I originally wrote this for publicist Stacey Miller to post on her blog (www.bookpr.com), but she has given me permission to post it here. It’s about my writing process. Enjoy!
Art is hard to consistently write for this romance and action/adventure novelist!
Writing can be frustrating. Some days, the words come to me like drops of water in a parched desert; other times, they are the desert. They shift and pile randomly, frustrating my attempts to make them into something cohesive. Just like the desert, they will briefly rise up, caught on the wind, only to settle down again, flat and uninteresting. My feet sink into that sand and get caught, and no attempt to pluck them out and put them right makes a difference.
There are days when the characters saunter into my consciousness, tapping on the inside of my skull with a new revelation — a new plot point that I would never have considered. The character smugly looks at me as if to say, “But, of course, this is what happens next. It is what must happen next!”
Then there are those times when no amount of fussing over the story gives me a satisfactory conclusion to a chapter. My plot obstinately refuses to work, and that is that.
To me, writing is very much a progression of fits and starts. Those days when I have that moment of clarity, when a plot point I’ve been gnawing on like a bone suddenly just falls into place, are glorious. The days prior to that eureka moment, when the Gordian knot will not be sliced, are some of the most frustrating in the world. I’ll write it out, knowing it doesn’t work, and then it will begin to play in my head until it becomes clear. The way I write is such that, if I have an idea (even if it doesn’t seem to fit the story), it has to go down on paper, or I can’t move onto the next.
That’s the beauty of the creative process. My story, Beginning Time, started as a dream and, years later, became much more. From a fully-remembered dream about a subway disaster, grey mist, and being plucked out of danger by the man of your dreams (literally), it became an apocalyptic time travel story that I hope will be the first in a series.
It didn’t start out as a time travel story, but that’s where it is. I had to roll with the plot and, when the characters spoke, I had to listen. I’ve found that it’s no good to argue with them; doing so only slows down the story. Originally I had some odd elements of large sorting containers, zombie like survivors, and our heroine having powers over the sorting. It didn’t work. I knew it didn’t work, and I put the story down until it shook me slightly and told me so.
When a plot slows down, when a character doesn t seem to work, when an element stands out as wrong, it behooves me to listen. That means there’s something organically wrong with what I’m trying to create.
On the other hand, sometimes, I just have to slog through. I write every day. On those days when inspiration is scant, I write, anyway. It may be no good, but there may be nuggets in there that either can be used later or (more likely) aren’t nearly as bad as I have imagined them to be. Sometimes, the demons of “you suck” surface and tell me that I am the worst writer EVER, and that I should just give up and never lose my day job. Listening to those demons has stopped me in the past, but I ignore them now. All I can do is write, and be the best at my craft that I can be.
So I say to you: art is hard, but write, anyway. Write when the story seems flaccid and uninspired. Write when the story fights you. Write until the plot and characters wake up and come to life. It will happen. It happens to me every time. It happened with Sense of Adventure, one of my contemporary romances that won a contest in 2007 and then got summarily rejected by the romance publishing houses. I was indignant. Couldn’t the foolish publishers see the greatness of my work? Then I sighed, and put it (and all my other stories) away, sure of my abject failure as a writer. Years later, when I revisited it, I had to admit that there were story elements that needed tightening and a strange traditional mindset in a story that needed to be set free. Sometimes, you have to be ruthless in the final draft, losing cherished scenes and other elements that you toiled over. In this story, it was an entire chapter set in South Orange, New Jersey that was excised, although I am happy to admit I learned a great deal about the city in the process.
Just write every day. Each day is an accumulation of words, and soon those words become chapters, and finally, books. You will be amazed at what happens when you discipline yourself to a small commitment of time. Of course, that small commitment quickly takes over your idle time; drive time (I drive on a California freeway five days a week to commute to my day job) is a particular favorite of mine to work through niggling ideas. Just write. What you can accomplish when you do will astound you. It did me. I set small, modest daily goals and, within six months, I had revised one book, finished a novella, and was almost done with a full length paranormal.
Just write. You will be amazed at the results.