Friday, April 10, 2009

Learn as you go

I have mentioned before about the little voice in the back of my head that used to say, "You should write. You should write." I don't recall exactly when the auditory delusions started, I know they've been around for years, but I haven't had them since childhood or anything.

So, finally, I did write. Right before graduate school, wait, let me back up a bit more. When I graduated college... or maybe before I went off to it the first time?... things are blurry in the mists of time--but sometime when I was college aged, I made a note to myself of things I wanted to do with my life.

I don't know where the note went, I absolutely do not recall all the things that were on it, and I can say with certainty, that I'll probably be gray-haired before I learn to play an instrument. That's neither here nor there, because high on the list was "write a book." I'm sure I meant a romance. I've never had much desire to write anything else, except for this chick lit idea that's been knocking around in my head for the past 6 or 7 years. But it really only has a title, no characters or anything.

I digress. I do that a lot.

Anyway, right before graduate school I finally started my first romance book. I disciplined myself (back then I knew how to do that) and I sat at my computer for a set number of hours a day or something and tap-tap-tapped out a novel. I got 100 pages in. Not too shabby!

I also learned something, well, I learned a couple of things, but what stuck with me the most was that I can't talk about my plot or story too much while I'm still writing it. Something about opening my mouth and letting the energy of the story escape that way, prevents me from channeling the energy onto the page where it needs to be.

I was proud of those 100 pages. They're nothing like publishable, but I was proud nonetheless, because it meant that I COULD do it. I CAN create something novel-length if I put my mind to it. That attempt was halted by graduate school. My entire life was halted by grad school. Anyone who has gone knows what I mean by this, and those who haven't? Well, ask someone who has, otherwise this little essay would grow to gargantuan proportions.

My second attempt came a couple of years ago (5 years after getting that MA). I lunched with an old family friend in a foreign city. She's a romance author and I expressed to her my desire to write. She was about 88 years old at the time, and had nothing but kind encouraging words for me. I came back, sat down at the computer, and started writing again.

That book made it to a grand total of 5 pages. I wasn't ready for the work involved in writing. I had some enthusiasm, but not enough to carry me through the moment when I realized I didn't like how whiny my heroine was being. Instead of fixing it, I let it stop me.

Another lesson learned. Wanting it isn't enough. If you're going to accomplish something, you have to actually DO it. Discipline counts.

A year later I lunched with the friend again. She scolded me for not following through, and told me she'd expect to hear from me soon with a progress report. Upon my return, full of energy, I sat down for my third attempt. It was slow going, I didn't really know what I was doing, but at least I was doing something. Then I got called away - I was a month and 16 pages into my new attempt, but my family needed me on the other side of the country for 3 weeks.

I went ... and I found myself carrying around my notebook to doctor's meetings and on shopping trips. Hmmm... it sort of looked and felt like discipline, but I wasn't actually getting anything done.

In week two of the trip, another family friend entered the picture. He had a secret desire to write as well. We discussed it. We talked plot and character and story and arc. He's written three screenplays, and has so many more in his head. We'd always been friendly with one another, but over this, we bonded.

Boosted by his energy, I returned home and got down to business. I bought myself a laptop, and in the next 30 days, I managed to write about 70 pages. (handwritten, it was 50, but when typed into a MS it became over 70) I was determined to finish this time. And I did.

ORION'S KISS, my first book, is about 430 pages long, still unedited and a wonderful story. It took me five to six months to write and this time I wasn't just proud that I could, I was proud of the work itself.

Sticktoitiveness had paid off. I didn't want to lose my momentum. I liked being bitten by the writing bug and wanted more. Knowing that you need space from your project before you edit, I decided to fill that time with writing another book.

Bad idea. Not only did it take me a while to come to learn my new characters, but my old ones kept getting in the way, telling me this and that about their story. Things I should know about them, things that made a difference to them. I jotted down some notes, but I didn't give them my full attention. I was trying to work things out with my new people.

My new people are talking with me now, no longer second class citizens, but it took a while for us to get there. And now, I'm so far removed from ORION'S KISS, I don't know if I'll be able to give it the laser-pointed energy it deserves for a kick-ass editing pass.

Lesson learned. I'm a one book at a time kinda girl, at least until my publishing schedule demands otherwise ;-)

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Ceremony In Death
Currently reading: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide
Currently reading: The Cost of Eternity

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