offer helpful suggestions. Sometimes the suggestion is to rip it apart and start over or edit out the self-indulgent moments. His analysis is usually spot-on, and those who don't listen pay the price. But the part I like best is everyone's favorite line, MAKE IT WORK!
As a writer, I can totally relate to just about every part of this process, the blank page, the creative burst at the beginning of the challenge, the quick drive to find plot points and twists, the high dive into the unknown and then the middle … There comes a point in every project where the doubts descend. Where the plot suddenly looks boring and stupid, the pacing is slow, the characters are idiots, and one might ask why did I ever think this was a good idea? But just like the designers on Project Runway, writers have to find a way out – they have to MAKE IT WORK.
If a writer is under contract, there's usually no time to step back for a few months and just think. Sometimes you've already sold the idea, so there's no switching it out for a newer, prettier plot. Just like the designers often get stuck with bad material. I love when they come back to the workroom after fabric shopping with some awful orange wool and muse to themselves in wonder, "Wow, it looked a lot different in the store". Yeah, again, I can relate. Sometimes my stories sound better in my head than they read on paper.
But all any creator can do is persevere. Try and make the ugly pretty, the impossible become possible. It would be great if Tim Gunn could descend at just the right moment with his quizzical eye and make us rethink what we're doing, but in his absence, we need to do it ourselves. Every writer needs to find a way to step back every now and then and review the work with a critical eye. But it can't happen too early in the game. Sometimes you need to get far enough in to see where the problems are.
As a writer, I'm not big on outlining, which is probably why I need the MAKE IT WORK moment. I would love to be able to see every twist and turn of a 100,000 word plot before I begin. But for me my best moments come out of the writing. Listening to my characters, hearing them speak, sometimes being surprised by what comes out of their mouths, setting the scene, living in that world day in and day out – that's what brings out the best in me and my story. But writing this way can mean some missteps, so then I rewrite. Every now and then, I get stuck for a while. Sometimes I make the mystery impossible to figure out. My villain is so clever, I need to more clever if I'm going to figure out how to catch him. Sometimes, I put my characters in a really tough spot and again it takes a while to determine how they can possibly get out.
In my book SILENT RUN, the heroine is run off the road, and she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of wh o she is or what she's done. A man appears at her bedside. He's furious with her. He claims she's his wife and she ran away from him seven months ago. He demands to know where their baby is. She doesn't remember him or a child or a marriage. Is he lying? Or is she the horrible person he portrays her to be? I love this story, but it was tough to write. The character has no introspection about her life, because she doesn't know anything. She has to figure out who she is from the clues around her. She has to sift through what people tell her about herself and what she instinctively knows. At many points during this challenging novel, I would have loved to see Tim Gunn's kind face, although he probably would have said one of this other favorite lines, "What were you thinking?"
But as Project Runway reminds me, I'm the writer. I create the work I can make anything happen, and I can turn bad into good, sometimes into great, if I just keep going. SILENT RUN turned out to be one of my best books.
Do you have any favorite shows? Any characters that relate to your life or inspire you?