Okay, I made a “blog promise” to myself yesterday. I promised to start using the blog for all the things I meant to use my blog for in the first place…rambling about my daily opinions, thoughts, rants, etc. (The key word in that last sentence, if you didn’t catch it, was “daily.”)
My agent (who is also soon to be a published author…yeah, D!) started a blog, one of my best friends started a blog….everyone has a blog. I don’t read many of them, just the few that catch my eye, impart great “free” information, or are just too humorous to pass up. (Check out the sidebar list of the blogs I read.) I want mine to be like them. Just little, even 1 paragraph, notes to myself, my friends, my future readers, and anyone else who’s curious about me.
With that in mind, just an update on what’s going on in Writerland….I finished book #5 this week! Yay me! This one was a struggle, not because I didn’t like the book, because I do, and truthfully, I’m thinking this might be THE ONE. It’s timely, it’s fun, it different. I think it has a good chance.
But, anyway, I realized the other day that this book, which I’d thought was a horrible struggle, wasn’t really any more of a struggle than all the others have been…in EXACTLY the same spot in the manuscript (ms). At about page 300 (out of 400), every single time, I suddenly bog down. Find myself writing scenes that don’t make sense, don’t mean anything, or just plain suck. Then I get all pissy, because it’s not working, and I’m not getting anywhere.
Maybe this manuscript (which, by the way, has a “secret” title that my agent made me swear I wouldn’t tell anyone…more on that another time) was more difficult because of all the changes in my life at the time I hit that 3/4 mark…job loss, new job, sucky new job, etc. Maybe not. Maybe it’s been the same with all the books and it just seems more so this time because of all the other crap.
So, I hit the 3/4 mark in the book and it all comes to a dead stop. WHY? I was thinking about this in the car the other day (where I do my best thinking) and I realized that at that stage, when I get stuck, and nothing is working, and I can’t write the damn thing…that is the point that my mind is struggling to wrap around WHAT THE BOOK IS REALLY ABOUT. Because, I realized, my books are never about what I thought they were about when I started them! Is that weird? Am I the only one? I doubt it.
While writing my last ms, THE KISS TEST, for instance, I hit that 3/4 mark and suddenly found out that something happened to my heroine in her past that she had never mentioned to anyone before, including ME. You’d think I’d get special treatment being the creator and all, but no. She didn’t tell me until I had sat on that part of the book for weeks, tearing out my hair because it hadn’t gone anywhere and I was effectively stuck, and then I decided I should be Margo’s shrink and ask her what the hell was wrong with her. I envisioned her sitting on a couch and me asking questions….”Why do you hate your mother?” [insert evasive answer here]“But why do you REALLY hate your mother?” [insert MORE evasive answer here] “If you don’t tell me the truth, I’m going to throw your book in the shredder! Why do you hate your mother so much?!” [ insert OMG-why-haven’t-you-told-me-this-before?!?! answer here]
I got unstuck that day.
All it took was for me to stop struggling and to listen more to my characters. But, I repeated the same thing with this latest book. I’ll call it “VE” (since it has a super secret awesome title my agent won’t let me tell anyone yet ). With “VE,” I had two main POV characters…the heroine and another “heroine” of sorts, who will (hopefully) be a continuing character in a trilogy. The continuing character (CC for short) had to have her OWN character arc separate from the heroine. The heroine’s arc was easy. I knew where she was going and what she learned and how she grew. But the CC (continuing character) had to have her own arc, her own growth and change, but I didn’t know what it was (or thought I did at first, but then that didn’t work) and that’s where I was hung up. So finally, I shut up and just let her talk. (The fake shrink thing wouldn’t have worked on her, because, frankly, she would never admit to having any flaws, let alone ones that required therapy.)
Anyway, letting her talk worked fine, because she LOVES to hear herself talk. Once she talked, I had the epiphany, and the book was finished in a week.
So, what have I learned from this?
- My characters know a hell of a lot more than they tell me in the beginning. This is probably a good thing, because then I can be surprised, which means maybe the reader will be surprised, too, some day.
- I need to remember that at 3/4 of the way through the book, if I seem stuck, I need to step back, LISTEN more, struggle less, and if it takes a week to get back on board, that’s okay.
- Maybe if I remember that this is normal and natural (at least for me), then I won’t panic so much and worry that the book is un-finishable. If I know what I’m looking for, then maybe I’ll find it faster next time.
So, anyway. I’m done with the book I was struggling on. The final edits should be done by the end of the week and it will be off to the more than capable hands of my agent.
Wish me luck!