Evanovich: ‘How I Write’
Janet Evanovich is the best-selling author of the humorous Stephanie Plum mystery-crime-adventure series. Even if you haven’t read the series, you may have seen the books—13 of them now–with their lollipop-coloured covers and numbered titles, e.g., One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, Four to Score, High Five.
Her recent how-to book is titled: How I Write: Secrets of a bestselling author (St Martin’s Griffin, 2006). Co-author is Ina Yalof, a non-fiction writer.
I was attracted to the book because I like her breezy writing style in the Stephanie Plum series. Evanovich’s plots and characters are humorous. She also writes well about sexual attraction–not surprising for someone who started her writing life churning out romances. I enjoyed the first few books in the series but confess that I eventually lost interest–although I can see myself returning to them when I need something to read while on holiday. The books are a fun read, and sometimes, that’s just what we’re after. For me, they are the reading equivalent of popcorn, my number 1 comfort food. That’s not a put-down–popcorn rates quite high on my list!
Chapters cover the usual writing areas: characters, nuts and bolts of writing, structure, revision, getting published, advice and encouragement, and the writing life. Most of the information is provided as answers to questions that her fans sent to her website. Snippets of practical material are included, from how to write a synopsis to learning about point-of-view.
Why I enjoyed the book:
- It’s an entertaining read. Evanovich uses the same breezy style found in her fiction.
- She shows her business-like, practical approach to writing, which seems to have worked for her. She’s not only one of the most well-known writers in the mystery/crime genre but is her own successful company, which employs her husband and two children.
- She addresses the important elements to create a popular novel and a series.
- Unlike many popular writers, she demystifies the writing and publishing process. She also gives what seems to be a realistic account of her own development as a writer. And I like that she comes across as practical and encouraging.
The book is pitched to beginning writers, but experienced writers will find some new ideas or a new slant on some aspect of writing. It helps if you are familiar with the characters in the Plum series because Evanovich draws on her books for her examples. If you are not interested in writing popular novels, this is not the book for you.
Some quotes to give you an idea of her style and substance:
- What can I say about rejection other than “It’s awful”? But if you want to be a writer, you must understand that no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are always fair game for rejection. Get over it.
- I prefer mystery for structural reasons. I like writing in the first person, and it’s more accepted in mystery. I write with a lot of humor, but humor can get tiresome fast, so I prefer a short book, and again, this is more accepted in mystery. I prefer writing action to relationships, because I suck at internal narrative. I also have more freedom of language with mystery. Okay, so I have a trashmouth. I’m from Jersey, what can I say?
- Many writers prefer to do anything other than face that empty page day after day, knowing that they have to be halfway decent. The truth is, we all, at some time or other, fear we’re going to run out of things to say. Don’t get caught spending your writing time talking about writing, thinking about writing, planning your writing studio, shopping for comfortable writing clothes. Just do it. Write the book.