In The Fire

by Jane Porter

Having just spent six days in San Francisco with fellow writers at Romance Writers of Americaís annual conference, Iíve found it hard to come home and unplug from social interaction to become the solitary writer again.  Iíve attended 12 of the past 13 RWA conferences but this one was my favorite.  Some years Iíve struggled with fear and inferiority at the conference; after all, 2,000 women attend the conference and 500 authors sign at the big literacy event on Wednesday night, but this conference isnít about competition.  Itís about growth.  We as writers arenít competing with other writers.  Weíre competing with ourselves, constantly challenging ourselves to improve:  How to write better.  How to write stronger.  How to write smarter.

So confidence is good in this writer life of ours.  And tough mental focus is even better.

Returning from San Francisco I knew Iíd have to tackle revisions on the book I turned in late July, and it was a book Iíd already struggled with for months.  This particular story didnít write the way I expected it to, and despite weeks of revisions it still didnít come together to my satisfaction.  Reluctantly, I handed it over to my editor for her input and she agreed with me.  Book just wasnít up to my par.   So now I take this manuscript and salvage the parts that work and re-vision the rest. 

Fortunately, over the past eight years of being a published author Iíve learned that editing and rewriting are my best friends.  Being a revision warrior is essential if I want loyal readers, readers who will make me an auto-buy.  To succeed in this business, I canít afford to be lazy or self-indulgent.  I canít afford to get tired, either.  Rewriting is truly a girding of oneís self, and I approach this next step of revision as though my life depended on it.  And in a way, my writing life does depend on it.  My reader base expects magic.  I must find that magic.   

So this book, already my troubled delinquent child of a book, is being stripped to its bare bones.  Iím on chapter four of the rewrite which leaves just 420 pages to go.  420 pages of questions and decisions, decisions that may or may not improve the story.  Decisions that may or may not be the right ones. 

Intellectually, I know I can pull this off.  Iíve done it before and I can do it again, so this is the part of me I listen to.  The part I





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donít listen to is the fear, or the insecurity, or the panic that timeís passing and Iím not getting enough done.  If Iím working hard, and doing my best, Iím getting enough done.  My mental toughness runs the show now.  The tough self that rolls up its sleeves and says, you can do this, because this is who you are and this is what you do.

My family doesnít understand this part of my career.  They donít know why a book doesnít work or why revisions can be so challenging.  They just know Iím preoccupied and intense and a little fierce.  Fortunately my writer friends understand this process.  They know that when weíre faced with fire, we have to go through it.  Thereís no jumping over it, or running around it.  The only way to get better as a writer is to do it.  One word at a time. 

Is writing hard?  Yes.  Does it make one crazy?  Pretty much.  But is it worth it?  If youíre a writer.

In the end itís all about craft, and the story itself.  Mediocrity has no place in our business.  Phoning a story in is unacceptable.  My readers are smart.  My readers deserve respect.  The best way I can show them my respect is doing the work that needs to be done.  Each time, every time.


With that said, itís not always easy and not always fun.  But itís real.  And that makes us better writers, too.

And this is one more way good writer friends can help.  Over time Iíve come to surround myself with writer friends that push themselves, too.  We all have high standards and we know that writing is a risky business.  We realize that weíre constantly revealing ourselves in our work.  And while itís difficult to write while feeling vulnerable, writing from that honest place will allow us to write not just good, but great books.  The secret then is giving ourselves permission to reach high, knowing we just might fail.  But if weíre aware of the risks then falling isnít a surprise or shock, and falling and failing wonít be debilitating.  Instead, falling and failing gives us the opportunity to try again.  And in trying again we have yet another opportunity to succeed, and this is how we learn our craft and build our books.

And this is the calling.  Weíre to aim high, dream big, and write tough.   


Jane Porterís July 2006 release, Flirting With Forty (5 Spot), was picked by Redbook Magazine as its Red Hot Summer Read before being optioned as a Lifetime Christmas 2008 TV movie. Jane's newest novel, Mrs. Perfect, (May 2008, 5 Spot) has also received tremendous acclaim from her readers.  www.janeporter.com


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