When Characters Disappoint

Joel can be such a prick.

I love the guy, but there’s no question that his behavior in The Crossing leaves something to be desired. He’s manipulative and passive-aggressive, self-indulgent and self-loathing. I’ve had readers tell me that if they weren’t so sucked into the story they would’ve shut the book. He can be that despicable.

Of course, in I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden Joel comes off as the complete opposite. Maybe that’s why so many of my readers struggle with Adam’s infidelity. Joel’s so nice, and he’s doing everything he can to be there for his partner.

Adam can be such a prick.

Both novels I’ve written in first person, which means as the reader you’re getting a head full of the narrator. You’re seeing everything from one perspective and that perspective is wildly skewed.

On a weekly basis I work with a handful of girls on their creative writing. We meet one-on-one for an hour and chat about what they’ve been thinking over the past week, then read through what they’ve come up with and talk about what’s working (and sometimes what’s not). I love these girls. They’re smart and insightful and so captivated by the stories in their heads. And they’re so keen to share what they’re thinking. It’s a privilege to have a glimpse into their worlds.

About a month ago, one of the girls was freaking out. She’s twelve and she’s writing a novel—and before you say how cute, believe me when I say that this girl has what it takes. A handful of times I’ve wanted to steal her lines. She’s that good. So Kat was freaking out because she’s writing this book about two teenagers who get lost in the Canadian wilderness during a flash food, and she was at the point in her writing where her characters have become separated from each other. The story’s told from the girl’s perspective and for weeks all Kat could talk about was the girl’s boyfriend. What was he doing, what was happening to him, how was he going to find the girl again? I kept telling her to chill out, that she didn’t need to know what the boyfriend was doing. She just needed to concentrate on her narrator and when the boyfriend showed up he’d tell his story.

She didn’t seem to hear me. Every week she’d show up and say the same thing: what’s he doing, what’s happening to him, how’s he going to find her again? Every week I’d tell her to focus on her narrator and when the boyfriend was ready he’d show.

Then she told me she was afraid he wouldn’t. That he’d abandon his girlfriend altogether.

Oh.

As writers, we fall in love with our characters. We really do. We follow them through one ordeal after another and we just want them to be okay.

And we really don’t want them to disappoint us.

Kat had been so preoccupied with the boyfriend because she’d built him up in her mind as the kind of guy who’d do whatever it took to find his girlfriend after she fell into the river. She didn’t want him to be the kind of guy who gave up.

Now, you might be thinking that she’s the author so she gets to decide. But that’s not how it works, not for many writers. These characters have lives of their own. They make their own choices. We just tell their stories.

I’m about halfway through the writing of my third novel, and this one has three narrators. Joel and Adam both have a voice, and this time James does, too. The only time prior to writing this novel that I’ve written in James’s voice was when I wrote “Mixed Media,” which won the Chris O’Malley Fiction Prize a few years ago. If you read that story (subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a copy), you’ll want to wrap your arms around James. And the way Joel goes on and on about him in The Crossing you can’t help but think he’s a good guy, even though he makes some mistakes along the way.

A few days ago I was at Steeping Room with a beautiful green coconut tea and my laptop, my conversation with Kat fresh in my mind. I was ready to write a scene, one I’d been thinking about for a long time. Told from James’s perspective, this scene takes place on Christmas in 2006 and has a very specific, disturbing end. All I had to do was get to that end.

But nothing was coming. I couldn’t even see the scene I’d envisioned anymore. Instead I was being pulled in a different direction and god, was I fighting it. Because James wouldn’t behave the way the scene wanted to be written. He wouldn’t make the mistake he was about to make. He was better than what he wanted me to write.

I had to squeeze my eyes shut when I touched my keyboard. I’m sure I was cringing as I wrote. Every so often I’d have to stop and catch my breath.

And let go.

James doesn’t belong to me. I’m in his head right now but I don’t get to make his choices. He makes his own.

And he can be such a prick.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Sharing Space

Steeping RoomI used to write alone. I preferred my office, the familiarity of my own desk, the proximity of my electric kettle and a full container of breakfast tea. I’m not someone who gets distracted by laundry and unmade beds, partly because I’m not the type to leave my bed unmade much past the time I wake up in the morning, but also because once I’m working I’m vigilant about blocking out anything else. I don’t answer the phone, I don’t respond to texts, I don’t sift through the bills. I hold my writing space sacred.

