Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gone With the Wind

Most people would agree that Gone With the Wind is probably the greatest novel with the most copies ever sold and is still selling today. The same goes for the movie. It's become a classic. I was almost heartbroken when I was twelve and discovered that Margaret Mitchell wrote no other books. It took her ten years to write that one book.
(The brick house to the left was a family home that was divided into apartments. Margaret lived on the bottom floor with her husband on the right side. I was shocked by the tiny amount of space they had.)

Can you imagine spending that much time on one book? My first book took me several years, but when I decided to get serious about it, the project really took me two years. Now I finish at least one book per year, although I've finished a book in as little as six months. The problem is, none of these books are really finished. I keep going back and revising them. Why? Because I want them published. I believe each one is publishable, even if I have to rewrite them again.

I discovered some things when I went to Atlanta and visited the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. She wrote the ending first. None of her chapters were written in order. How does one write like this? I've never written a book out of sequence order, yet I hear that other authors do this all the time.

(The portrait of Scarlett O'Hara was used in the Gone With the Wind Movie.)

People criticized Gone With the Wind. They complained it was too long. The editors didn't like the name of her heroine, so Katie Scarlett O'Hara was a revised name. Margaret Mitchell didn't turn in one complete and tidy manuscript to her editor. She dumped it on him with various chapters in different manila envelopes in no particular order. He had to buy another suitcase so he could get the manuscript home.

She was a closet writer--she didn't want people to know she was writing a book. I've lost count of the number of times an editor has requested my work and my husband got excited and told everyone. Then the rejection would come and I'd be so embarrassed. Now I don't care if they understand or not. I know it's a blessing just to have the request, especially after they've already reviewed my partial. Something in my writing had to be good enough to pique their interest.

Rhodes Hall Castle was built by the man that started Rhodes furniture. He loved the European castles and wanted his home to have that kind of look. During Margret Mitchell's time, the house became the holding for the city's archives and records, so Margaret spent some time at this house researching history for her novel. It's down the street from her house. We toured this beautiful home and even got to go up into the tower.

What would you prefer--a one time book that would become the best seller of all time, but you would never write any other books? Or to write several books that would do okay on the midlist, but never make the bestseller list? I think about this when I think of Margaret Mitchell's success as an author.


  1. What would I prefer? Can I have it all? AH, that would be too perfect. Life is not perfect. I think I would be happy to write many books and them all be midlist. I think I would be happy to write many books midlist or not and just hear that people enjoy them and were inspired or moved by the elements of faith in them.

    I so wish I'd been on this tour with you and your family! I've got to get down there. It's ridiculous to be a native of Georgia and NOT have toured this house - especially being a writer!

  2. I think I'd rather write lots of books also. I, like Jenn, can't imagine writing out of order. I've never done that. I don't know if my brain works that way or not.

    My boss turned 60 last year and his wife had his party at Rhodes Hall. It was beautiful. I didn't get to look around as much as I would have liked to, but it was very elegant. The porch was great.

    Also, like Christy, I've never been to the Margaret Mitchell house. Shame!!! And I live here, too. Christy, maybe we should hook up and grab Missy girl and head out for a tour one day.

  3. Lindi,
    let's plan on that! I think I could draw some inspiration from that trip. Jenn can just come on back down while she's at it.

    I've never tried writing out of order either. Although I think of scenes that aren't in order.

  4. Yes, Jenn, come on back down. You can be our guide-you Charlotten!! (We can't let that word get out, okay Christy!)
    And yes, I think of scenes, but don't write them. Hmmmm...It work for Margaret, didn't it?

  5. Not sure which I would prefer, except to be consistent with my writing and tenacious like Margaret (except for that 10-year thing), in that I would never quite till that novel was done. Then start the process all over again.
    Enjoyed the story. Janice Olson

  6. I can relate to Margaret. I've been working on my first manuscript, off and on, for 4 years. I hope it doesn't take another 6 :-) That said, I have so many stories in my brain, dying to be put on paper that there's no way I could stop with just one. And, hopefully, subsequent stories won't take near as long.

    Another thing, Margaret probably didn't have the luxury of fellowship with other authors like we do. Not to mention the benefit of organizations like ACFW and RWA. I'm so thankful I live in THIS generation.

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  8. Welcome, Janice!

    You question is such a tough one, Jenn! But I'd have to opt for many books and a long career. I enjoy it too much not to keep going with new books.

    Great photos! I was so jealous when Lindi got to go to a party at the Rhodes house! :)


  9. Wow...which option would I choose? Must I choose? God has told us through His word that nothing is impossible for Him. So I'm going to walk in faith and say I want both.

    As far as the order of writing. I tried writing in order, and struggled mightily. Finally, about chapter 9 or 10, I gave up and wrote the scenes which were freshest in my mind. Basically, I wrote the end first and found that it was easier for me to write "backwards" to fit my other scenes together so that they led to the end.

    It's a big standing joke in my family that because I was born backwards (breech), I do almost everything backwards-- or different from everyone else. But, as long as I reach the end (or the beginning so to speak), I don't let it bother me.

  10. Welcome Janice and Diane!!

    Diane--how funny about the backwards thing. But you know, now that you say that, I read magazines backwards...I always start at the back and work to the front.
    But not with writing....But if I get stuck, let me make that, when I get stuck the next time, I might try just writing scenes I know are going to happen and go from there.

  11. I'm not a writer, so I really can't answer that question. I just wanted to comment because I enjoyed reading what you wrote about Margaret Mitchell and GWTW. I live on the south side of Atlanta in what's considered by some to be GWTW country, although I think it's just a tourist draw. I've never read the book, but absolutely loved the movie. You brought back lots of childhood memories!