Sunday, April 27, 2014

How Many Writers Does it Take to Write a Book?

I Love Bravo TV.  LOVE.  It is on in my house probably three-four nights a week.  From “Top Chef” to “Millionaire Matchmaker” to “Inside the Actors Studio” to “Tabatha Takes Over,” I’m not kidding when I say I’m a Bravo Junkie.

But of course, what keeps me coming back like an addict in need of a fix (or an intervention) are the Real Housewives.  I watch every city – even the cities I abhor – because I can’t stand not to bear witness to the train wreck that is the hallmark of the Housewives.

“The Real Housewives of New York City,” has always had a special place in my heart and after an interminable hiatus, the Girls of Gotham finally returned for Season Six in March.

Of course, right out of the gate, there was drama, this time revolving around…writing.  Yes, writing. 

It’s almost become a rite of passage; if you become a Real Housewife, you release a book.  A handful have been genuine bestsellers while the majority of them have drifted off into the ether.

The lone exception to leveraging Housewives fame into a book deal is NYC Housewife, Carole Radziwill (she joined the show in 2011), whose 2005 memoir, “What Remains,” details how she coped with the deaths of her husband, his cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and his wife within weeks of each other.  The book became a “New York Times” bestseller and earned her an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”  A trained journalist, Carole was an Emmy-winning producer for ABC News for many years (news producers do a lot more writing than people probably realize). She also writes for such publications as “Town and Country” and “Glamour,” and just published her first novel, “The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating.”

Why am I giving you Carole’s resume?  I’ll get to that in a second.

Long story short, Carole’s castmate, Aviva Drescher, got a contract to write a memoir (the recently released, "Leggy Blonde") and apparently reached out to Carole for some writing/editing/publishing advice.  Carole later asked Aviva if she used a ghostwriter (typically, celebrities/public figures with little to no writing experience, are either assigned a ghostwriter by their publisher or, as is more often the case, will employ one on their own.  According to Carol, Aviva asked her to vet a few.).  Aviva’s response was she wrote her book herself, calling the process “fun,” saying, "I just wrote … It was kind of like e-mailing … It wasn't that big of a deal."

Aviva Drescher compares writing a book to writing a long email
 
Apparently Aviva was miffed Carole would ask her if she used a ghostwriter and let it be known that “word on the street” was that Carole used a ghostwriter for her memoir (I have to admit, I kind of loved Carole’s response: "There's no word. There's no street. It's dialogue from a cop show she saw.”). Carole vehemently denies this assertion and Aviva further twists the knife by stating, “It takes a village to write a book… nobody writes their own book.”  Carole was incensed that Aviva was dismissive of her background as a journalist and overall credibility as a writer, along with comparing crafting a book to writing a long email.

I write every word of my books, so needless to say, Aviva’s assertion that nobody writes their own book made me wince more than a little. 

But I digress. 

The art—and sometimes science—of writing will forever be a glamorous enigma, something that will perpetually be seen as being “not that hard.”

Carole Radziwill said ain't nobody got time for that.
 
Until you have to do it. 

Yes, writing comes easily to me—always has—but it’s not always easy.  It’s also definitely not “not a big deal.”  There are days when the words unspool from my brain like errant threads from a sweater and I can’t type them fast enough.  There are other days when it’s like a five car pileup on the expressway.  There are days when I can look at what I wrote the day before and wonder what crack I was smoking.  There are times when I think my plot sucks, my characters are idiots and I couldn’t pace a turtle, much less a book.  I’ve structured everything wrong, put in too much information, haven’t put in enough. 

There are days when I just want to sit on the couch, watch Bravo all day long and imagine the book is writing itself while I’m availing myself of wine, popcorn and Housewives drama.

While it’s true that it does take a team to produce a book (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, cover artists and in some cases, co-writers, ghostwriters and collaborators), the act of writing itself is a tough, lonely endeavor.  You spend day after day, hour after hour shackled to your computer, first bleeding on the page, and then sopping up the carnage during the revision process.  You go through self-doubt, frenzied inspiration, moments of quiet contemplation as you try and structure the story in your head before you attempt to put it on paper.  This goes for books, articles, screenplays—even songs.  Meanwhile, the laundry piles up like mounds of dirt at a cemetery, the refrigerator only has a lone bottle of wine to keep it company and your razor grows rusty from misuse while a forest sprouts on your legs.

Well, that’s what it’s like around my house anyway.

As of this blog, #Bookgate (as Bravo affectionately calls it), rages on between Carole and Aviva with no apparent end in sight.  I, of course, will keep watching the drama...in between writing.