Saturday, May 9, 2015

Molly Campbell Keeps the Ends Loose... before she ties them down

HALLIE EPHRON:  I always say my writing process is pure chaos, and I've surrendered to the mess. Reading Molly Campbell blog today about writing her new book Keep the Ends Loose, I realize she and I are writers cut from the same (chaotic) cloth. Like her I get my best ideas in places like spinning class, where I can't possibly write them down.

Sorry, Molly. But boy do I sympathize. Here's Molly talking about her writing "process," and you'll see why I put the words in quotes.

MOLLY CAMPBELL: I wrote a novel. Titled Keep the Ends Loose, it was released  Tuesday, February 24. Dry facts. Hardly interesting. But I am going to let you in on the backstory:
Sit down at computer. Come up with a few characters. Write about them. No. This is awful. Wait a few weeks. 

Sit down again. Come up with some other characters. One is a fifteen-year-old girl. She starts talking about her family. Hey, this sounds promising! Type about two thousand words. Wow. Stuck. All books need plots, right? Wait a few weeks.

Think about Mandy Heath, this fifteen-year-old narrator, all the time: while you are at the grocery store, and as you fill your prescriptions at the drugstore. WAIT—her dad should be a pharmacist! Yes! And her mother should be kind of a busybody! YES!

Rush home and write a few thousand more words. Whoops. Stuck. Go back. This kid needs an annoying brother and some kind of problem to solve. Erase two thousand words. Write a hundred. Wait a week.
As you are in spinning class, it hits you: Mandy Heath’s family needs to almost fall apart. You think about soap operas and melodramas. Sex. Violence. Chaos. Well, maybe not the violence. You take a shower, go home, and type in another few thousand words.

This thing is taking shape! It should be a breeze to finish! Yup. Wait—show don’t tell. Damn. Erase a few thousand words. Wait another few weeks.

Cogitate, cogitate. In the middle of the night, Mandy wakes you up. Of course! You go downstairs, and Mandy dictates another few thousand words. Yawning, you go back to bed at four a.m. Wait another week or so.

The plot is falling into place. You realize that there are probably some gaping holes in this thing. So you hire an editor and send her the manuscript. Wait about two months for her to go through it with a fine-toothed comb.

Good God. The editor sends back five pages of queries. You erase, cut and paste, rethink, and even poor Mandy is getting confused. Sleepless nights. You are obsessed. This damn thing will never be finished!
Cut to a year and a half later. The book is done. The loose ends get tied up. But should they have?

WAIT. This is the title: Keep the Ends Loose!

So you submit it. Wait weeks, maybe months. Get nervous. Then despair.

But the day arrives. The Story Plant will publish your book! Hooray!!!

Wait. Editorial queries. Copyeditor. Proofreader. More rewrites. Cuts. Additions.

Gosh. This isn’t like falling off a log AT ALL. It seems like years! Wait. It was.

But February 24, a book is born!

So you start another one. This should be a breeze—you know how to do this now. Sit down. Type a few hundred words. Wait. Erase. Sigh…
HALLIE: Me: CHEERING! Congratulations! Toast yourself, Molly -- YOU DID IT!

How many of you out there can relate to Molly's creative process?

KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE: Miranda Heath is a quirky fifteen-year-old with cinematic dreams and a safe, predictable family. That is until she decides to pull at the loose end that is the estranged husband her aunt never divorced. What seemed like the best way to allow her aunt to get on with her life sets off a series of events that threaten to turn Mandy’s world upside down. Suddenly, she’s embarking on adventurous road trips, becoming the center of an increasingly unstable household, meeting surprising strangers, and seeing everyone she knows in new ways. Sometimes loose ends just want to stay loose. But what happens if they want to unravel completely?

ABOUT MOLLY CAMPBELL: Molly D. Campbell is the winner of two Erma Bombeck writing awards. A long-time blogger and lover of quirky characters, she wrote her first book, Characters in Search of a Novel, with illustrator Randy Palmer. Molly lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her accordionist husband and five cats.


  1. What an amazing process . . . Congratulations, Molly! I'm definitely adding "Keep the Ends Loose" to my to-be-read pile.

  2. I can totally relate to your process, Molly. I am dealing now with a similar dilemma--there is a misty shape, but no end. I am thinking now that I should just follow the thread my character is leaving for me and forget about the end until we're there.

    Any writer who is compared to Erma Bombeck deserves my immediate attention!!

  3. congratulations, your process gives me hope. Will you be in Cincinnati for a signing?

  4. Thank you! I am signing at Books and Company in Dayton at The Greene next Wednesday, May 13! No Cincinnati signings yet.

  5. Congratulations on your recent launch, Molly! And your story should be a lesson to everyone who has ever said, "I'd like to write a book. I think I'll make it a YA, because those are easier."

    Your process sounds so much like mine. Hallie and I have commiserated on having to write and toss and write and toss and then start in a completely different direction in order to find the story. I'm not complaining about the outcome, but wouldn't it be nice to just simply start at "It was a dark and stormy night" and write straight to "The End?"

  6. Now on my second book. I've learned one thing from my first book. Anything worth getting up in the middle of the night to write down usually comes from an "other" source. When my brain is calm trying to sleep, the answers come through. When I'm walking to the supermarket and admiring all the flowers and trees, the answers come through.

  7. I wasn't surprised to find at the end of your post, Molly, that you had won two Erma Bombeck awards. Your post was so entertaining, and your description of your writing process gives hope and encouragement to many. Erma was a master at making fun of herself and making others feel better, more normal. You have captured that, too.

    Congratulations on the birth of your book, a date which happens to be my birthday, too. May you experience the flow of the Pieces to success with your book. It sounds like a great read!

  8. Welcome Molly--I can see why you won Erma Bombeck awards! Congrats on the book--it's so painful, isn't it? But delightful to have it published.

    Must ask, does your hub play accordian for a living?

  9. Thank all of you for the wonderful comments! It is not getting easier on book two!