Women’s Fiction Author Brenda Janowitz Says: Use Editing As Your Path To An Elegant Story

We’re only half way through 2012 and I keep meeting other author publishing in 2013!  Today’s Women’s Fiction Writers author is Brenda Janowitz, who’s my St. Martin’s publishing cousin.  Brenda’s third novel comes out next year and it was fun to talk to her about the changes in publishing, her life, and her writing.  (I’m always in awe of multi-published authors…because of course, I want to be one!)

I hope Brenda will join us again when it’s time to launch Recipe For A Happy Life, but in the meantime she’s sharing great insights and advice.  Please welcome her to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Women’s Fiction Author Brenda Janowitz Says: Use Editing As Your Path To An Elegant Story

Amy: In 2013, Recipe For A Happy Life, will be published. In 2007 and 2008, Scot On The Rocks and Jack With A Twist were published.  Can you take us on a brief journey of your road to publication — the first time around and now?

Brenda: The publishing industry has changed so much since my first novel!  It all started when I was invited to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding.  My real life started to resemble some of my favorite books, and I said to myself: I’ve gotta write this stuff down.  My friends signed me up for a writing class for my birthday, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I had no idea how to get a novel published.  I just figured that if I wrote one, I’d just get an agent and publishers would be knocking down my door.  Ha!  If I knew then what I know now…  But I didn’t, so I wrote the novel in the tiny pockets of spare time that I had when I wasn’t practicing law and then edited until I had the whole book practically memorized.  I sent it out to agents, and there was a lot of rejection.  It was the first time I said to myself: Hey! Publishing a book might not be as easy as I initially thought!  But then, luckily, my amazing agent, Mollie Glick, rescued me from the slush pile.  She was able to sell it to Red Dress Ink in a two book deal and that was it– I was officially a published author!

For my third novel, I was hoping to write my “big” novel.  Something a little different from what I’d done before, something more sophisticated.  It took me years to write RECIPE–I was trying to write a more ambitious book, and it took me longer to really figure out what I was trying to say with it.  Once I (finally!) finished it, Mollie sold it to St. Martin’s in a two book deal.  Everything about this experience is different.  New publishing house, new editor, and I’ve been having a wonderful time.  The book will come out next spring, and I can barely wait!

Amy: Is RECIPE similar to your first two books? And, can you tell us a little bit about RFAHL and where you got your inspiration? 

Brenda: RECIPE isn’t at all like my first two novels!  I’d like to say that it’s a bit more grown up than my first two novels, more sophisticated.  But the readers will be the judge of that!

The book is about three generations of women and the grand dame who rules over them from her Hamptons estate.  I was inspired by so many things!  My grandmothers, my mother, becoming a mom myself– that’s all in there.

Amy: When it comes to the actually writing of the story — are you a plotter, or do you write by the seat of your pants?  Do you have any writing rituals?  

Brenda: I don’t have any rituals.  I just write when I can, for as long as I can.  With two small children, I don’t have the luxury of a schedule.  And I wrote my first novel when I was practicing law full time, so I guess I never did!

As for whether I plot or write by the seat of my pants, I usually do a little of both. For RECIPE, I did a lot of free writing, where I just sort of wrote and wrote and wrote, only editing after I’d written around 100 pages.  But I also did a lot of outlining– figuring out how to make my story flow and fall into a three act, eight sequence structure.

Amy: What was your biggest obstacle, either internal or external, in writing this novel?  

Brenda: Life!  Over the course of writing this novel, I got married, moved out to the burbs, and had two kids.  So, I’ve been a little busy.  But I think that the themes I was working with (life, death, family, who we are and what we really want) also really challenged me and forced me to think through what I was trying to say with this novel in a way I never had before.

Amy: How do you define women’s fiction? Does the label bother you? 

Brenda: I think women’s fiction is all about smart stories that women can relate to.  It’s the stuff I love to read, and the stuff that my friends read, too.  I don’t mind any label that helps readers find great books.  It can be disappointing when people take the label and use it to make negative assumptions about you and your work, but I choose to look at the positive in everything, so I like that readers have a way to find the books they love reading.

Amy: What is your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction? 

Brenda: Keep writing! It’s so easy to get discouraged or feel like you don’t have the time to write. But like anything else that is important in life, you have to work at it and make the time for it.

Edit! Editing your work is almost as important as the writing itself. Sure, you’re telling your story, but it’s also important to consider the way that you tell it. You want your writing to be tight, elegant and polished. It can only get to be that way through careful and thorough editing.

Develop a very thick skin. You’re putting yourself out there when you write and not everyone is going to love what you do. But that’s okay! You’re not writing to please everyone out there. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. So start getting used to criticism and then see tip #1—keep writing!

A native New Yorker, Brenda Janowitz has had a flair for all things dramatic since she played the title role in her third grade production of Really Rosie. When asked by her grandmother if the experience made her want to be an actress when she grew up, Brenda responded, “An actress? No. A writer, maybe.”

Brenda attended Cornell University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Service Studies, with a Concentration in Race and Discrimination. After graduating from Cornell, she attended Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review and won the Law Review Writing Competition. Upon graduation from Hofstra, she went to work for the law firm Kaye Scholer, LLP, where she was an associate in the Intellectual Property group, handling cases in the areas of trademark, anti-trust, internet, and false advertising. Brenda later left Kaye Scholer to pursue a federal clerkship with the Honorable Marilyn Dolan Go, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York.

Brenda is the author of JACK WITH A TWIST and SCOT ON THE ROCKS. Her third novel, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, will be published by St. Martin’s in 2013. Her work has also appeared in Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Post.

You can find Brenda at her website, on Twitter @BrendaJanowitz, and on Facebook.

What Would Your Characters’ Resolutions Be?

No squares have been wasted in the writing of this blog post.

I’m not big on New Years Eve or Day or the whole resolution thing.  Why?  It’s the middle of the school year, the middle of winter and…the calendar in my head begins in September — but that part is another story altogether.

A few years ago I did make a resolution that stuck.  I resolved NOT to wait for anyone else to change the roll of toilet paper and finally to decide: under or over.  And I did it.  And still do.  And the answer is: over.

But since this is a blog about women’s fiction and we write women’s fiction in some form or another, and because I am just itching to dive back into my novel to make changes and find that I miss my characters, I wondered…What Would My Characters’ Resolutions Be?

In THE GLASS WIVES my main character, Evie, is an adjunct college professor of United States history, so in her professional life I think she’d resolve to get a more permanent status by making herself as valuable as possible to her department.  In her personal life I think Evie would resolve to start her own Bunco group since she’d been “replaced” when she couldn’t show up regularly.  Or maybe she’d start a book club or a mah jong group.  Anything that would be fun and get her into a new gaggle of friends. In her romantic life I think Evie would resolve to continue looking forward and not backward.  I think the last would be the most difficult, but probably the most fun!

What would your characters’ resolutions be for the new year? And of course by new year I mean what ever year that would happen to be in your novel or your WIP or in your bank of bright, shiny ideas.  No one knows your characters like you do.  What might happen after THE END?  What would he or she or they resolve to do?

Do tell.

And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!