A few months ago I started a new writing project that, while fictional in nature, doesn’t revolve around Joel and James and Adam. This is something peripheral, just for fun, and because a friend of mine was starting a similar project I asked her to come over one night so we could work in tandem. We chatted a bit but mostly we wrote and drank wine. I invited her to return.

Somehow that evening opened the door to another friend, then another. After a few weeks, to escape the house for a few hours when my son was in summer camp–he’s a bit of a homebody and as a single parent I often find myself at home in the evenings–I started writing at Steeping Room, a tea house not far from where I live that allowed me to sit outside, drink beautiful coconut tea and disappear into Joel’s voice. (That peripheral writing project still feels very peripheral.) At first I showed up alone, but soon those same friends who’d found their way to my home in the evenings started meeting me at Steeping Room. Austin experienced a mild summer and for a while we were happy sitting outside, but the heat eventually drove us indoors, where some of us switched to hot tea and others indulged an addiction to iced tea and simply brought along a sweater.

I’m there often, often enough to know the wait staff by name and for them to be familiar enough with my preferences that they quietly slip another glass of beautiful coconut tea beside my laptop without having to ask me what I want. A year ago I would’ve insisted that I couldn’t work amidst such chaos, but I would’ve been wrong. As long as I have earbuds with me, I have no problem shutting out the lunch crowd.

Still, I have to stay out of my own way. The friends I meet there are among my very best. I light up when I see them, and I want to talk to them. Every so often I do. But most of the time I resist. The temptation of my fiction feels far greater, and I know that once I’m in that world I’m in deep. Pull me out and I’m probably pissed, because I know what I’m losing when I turn my attention elsewhere: the perfect paragraph, the right turn of phrase, at the very least the train of thought that will get me exactly where I want to go.

Sometimes I think about Joel, about that moment in The Crossing when he’s painting and decides he’s too deep in the process to meet James for a drink. He makes the call to cancel, then finds himself stuck in a loop of justification.

The more time I have to spend explaining myself the harder it’s going to be getting back into the paint. Already I can feel the image I’ve been seeing loosening its hold, fading into the background.

I know from experience that it doesn’t take long to lose that image, and sometimes it’s crushing when I do. So I’m judicious about who I ask to meet me. And though I almost always see someone I know while I’m there–someone who shows up to meet their own friend, for their own reasons–I usually don’t linger.

A week or so ago I was writing with my friend Amie when someone dropped by to see her. Amie has only been writing for about a year and a half but she’s so lost in her first novel it’s breathtaking. Sharing space with her feels magnetic, and though I pulled my earbuds out long enough to say hello when her friend arrived I went right back to my writing. After he left Amie told me that he could feel the energy surrounding us as he approached our table.

I can feel it, too. And I want to hold it close.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Writer, Interrupted

A few months ago I wrote a blog post for someone called “10 Ways to Keep Writing over the Holidays.” My ideas are sound, and personally tested. I really did write part of The Crossing sitting in the mist outside Laguna Gloria while my son took an art class. I really do believe that the more I move my body the more profoundly I can connect to my creativity. And there’s no question that I do my best to prioritize joy. I have nothing to give to anyone or anything around me–and that includes my fiction–if I don’t find at least a little space to take in the ballet or meet a friend for wine.

Some of the other ideas I mentioned in that post aren’t sustainable. I’m happy to stay up every once in a while to get in some extra writing time. But when I stayed up night after night for two years because I had a toddler and no other time to write I eventually crashed. Taking a shortcut here and there–the example I gave in that blog post was buying cupcakes for my son’s holiday party instead of firing up my KitchenAid mixer–makes sense to me. But I don’t like taking shortcuts all the time. I don’t like half-assing anything.

The trick seems to be finding the right combination of staying up late and taking shortcuts and prioritizing joy.

I’m still learning.

I do know that I write best when I have a swath of time to immerse myself in my characters. Fifteen minutes isn’t enough. An hour isn’t enough. I need several hours–at least two, and ideally three–when I’m completely unplugged. No texts, no emails, no Facebook notifications. I remember my mother telling me once that when you’re deep in work and you’re interrupted it takes twenty minutes to fully reengage. I have a feeling that’s pretty accurate. For years I’ve ignored the doorbell and let my phone roll to voicemail. The few times I’ve answered, the first question I’m asked is if I’m okay. Not because I sound irritated as hell (though I usually am), but because I sound completely out of it. I am out of it. I’m somewhere else. I’m someone else.

