Earlier this year I took a writing hiatus to focus on helping my four year old daughter through a rather tough phase. (Deep thanks to all those who reached out to me with support and kindness!) She is now doing much, much better and sometime in September I started writing again. And I rediscovered a truth I’d been pretending I’d forgotten…
Writing is murder.
Yes, folks, it is. Not murder of your characters (which can happen), or murder of other people (though it can be a close thing if they bother you at the wrong moment), but murder of, well, yourself. Don’t get me wrong: I love writing. I love the stories in my head, and I love sharing them with other people, but the process could very well kill me.
There’s the actual process of writing. Contrary to popular opinion, muses do not like to frequent the homes of artists. I have a sneaking suspicion they hang about playgrounds, inspiring young children and smiling maliciously with the knowledge that said children will grow up with artistic aspirations and, unable to find their muses, wonder why creative work is so hard. We were tricked into thinking it was easy. (And maybe we should start revisiting our old playgrounds.)
That initial draft is tough (at least for me) because you’re finding your way, you’re not sure where exactly the story is going–or maybe you know where it’s going, but the mechanics of getting there are fuzzy. Then you set to work on the next draft (typically with some feedback), and now that you know almost all the answers, you have to fix all the bits and pieces that no longer make sense, better develop certain plot lines, get rid of irrelevant characters, basically Change Everything. But you’re no longer that excited about the story because there’s not so much mystery left. Then, if you’re me, you do another revision. That’s when you get feedback on the finer points of the plot, scenes, language, whatever. Everything. At this point, you just want the story to be done, but it’s Not Good Enough, so you keep on sitting there, night after night, in front of your computer, and bleed. (As a greater author than I once said, more or less.)
That’s the mechanical process of writing. There’s also an emotional process. You get vested in your characters, of course. And some of that story that comes pouring out of you (or that you wrench out of your chest because, dang it, you are going to finish that chapter), has to do with you. Somehow. For example, I get two kinds of writer’s block. Three, actually…
1 – The “I Have No Idea” Writer’s Block: This has to do with having no idea how to get from Point A to Point B, taking into account the characters, context, timeline and world. Yes, we creative types are great at making things up, but they have to make sense. That last part is Very Tricky. I have struggled with this a lot in the last two months. Writing about what to write helps, but not always very well.
2 – The “I’m Bored Out Of My Head” Writer’s Block: This is typically when you’re writing connector scenes between awesome action sequences that did feel muse-inspired, and writing the connectors is just… blah. The trouble is, if it’s blah to you, it’s going to feel blah to the reader. So you sit there until you’re cross-eyed, trying to find a way to get excited about what you’re writing. And you write A Lot of Totally Mediocre Stuff until you find the right scene. And, yes, all that mediocre stuff? Painful but necessary writing.
3 – The “This Hits Too Close To Home” Writer’s Block: This is when the story, the reality the characters are facing, is so deep and true to you that you can’t face the screen in front of you. It’s agonizing. It’s heart-breaking. It just plain scary because, when you look at your characters, you just might see a mirror reflecting back a part of you that you’re not sure you’re ready to see. That, dear reader, is the worst kind of Writer’s Block I have ever experienced. But you still have to sit down and write.
It’s now December. In my happy world, I had planned to hash out a full revision of Memories of Ash by Nov. 30th. That would have given me two months to forge through pages of revision notes and three or four major plot changes. It sounded doable. I just forgot about the part where… well, I forgot that writing makes you bleed, one way or the other.
And so, I am writing again. The going is slow. I am so very sorry that I don’t have a release date yet, but rest assured, every night I sit down before my computer and bleed. One of these days, I’ll have both a date and a book for you. And when I do, you’ll know I didn’t take any short cuts, though the going was tough, and that’s because I wanted it to be the best book I could make for you. And because, yes, I love my characters that much too.
And now, I’m off to revise some more!
Photo credit fine print: