How to Know When Your Book is Done

Pen Writing for Marcia's blog.jpg

One of the issues that comes up frequently with my clients and students, especially those who have been working on a particular project for a long time, is “How do I know when it’s done?”

1)    The most telling indication, I believe, is when you realize you are simply moving furniture around and not revising. You are no longer improving your work, but simply changing it. It’s not better, it’s just a different way of expressing what you want to express. When that happens, it’s time to put down the pencil (pen, cursor, etc.) and let it be.

2)    When you find yourself having trouble choosing between one word, one phrase, one sentence, one paragraph or another, it’s time to stop. You’re not improving, just changing things. (See above.)

3)    You spend inordinate amounts of time in indecisive revision. Despite the stories of famous authors spending days on one word, you’re not them. Hemingway is said to have rewritten the ending to A Farewell to Arms forty-seven times. Fine, he’s Hemingway, and he probably drove his editor to near suicide. Don’t be that crazy.

4)    Read your work out loud. How does it sound? If it flows, let it go. If not, fix those spots, but don’t agonize over the whole manuscript.

5)    Let it marinate for a while. Put the book (story, poem) in a drawer for a period of time. Advice varies on this—I would say at least a month, some say a year. Whatever it turns out to be, you will come back to your work with fresh eyes (and a fresh sensibility). Things will jump out needing work, or the whole manuscript will wow you. Either way you will know what to do.

6)    Go for a walk! Get away from the work. Put some space between you and the writing. This is similar to No. 5, but it’s more appropriate while you’re in active revision. I have always found a sojourn into the woods or to the beach opens up new approaches to the writing. Get away.

7)    Recognize when things aren’t working and likely never will. Sometimes the story just isn’t working. LET IT GO! At some point it may morph into something else. But sometimes you have to be brutally honest with yourself and realize some projects just aren’t ever going to work.

8)    There are writers who outline and writers who don’t. If you’re one who doesn’t, and find yourself stuck in a cul de sac, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Consider an outline.

9)    Do you still care? If you have come to the place in your heart where you HATE this project, it’s time to step away. Perhaps not forever, but for now.

If any of these things are true for you, take stock. You may be ready to submit. Or perhaps not.

One final thought: I am assuming you are in a writing group or have been able to take advantage of writing workshops or the expertise of a good editor to get feedback along the way. If not, get yourself into a competent group or hire a good writing coach. You can’t learn how to write in a vacuum; it takes years of practice and mentoring. Take advantage of every opportunity to master writing. Then trust your gut and heart when deciding if your book is done. 

Love in a Later Age

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images

I met my current love when I was 59 and he was 60. We both had had very long previous marriages—25 years for him and 28 years for me. After my divorce, I thought I might never find another to love. It took almost eight years. But find someone I did. And it wasn’t at all in the way I expected.

After my divorce, I waited several years—until my daughter went off to college—to begin dating. My ex had stayed in town until then, which made me feel a little weird about trying to date, as well. I hadn’t been with a man other than my husband in more than 30 years, and it felt, well, strange to consider even kissing someone new. But the really honest truth is I feared no one would want a woman who was nearly 60.

There are so many stories of older men looking only for younger women—women who were still buxom, drop-dead gorgeous, thin, blond and under 40, or whatever the latest cultural view of sexy and desirable is. Other than the thin part, none of those things describe me.

Online dating proved to be a huge disappointment, and often was the subject of hysterical stories my girlfriends and I shared about being on “the hunt.” (In fact, it was what prompted my colleague, Kathleen A. Barry, and I to embark on publishing our anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty.)

Mature women are mostly invisible in our society. At 50, we begin to experience menopause (if we haven’t already), and that entails such fun things as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, not to mention aging stalwarts like unwanted lines on our faces and weight gain. My doctor once told me to expect to gain five pounds for every year over 50. Yikes! Our hair turns gray (unless we color). Even those of us who do yoga begin to lose strength and tone. Our upper arms begin to jiggle. Our thighs start to look like cottage cheese. Oh, God!

Ultimately, I met the man who is in my life today at a concert for a non-profit organization. And it happened only a month before I planned to move to Santa Fe from Santa Barbara, where I had lived for more than 30 years. You can read the entire story here.

But what I want to talk about is my experience with how men view women of a certain age. I never was one to turn heads, but after my divorce, no matter how sexily I dressed or how confident I felt, no one of the opposite sex seemed to notice. Honestly, women over 50 pretty much don’t exist.

After talking with girlfriends who were similarly single, we realized we all were invisible. Online dating seemed to emphasize this, especially match.com, where most men seemed only to be interested in younger women.

I dated two guys before I met Rob. I met one at a high school reunion; the other online. What both told me (and Rob agrees) is that they find women their own age much more compelling. We share similar backgrounds, grew up in the same eras, listened to the same music and watched the same movies, lived through the same world events.

Younger women might have fewer wrinkles and toned thighs, but they don’t have the wisdom that comes with age and experience. Frankly, we women over fifty are just more interesting. Thank goodness for the smart men who know that.