Writing this today I can’t help thinking of that phone call Joel makes to James in 1999. He’s in the back room and he’s painting, and for the first time in so long he thinks he might actually be able to finish what he started.

Joel's Supplies

But he’s supposed to meet James, and when he finally picks up his phone to cancel their plans James won’t let him off get off the line. This is what happens next:

I turn back to my easel the second I end the call. But I can’t find the image. I try to coax it back, like a lover gone astray, let my eyes fall to my palette. The colors shimmer in the light. I touch my brush to the paint, then try a half a dozen strokes. Nothing. I take a step away, go into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of water. Take a few deep breaths. I can lose myself again; I’ve been interrupted more times than I can count over the years and slipping back inside has never been a problem for me. This time won’t be any different. Cracking my knuckles, I go back to the canvas.

Gone. 

I don’t want to lose the words in my head. I want to lose myself in my characters. I want those wide swaths of time. I want a few hours when I have nothing and no one to answer to except my Muse.

That’s how I write my books. Not in bits and pieces, not a handful of minutes here and a few seconds there. But by surrendering myself wholly and unreservedly.

My characters deserve nothing less.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

My Own Exquisite Puzzle

“I could never write a book,” someone said to me recently. “It just seems so hard.”

But writing books feels so much easier than anything I’ve done so far today. Writing books feels easier than waking up this morning at 5:15 for no reason I could ascertain, then falling back asleep about five seconds before my alarm went off. Writing books feels easier than discovering we have a third “snow” day here in Austin, Texas, and knowing that the novelty has totally worn off for my bored, eleven-year-old son. Writing books feels easier than trying to convince my son that if he’s old enough to listen to music with explicit content on Pandora, he’s old enough to step up and feed the damn dogs. Writing books feels easier than trying to capture my terrier as he tears around my backyard, howling at the Weimaraner next door. Writing books even feels easier than writing this blog post, which I’ve done with interruptions to make hot tea and answer a phone call and retrieve my son’s favorite stuffed bat from the clutch of that demon terrier’s tiny jaws.

Getting into Joel’s head and writing his story? That’s nothing. It’s not even work. It’s the best kind of play. Even revision doesn’t feel tedious to me.

Occasionally when I’m on Twitter I see tweets from writers talking about how difficult they find the writing process. I never understand.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I find the process effortless. Sometimes the words don’t come as quickly. Sometimes I work for hours and come up with nothing more than a single paragraph. But even then I don’t feel like I’m working. Instead I feel patient and grounded and wholly curious about what comes next.

In The Crossing, Joel says:

James is […] something I can’t wrap my head around under the best of circumstances, and which tequila renders downright impossible. He’s mystifying, a puzzle exquisite in its intricacy, the one thing I want to figure out. At the same time he’s the simplest thing I know right now, my one constant other than the painting, as sure as the feel of that brush in my hand.

I feel the same way about my work.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

There’s Just a Good Feel in Here

I’ll do anything to get closer to my characters.

You probably already know that. You’ve seen my status updates on Facebook, you’ve read my blog posts over the years. You know about the readings, the photo shoots, that night in the cemetery. Unlike many writers, I can’t imagine using notecards or outlines as part of my process.

I want to feel my characters. I want to get inside of them.

So maybe it’s no surprise that when it came time to move last month I gravitated toward a house in central Austin that was built in 1940. Oh yes, I said the moment my friend unlocked the door and let me step inside, This is definitely more me.

Or more Joel. Because really, I can’t stop thinking about how much he’d like this house. The old gas fireplace

Fireplacethe original tile in the bathroom that I can never quite get clean

Old tilethat ridiculously tiny sink.

So smallI can hear Joel’s boots on the hardwood floors of this pier-and-beam foundation, can see him sitting on the back porch with a cigarette. In some ways I can’t get out of 1994, and in other ways this house reminds me of the kind of house Joel would have rented–in east Austin, though–at the end of I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, in 2005. This room I’m sitting in right now, with the built-in bookcase

Bookcaseand those seventy-year-old windows

Broken Windowthat really do leave me shaking with cold when the temperature drops, is exactly the way I envisioned Joel’s studio. Here’s what happens when Adam sees it for the first time:

The room doesn’t hold a candle to the space I created for him at home. He’s dealing with a second bedroom in here, and though windows line three of the walls my guess is that he doesn’t get the light he needs. There’s no sink, no room to stretch his own canvas. But the work itself drops my jaw.

