In this episode:
This episode starts with Melanie’s car accident, after which she was so shaken that she couldn’t work the insurance app on her phone. She’s also surprised to learn that both Abby and Jennie have only ever been pulled over by a cop once. (And Melanie won’t divulge her driving record…) Jennie coins the phrase driving under the influence of children.
Besides the car accident, Melanie also starts a new job and has a death in the family, which just goes to prove that life never stops.
Despite all the stressful things going on in Mel’s life, she met her deadline and wrote well. Jennie asks her how she did it, and her answer was, basically, I didn’t want to disappoint you. Jennie talks about how you have to be in the headspace to do this (by this, she means write a book). You either do it or don’t do it-- no matter what else is going on-- because it’s easy to make excuses (no matter how valid) all day long.
This time Melanie revised two chapters because she had some logic that wasn’t holding together. Jennie points out that Melanie was able to solve some of these big problems beautifully. Jennie says that some writers fear that a book coach is going to take over your story or mess with your story. But she points out that what she and Melanie did was identify where Melanie’s story wasn’t working and do a little brainstorming, but that Melanie’s fixes were NOT things that they had talked about. Our listeners were privy to these brainstorming sessions in previous episodes, yet Melanie talks about how she played off that brainstorming and came up with smart solutions to the logic problems that needed fixing.
Melanie points out that it took 3 or 4 revisions of this chapter to get it right. Each time she revised she was still unsatisfied with it. Jennie asked her how she knew when it was right. Melanie’s trick is to not look at it for a day, then reread it pretending she hasn’t ever read it before. She said when nothing stood out, she made the call to move on.
Melanie’s WIP is actually a rewrite of an earlier draft, which she started fresh on when she started working with Jennie. Melanie confesses that she pulled some of the material for this chapter from the original, original draft and incorporated it! Our writing friend Jocelyn Lindsay calls it “the Boneyard.” That’s all the stuff you throw away. Jocelyn never actually throws it away, she just moves it to the Boneyard to mine later when you need it. Jennie says that strategy involves discernment, which some writers have trouble with. Too often they try and stick with the original version and just retrofit it—WHICH DOESN’T WORK. You have to take the old and weigh it against the new. Will it pass the test? What do I need to do to tie it in?
Mel is also writing what Jennie calls “high action”: car chases, drama, blood, guns, possible murder, unconscious people, and… gravel skidding. But when your actual life is boring, sometimes you have to be creative with your research to make it believable on the page. Mel gets creative on a back road in the desert and confirms for Jennie what a skidding car with an open door on a gravel road would actually do.
Jennie spends a few minutes talking about writing physical scenes: sex scenes, action scenes, any scene where you zoom in close on the action of bodies in motion. Resorting to straight up descriptions of physical things is not good writing. Why does it all matter? What does it reveal about the characters and what they know or what they discover about how they feel?