 Despite the conventional wisdom, many women and men over 50 still love sex. Research shows that men and women both remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s. Age-related declines do not necessarily translate into a decline in sexual functioning. In fact, men, who typically peak in sexual performance at age 18, tend to become better lovers, able to slow down and focus on pleasing their partners. Women come into their own sexually in their 30s and 40s and maintain that into their 60s and 70s. In short, we all come to a place of mutual pleasure and appreciation when we get to be 50 and beyond. For some couples, love-making may be less frequent, but it’s far more satisfying. For some, sex is just a hot as ever. Sexuality, after all, exists mostly in the mind.

Here's what I have discovered—there is always time for love, whether you are 25 or 65. Unmasked is a strong testament to that. Here’s to love and intimacy—at any age.

(If you’re in Santa Barbara, come to the LIVE performance of Unmasked at Center Stage Theater, the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are only $23, and you can buy them here.)

 

 

Poem—Ice Water

Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images

I grew up in Michigan, and wrote this poem remembering the cold winters and walking on Lake Michigan icebergs.

Ice Water

Walking on Lake Michigan icebergs

water flowing through fissures beneath our feet

Tenuous footfalls on ice that heaves,

cracks, then holds as your arms flail

My grandmother clucking from the shoreline,

bundled into woolen hat and coat,

her gloved hands fluttering

as my brother and I step onto

the ice, tempting God, or fate

or the universe

falling through, boots filling

with the shock of ice water

snowsuit ballooning, sucking

us down, arms reaching to pull us free

And my grandmother pacing, weaving

consternation on shore, a frustrated hen

Like that first step into another’s space

entering hopeful, knowing the well

will be deep

and perhaps a little murky

A Post Thanksgiving Poem

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Origins

 

My maternal grandmother’s grandfather

was a butcher—he was Fleischman.

 

I am a poet

who knows the dreams

of my mother dwell in my sister

 

My paternal grandfather’s grandfather

was a farmer—he was Meier.

 

I am a poet

whose song is sung in

graphite and ink

 

They left Europe

for a similar place of cold and

want. Where gray covers the earth

for months on end, and frozen air

sears the lungs.

 

I am a poet

whose truth rises on

ice-bound floes

 

I am the voice of my mother

a rock of disbelief, her

hope a crumbling house, my

birth her bitter denial. My chilled

moment of delusion lasts a year,

or a lifetime.

 

I am a poet

my sea-weapons

incantations of change

 

I am like and unlike my grandmother.

She certain of her place and lineage, her

favors and grievances, my grandfather’s

acquiescence validating her at every turn,

every slight, every diminishment. Ice

infusing our lungs, our breath.

 

I am a poet

who dreams of snow

gracing a Michigan hillside

 

My mother, her daughter, adoptive

stranger. She who fled the snow

for the warming coast.

An insult my grandma never forgave.

 

I am a poet

whose voice courses through

the blood of German strangers

 

I am the scribe, recording the reasons we hold

ourselves to impossible expectations.

Retelling the tales—ghost stories

that reside in our bones.

 

I am a poet

whose words infuse mitten state

apples hawked from a rusting truck

Unmasked Reading at Tecolote This Wednesday!

 Marcia and co-editor Kathleen Barry

Marcia and co-editor Kathleen Barry

Come join us Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 5-7 p.m. at Tecolote Books in Montecito! Several of the women who contributed to Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty will be reading, and I hope some of you can come out to enjoy some titillating poetry and essays, as well as refreshments, of course. Kathleen Barry and I will be reading, as will Maya Shaw Gale, Perie Longo, Lori White and perhaps one or two other special guests.

We look forward to seeing you!

Unmasked Launched; Rabbi Mysteries Unveiled; Yuko Ready to Fly

  Unmasked  contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

Unmasked contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

 Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

So much has happened in the month or so since I returned from Greece, both personally and professionally. Kathleen Barry and I launched our new anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, at two events in October: A reading and signing at San Diego Writers, Ink, with four of the contributors to the book, and a reading and signing at Carr Winery in Santa Barbara. We had a wonderful turnout at both, and look forward to another reading at Tecolote Books in Montecito on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. Also in the works are readings in Venice at Beyond Baroque (8 p.m. January 28), and an early February performance at Center Stage Theater of "Unmasked LIVE, Women Read About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty." Stay tuned for more details. 

 Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

A week ago, more than 60 people came out to Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara to celebrate the publication of Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer's second mystery novel, The Rabbi Wore a Fedora, and the reprinting of his first, The Rabbi Wore Moccasins

Next Saturday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m., Tecolote Books will help us bring out Dick Jorgensen's second memoir, Yuko, Friendship Between Nations, about his world tour as he traveled back to the States from Japan in 1957, and his subsequent work with The Asia Foundation in San Francisco, promoting improved ties between the two former World War II enemies. Come join us!

Keep all these Weeping Willow Books in mind as you make your holiday lists for the bookworms in your life!