I’m ready to drop your jaw. Because this house is where I’m writing my third novel, the follow-up to The Crossing and I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I know from experience that I can infuse this house with an energy that’s palpable enough to register with anyone who walks through my door. There’s a good feel in here, James admits in The Crossing as he watches Joel work, and Joel knows exactly what he means.

I had a bit of hesitation about moving here. There’s no central air-conditioning, no central heating system. The third bedroom is really a converted garage, not necessarily the most inviting place for my son. But now that we’re here, I don’t even notice the window units. I’ve totally made that third bedroom work. Best of all, slipping into Joel’s head feels easier than ever.

How can it not, when he’s everywhere I turn?

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

Write It All Down

I was at a party earlier today at my son’s school, and I ran into someone who’s reading The Crossing. She pulled me aside and said in a hushed tone, “I just have to ask. Where do you get these stories?”

I knew what she meant. She wasn’t asking why I write about psychological trauma and memory and repression. She wanted to know why I write about gay men.

I’ve been asked more times than I can count, believe me. I mean, I could probably write one book with a gay narrator without raising too many eyebrows. But I have two novels published and another one on the way, not to mention short stories and vignettes. So what’s up with this preoccupation of mine?

I like to say that my stories are just there. I’m not creating a damn thing. I’m just tapping in, and giving voice to these characters.

But that sounds so trite. I’m a channel, I’m a conduit, I’m some sort of medium. Saying those words makes what’s really an incredibly humbling experience sound… I don’t know. Cheesy.

It’s also the truth.

Of course, I could tell you that men fascinate me. Because they do. The way they walk across hardwood floors in a pair of scuffed boots. The way they say bullshit under their breaths, with just the right drawl. The way they scrub their hands across stubbled jaws when they’re tired. I’m intrigued, enough that I want to know more.

I could also tell you that I’m curious about men’s relationships with other men. Because I am, and have been from the moment I read S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders when I was thirteen years old. Male friendships seem to me (and I realize this could just be my perception, or my experience) to be much more guarded than the friendships I’ve seen between women. Affection sometimes bleeds through the cracks, but there’s a reticence in male friendships, and I can’t help but wonder about the ones that cross a boundary into something more.

But I never thought to myself, hmm, what would happen if a college freshman who’s a natural caretaker, maybe in part because he ended up with a baby sister when he was barely a teenager, finds himself with a roommate who can’t seem to get his shit together? What if their relationship turns into a “codependent disaster?” What if they cross so many lines they can barely differentiate between themselves?

And I never sat down and wrote out an outline about some guy who loses his lover to AIDS, only to find himself entrenched in the past a dozen years later. I didn’t think, okay, in Chapter One I’ll open with a scene in the garden, and then I’ll make sure that I reference that garden again and again throughout the rest of the novel. I didn’t think: what would happen if I wrote some kind of tome about this particular generation of gay men?

I suppose there are some writers who are that intentional. I’m not one of them.

I write what I feel. And I can really easily feel my way into Joel and James and Adam. I can see them from my perspective, like I’m watching a movie, and I can also slip into their heads and see everything through their lenses.

It’s actually pretty cool.

And honestly, it feels so good. And I really base so very much on how I feel.

When I’m asked where I get my stories, when readers assume that I must have a wide circle of gay friends whose lives I’m pilfering for content, I laugh. “Maybe I was a gay man in a former life,” I say, and I’m only halfway kidding. Because these stories are there, and I’m just writing them down.

Trite or not, that’s the truth.

Copyright © 2013  Jennifer Hritz  All Rights Reserved

Reading in 2013

There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book, especially during the winter months when the weather’s chilly and curling up with a book seems like the sensible thing to do. The week of Thanksgiving the weather here in Austin was so frigid that one day I never bothered getting out of bed. I’ll be honest; most of the time I was working. But I was also reading David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing, undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Lyrical and lovely, I found myself audibly catching my breath just a few pages in. That’s such a fabulous feeling, to be at the very beginning of a book and know that you’ve picked up something special and still have chapters and chapters to go.

