I’d finished writing the final working draft of a novel in progress. Which meant, other than trying to get it published, marketing, future editing and revising demanded by editors and proof-readers, I’m free to work on something else.
I’d already planned to shift to a series. A murder-mystery series, I’ve published two of those novels through KDP. More are in mind to be done, and people who read the first two are politely wondering when the third is coming out.
Meanwhile, though, I began thinking about my family as I was walking this morning. Oh, yes, I could write a novel about ‘them’.
Well, it’s not really them. The novel begins with Lisa, my little sister, being suspected of murder when her friend’s body is found in her house. Lisa isn’t there, though. It’s a bloody scene, and as the hours pass, Lisa doesn’t answer her texts or cell. She doesn’t post on FB or other social media, and didn’t show up for work. Her boyfriend says that he hasn’t seen her, and her boys, staying with her father, haven’t heard from her nor seen her.
Is Lisa missing and dead, or running and hiding?
Her older sister, Gina, a young and busy grandmother and physical therapist, is concerned about her sister. She’s the one who becomes the amateur private investigator, looking for little sister. Secrets about everyone begin showing up, of course. Every family has secrets. Fractures, tensions, and disappointments grow.
I thought that “Every Family Has Secrets” was a possible working title. There was more to the story and plot thought out, but that’s enough.
It was an entertaining twenty minutes of thinking and walking. Time to go home and get something to eat.
First, some acknowledgements were required. Then decisions, followed by introspection, and finally, action. Yes, it was a typical writing day.
I’d finished writing the first draft of April Showers 1921 and found it a hot mess. Part of that were unreasonable expectations (who, me?) about how the first draft should read, along with unreasonable comparisons to published novels being read. I know that one author comparing their work to another author’s work has never been happened before, but I couldn’t help myself. It probably had to do with a bad moon rising, a hormonal surge, or general malaise.
I’d also begun hearing editors, publishers, critics, and readers in my head. It was a crowded damn place, and they were a damning crowd. Foolish, I know, to consider anyone else while you’re writing the first draft. It’s one of my problems with being human.
Third, I was over-thinking every aspect of everything that I was writing. I know, writers never do that, and yet, I was, for some reason.
Fortunately, I was able to intervene with myself.
I have a habit of hunting for quotes about writing, writers, and the process and curses. I’ll often hunt for interviews with authors to find these quotes. It shouldn’t surprise many that I focus on quotes dealing with whatever issues are vexing me.
This week, I found quotes from Jane Bardam and Anna Burns that helped me get over myself. Jane’s quote, “We never know what we’re writing about, even when the book’s over,” first struck me. Becoming overwhelmed with my concept, I felt like I’d become trapped in blackberry bushes and couldn’t escape. I’d become paralyzed trying to analyze and understand what I was writing about. That was just shutting down my brain.
Likewise, over-thinking what was going on undermined my writing process. I then came across Anna Burns’ comments. She was all about how the characters turning up and telling their stories. That’s exactly what I normally do, when it’s all going well. Anna continued about it being a messy process, and that it’s sometimes told backwards.
Yes, and yes. Those were true for me.
But the last part was what saved me. Anna said, “Eventually, though, the book cleans itself.”
That reverberated through me. I’d gone from trusting my muses, the convenient label I apply to the thinking that comes out of my subconscious spigot, to trying to think my way through everything. In other words, I’d suddenly begun approaching this creative process backwards.
Those interviews and their insights helped me re-balance myself. “Relax,” I said. “Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust the process.” Those calming words pulled me out of my funk and put me back on track.
None of this is like splitting the atom. It’s basic writing process. Of course, your experience will probably vary. For me, it’s always about finding and losing myself, trusting and questioning, struggling, and then succeeding. It’s about being willing to fail, recognizing that failing isn’t permanent, and that there must be a way to go forward; it just must be found. That can be daunting.
Been a good day of writing like crazy. Time to quit and pursue other crazy. Cheers