May 17th, 2012

That time of year again

I never re-read my books unless I absolutely have to. I would find awkward sentences that would make my skin crawl but that I would not have the power to do anything about. This way lies madness. And perhaps more importantly, I have a new book to write. I always try to stay in that book rather than getting distracted.

However, right now I am very, very tempted to re-read The Boys Next Door and its sequel, Endless Summer (both are in one volume called Endless Summer), because the action starts a few days before Memorial Day, a.k.a. next week, and lasts until the Fourth of July. In those books, I tried to re-create a really fun time from my teenage-hood. Nothing in the world is as exciting as getting out of school and hanging around with adorable boys on a lake when you are almost sixteen.

Well...maybe this is as exciting. I love these books because they reflect the beautiful lake where I really grew up, and because the main character is more like me than any other character I've ever written (possibly I am the only one who finds her endearing), and because I got the nicest editorial comment on The Boys Next Door that I have ever gotten on a book. This was so important to me because the book got off to a rocky start. My editor then, Michelle Nagler, who heartbreakingly left Simon & Schuster right after this to become the editorial director of Bloomsbury Children's (so let's not feel too bad for her), did not like any of my ideas for follow-ups to Major Crush. We went around and around about it, and finally she told me to take the love triangle from one book idea and put it in the setting for another book idea, the lake where I grew up. I was a little miffed by this time, so I just wrote the book the way I wanted. I put in jokes that made me laugh out loud in Starbucks, but I figured nobody else would think they were funny. And Lori...I felt about Lori like Jane Austen felt about Emma: "I am going to take a character whom no one but myself will much like." In the end, I had a book that made me smile when I thought about it, and I figured that might have to be enough.

So imagine how thrilled I was when I saw the first line of Michelle's revision letter: "I am so in love with the BOYS NEXT DOOR--both of them." And then--

Okay, pause to giggle. As I am looking through my files for this stuff, I see that it has been so long ago that the rubber bands around my manuscripts have rotted, and...I have a copy of The Boys Next Door saved on floppy disk! Isn't that adorkable?

--and then, at the bottom of what is now page 196, she wrote the nicest thing an editor has ever said to me.

I have thought for a long time about cutting out this comment and framing it. Maybe now I will.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner blogged recently in 7 Bad Habits of Successful Authors, "It’s a well-known fact that all writers think they can’t write. One book in, six books in, 47 books in... every writer is convinced, over and over again, that it was a fluke, they’re not a writer, they’ve lost it, they can’t possibly do this again." Guilty. In fact, I'm having quite a time keeping my footing and my cool as I write the current book, which is also set at this same time of year. So it's doubly tempting to put it aside and re-read a book I really wrote for myself. I may have doubts about my writing most of the time, but at least in this one case, in my tale of young love in my old hometown, I feel like I got it right.