I’ve seen so many lists lately, touting the best books of 2013. If I created a similar list, there’s no question that David Levithan’s novel would be on it. But I have to admit that I don’t always stick to what’s recently published when I’m looking for a good book. So yes, I read Two Boys Kissing this year. But I also read Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary, which was sparsely worded and yet so rich that I knew my reading experience would end too soon. I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, (and oh, did I want more of Jonah than I got!), but I also got caught up in Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden and I surprised the hell out of myself by loving Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I relished J. H. Trumble’s newest novel, Just Between Us, but I also blew through her first two novels and am still trying to pinpoint my favorite of the three.

Ann Weisgarber’s The Promise arrived just a few days ago, and even the cover intrigues.

Of course, I spent more time in 2013 in my own fictional world than in any other. I’ve read The Crossing more times than I could possibly begin to count, and even made the mistake of reading through the novel after publication. I’m still trying to figure out a way to easily correct the editorial errors I uncovered on that read-through. But I never tire of reading about Joel, no matter how many times I feel like shaking him and telling him to get his shit together.

I get the impression that some of you feel the same. I hope so. That’s absolutely my goal as a writer: to tell Joel’s story so compellingly that you keep coming back for more.

I’ll be writing more about Joel (and Adam and James) in the new year, and I’m curious to find out what happens to them.  I have an idea, of course, but my characters like to keep me on my toes. I can’t wait to share with you what I learn about them. In the meantime, check back here every so often for new vignettes. I promise more eye candy, too.

And if you’d like, tell me in the comments below what books you lost yourself in this year. I’m always looking for a good read!

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

A Moment of Gratitude

Thanksgiving figures prominently in the lives of my characters. At this time of year I can’t help thinking about Joel coming home from college and sharing sketches of James with his mother. I love those years that Joel tags along with James to Fort Worth, especially the year he’s waiting for the results of his HIV test. And that moment he walks into BookPeople on a whim the day before the holiday and stumbles across Adam Atwater: I can almost see his smile.

I’ll be at BookPeople myself tomorrow, dropping off copies of The Crossing for Austinites desperate to have their hands on a paperback copy in time for the holiday. But otherwise my holiday will look remarkably different from Joel’s. I won’t be steadying myself because I catch a whiff of cigar smoke.

"The smell knocks me back a dozen years..."

“The smell knocks me back a dozen years…”

I’m not going to be taking a midnight hike through the Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth, watching my breath in the light of a full moon. I’m not shoving my creativity down deep inside of me because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t.

But if anything you’ve just read intrigues you, do check out my novel. I’ve been told it’s compulsively readable. (I can assure you it was compulsively writable.)

And in the meantime, please accept my profound gratitude for your support. Writing is such a solitary act, but when readers purchase my novel, when they take the time to dive into my stories, when they reach out to tell me where they are in the reading process… well, it’s that sort of connection that makes my experience as a writer complete.

Thank you for that.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Now Available for Your Reading Pleasure

The Crossing is now available for your reading pleasure (or displeasure; I’m getting a lot of feedback from readers who want to give Joel a kick in the ass because his behavior, like Adam’s in I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, is so appalling). Every time I look at the cover, designed by Virginia Hassell with Big Star Creative, I feel a little thrill.

The Crossing

Cover by Virginia Shurgar Hassell

And every time I open up my email to another message from a reader, I get that much more excited. Because that’s the point of this whole process, isn’t it? Not just to lose myself in Joel’s head (or Adam’s head, or James’s head), but to share what I’m seeing with others.

I was able to celebrate that experience a little over a week ago at my book launch party, which my lovely friend, Jennifer Bloom, threw for me at Chez Zee, in Austin. I’m never able to visit quite as deeply with my guests as I’d like at these events, but they’re still magical. Best of all, I was able to read from my novel, and that’s absolutely where I’m in my element. Are you nervous? my brother asked before my reading at Bookwoman back in July, and I laughed. I’m never nervous. Never. I’m just as comfortable in Joel’s voice as I am in my own, and I promise that everyone at that party last week would agree with me. What’s cool, said Amie Stone King, my wonderful marketing maven, Is that you say you need a moment to get into Joel’s head and you look down at your book… and when you look up you’re someone else.

Want to see what I’ve been lost in for years now? Take a look.

And please, tell me what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear to hear from you.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Heartbreak

It’s heartbreaking to write a novel.

I’ve spent years lost in Joel’s voice, and in some ways I don’t want to let him go. But The Crossing is finally finished, and now it’s time to share my work with the world.

