Tess Gerritsen came to speak at Kennebooks last week. If you aren’t familiar with her work, you are missing out. She is a local author, from Cape Elizabeth. She currently writes predominantly murder mysteries, often with a medical theme (hey, she is a doctor, after all!). She started out her career by writing romances…she certainly has range. 🙂
Rather than reading from her newest novel Ice Cold, she decided to talk about how she writes, as well as answer audience questions.
She hears about a story, either from present news or from history, and if she is still thinking of it a couple of weeks later, then “I know what my next book is about!”. One idea that fascinated her and later became a book was this: What must it be like to wake up in a body bag? After hearing about an instance of this actually happening, Ms. Gerritsen did some research and discovered a facility in which this was a common occurrence…and a book was born.
Ms. Gerritsen also had advice for other writers on getting their first book published.
- First: write your book (or in my case, finish writing it)! She writes her first draft longhand, the second draft is typed…then she will do 4-5 (or even up to 8) drafts total before it’s ready for submission.
- Make sure your book is the best that it can be and is in perfect condition before you submit the manuscript.
- Get a literary agent. She believes it is very important in today’s market to have a literary agent to represent you and to sell your book.
One thing she mentioned is that she doesn’t let anyone read her manuscript before sending it to her publisher (including her husband!). Other writers, for example, Stephen King, say that they count on their spouses to be their first readers and sometimes will incorporate their suggestions into their writing.
She also talked about how she develops her characters, and how she often doesn’t know how the book is going to turn out, so she doesn’t ever edit her first draft. Writing it longhand helps her to resist this urge to edit (legal pads are not conducive to cutting and pasting!). In one book that she wrote, the main character was a man until midway through the book, when she realized that it wasn’t working and changed him into a woman, which solved all of the problems she had been having with it.
Bottom line: finish writing your book!!!