I had my first phone session with Lisa Rector last week. Wow. Um, she’s amazing. The session lasted two hours and was part therapy (see below), part brainstorming session and part line by line commentary. And slightly overwhelming, but in a ‘there’s a ton of work ahead of me, but with her guidance I can do it’ kind of way.
To prep for the call, I sent her my first two chapters and ideas/general thoughts and questions (on those two chapters and the larger story). We barely made it to the end of the first chapter.
Let me begin by saying that she is incredibly friendly and approachable. I was a bit nervous given how – well, how good she is…but within seconds, she’d put me at ease. When I’d contacted her to see if she could still work with me on my manuscript, I’d mentioned my less than positive experience with the previous editor. Before we started on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – she asked me if I could share what happened. I did (she’s a great listener), and then we talked about our expectations going in…and then she got right into things!
She asked me some questions about the overall story, but mainly she focused on characterization. We discussed Joe’s motivations, which proved rather enlightening. I spent a fair amount of time getting to know Joe before and during the writing of his story, but she helped me dig deeper into his psyche. If Joe ever agreed to go to therapy, I believe this is what it would be like! She even apologized for asking so many questions, which wasn’t necessary. I enjoyed discussing Joe and the novel, and her questions helped me think about things I hadn’t fully considered.
We worked through part of the first chapter – not line by line exactly, more like by paragraph. She pointed out the paragraphs that stood out for her, the ones that ‘were all Joe’. She suggested ways to lighten some of the exposition and to heighten the tension. All of this was helpful, but what I really got out of this first session was to ‘go there’.
Lisa encouraged me to stop pulling back. She told me that I was on the cusp of making Joe a fully realized vampire unique from other vampires. Now given how many vampires are out there (uh, in books) – that was an amazing compliment. She said I just had to stop pulling back. I understood what she meant. I’m constantly struggling with how far to take things or rather, how vulnerable I should make Joe. Which is directly tied to how vulnerable I allow myself to be as a writer (and as a person in general). Yikes, who is on the couch now??
I know I have revision work ahead of me, but rather than feeling overwhelmed – I’m eager, excited and relieved. Eager to make my novel ‘more’ (more of whatever it needs to be for readers). Excited by the deeper plot lines and character motivations that will follow. And relieved Lisa will be there to guide me and to let me know what I’m doing right and not quite right.
For the first time since starting to work on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – I have this weird kind of confidence thing going on. Like, maybe I might be able to write after all. Not stellar or anything right now, but enough to feel good about what I’m doing. That the efforts I’ve made thus far are not a waste, that I’m heading in the right direction and learning, learning, learning along the way.
See, I always thought writers were born that way. And that either you had it or you didn’t. If you had it, you’d know rather early in life. Maybe pen a few gems in your alphabet soup or in crayon on your bedroom walls. At least by high school. If you didn’t have it, well – hey, what else are you good at? Cooking? Sure, why not. Everyone needs to eat. Teaching? That’s good, too. Everyone needs to learn something. Turns out, you can learn anything. Like how to be a writer. Yes, some writers are born with it. Some show their talent early and often. But some don’t – until they turn forty and realize there’s nothing stopping ‘em but their own doubt. Doubt’s a heavy thing to wear for long. It’ll keep you grounded, and then how will your dreams take flight?