Thank you, Big Star Creative!

Thank you, Big Star Creative!

If you’re ready to hear Joel’s story, you can purchase a copy through Amazon.

For now, only a paperback version is available. But Virginia Hassell of Big Star Creative is working behind the scenes to have my novel available on Kindle within the next week or two.

And if you’re wondering about that book launch party of mine, the one with a dead date I had to meet… I rescheduled. Sometimes life doesn’t line up exactly as you expect. Joel knows that; so does Adam. Instead, my party’s this Friday, November 8th. I’ll be reading and celebrating and toasting Joel, and I’ll make sure to give you highlights.

To Joel. I hope you like his story.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Movement

Someone told me last week that I’m at a pivotal place in my chart, that for some reason I chose to have everything in my life shift at at once. I’m feeling it. I’m all over the emotional map right now, dealing with some craziness in my relationships, finding my way through new revenue streams, diving into a new project with someone who just might be the last person I would ever imagine as a co-collaborator. And I’m moving, too, downsizing to a smaller house closer to the core of the city. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen, but it’s going to be soon and it’s going to be quick.

In the midst of all of this chaos I’m finishing the last revisions of my novel.

Paint stains the denim, so thick and vibrant I almost can't bring myself to wash it.

Paint stains the denim, so thick and vibrant I almost can’t bring myself to wash it.

I’ve been promising you for a while that you’ll have The Crossing in your hands and now there’s no turning back. I have a book launch party planned for October 25th, and if that book of mine doesn’t get to my designer by October 1st I’m not going to have books to sign. So I’ve been flying through read-through after read-through, staying up late, working weekends. I’ve had a provocative tête-à-tête with my designer about the book cover and I’m so excited to show you what we’ve been dreaming up. And I’ve been working on Book Club questions, too, because I know from experience how much you like those. I don’t blame you; I like little more than listening in as you argue over whether or not you can forgive Adam his affair given the damage in his past, or lament that anniversary weekend.

The Crossing is coming.

In the interim you can see me at BookWoman next Sunday, September 29th. I’ll be there with JH Trumble and Russ Gregory, two novelists you should absolutely know if you don’t already. We’re having a panel discussion about what it’s like to write LGBT fiction, and we want your questions, the sexier the better. We’ll be ready to talk about love, loss and passion starting at 3 pm. And we want to see you there.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

That Question Is too Intimate

A friend of mine occasionally asks how my characters are faring. How’s Joel today? she’ll write in an email.

At first her questions took me aback. They felt personal and deeply intimate. But now those questions make me giddy.  Even when I haven’t had much time to write, instead of seeing those questions and feeling guilty because I haven’t had the opportunity to give my characters the attention they deserve, I pause for a moment and think, How IS Joel today?

I just finished my last major read-through of The Crossing.

I take notes as I go, instead of editing as I read. That way I’m able to maintain the novel’s flow in my head; I’m able to tell if sentence follows sentence, paragraph follows paragraph, scene follows scene, seamlessly. When I get to the end I look at my notes, usually a dozen pages of what needs to be changed. But this last time around I had less than one page.

That’s how I know I’m getting close.

From now on I’ll be looking for minor edits, keeping an eye out for stray commas and homophones. I’ll also make sure that the novel’s structure makes sense; in an earlier draft, Joel’s life was measured by James’s semesters. But now I’ve blocked the novel differently, and I want to make sure that works. I added a few moments during my last read-through, too, and I want to make sure they make sense when read against the novel as a whole. After my photography shoot in May, for example, we ended up with some great photos of James (Addison Roush) peeling off his coat to give to Joel (Evan Shaw) on the night of his 25th birthday.  (Look at this photo in dim light, so you can really see what’s going on.) That moment never happened in the original scene. But we ended up with those shots courtesy of Josh Baker and they were so perfect that just yesterday I added it in. I’ll make sure when I read through the novel that the addition wasn’t a mistake.

I don’t think it was.

Then I’ll be ready to work with my designer to get this novel into your hands. We’re already revamping my website in preparation.

Soon you’ll be able to see for yourself how Joel’s doing.

p.s. While you’re waiting, give I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden another look, and in the comments below, tell me what you thought. Did you love it? Did Adam make you crazy? (Oh, you still haven’t read it? Click here to purchase.)

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved