Love At First Write

BookLove

I’m enjoying a new romance. 

I can’t stop thinking about my love. I’m anxious when we’re apart. Our dates give me a high. The relationship feels shiny and new; so far I see no flaws.

You’d probably say I’m in the “honeymoon phase”.  And you’d be right.

My new love is not a man, though, (or even an adorable puppy).

It’s a novel. One that I’ve just started writing. We meet almost every day—at my desk, in the library or coffee shop. Sometimes in bed.

Previously, I’ve been through two long-term book relationships, each ending with publication.  I’ve had a few breakups along the way. And another relationship that ended after the honeymoon stage. Before meeting my new novel, I was separated from another one in-progress, 3/4 through the first draft, a story I believed in and still do.

So what happened? 

I hit a rough patch—the inevitable muddy middle and couldn’t find my way out. And then life intruded, taking away my time. Then bad stuff happened, taking away my words. The bad stuff gave power to my inner critic, The more time passed that I hadn’t worked on this book, the greater my despair. We lost our connection. I began to associate the story with pain and loss, so that every time I opened my laptop, my chest tightened.

I decided to take a break.

I went exploring. Studied my craft. Sought advice. I looked for inspiration. I nourished my soul. My heart opened. Then, when I wasn’t looking, I bumped into an old acquaintance.  The idea, notes, and first chapter had been sitting in a file for 6 years. And it still looked good. I felt a spark.

“Let’s meet for coffee,” I said.

Now I hear the main character’s voice in my head as I’m falling asleep.  I imagine future scenes of our story. I reread every word spoken so far. Sometimes while driving, I get so absorbed in thinking about the plot, I forget where I’m going.

Still, I worry about our future.

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Just like some people are in love with the idea of falling in love, some people are in love with the idea of writing a novel. But for most, it remains just an idea. Writing the damn thing is really hard work. It takes a lot of time, self-discipline, and know-how. So you really need to fall in love with the story, at least in the beginning. And that’s just the writing part. Getting published requires a whole other set of know-how and connections. Even though I’ve been writing fiction for a long time, have studied the craft, won awards, and been published, I still find the process difficult, particularly trying to develop an idea for 300 pages…and doing it well. 

Of course, I am not alone in this struggle. And neither are you, if this is what you hope to accomplish.  Read enough author interviews and you’ll hear a similar lament. Doesn’t matter how many books they have under their belt, either. The spark of the new is exciting. It fuels ambition and optimism. But like any long-term relationship, you will hit a bump somewhere. You run out of things to talk about. You’ll partner’s flaws become magnified. Then one day you sit down at your desk and say, “What was I thinking?”

You fall out of love.

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There’s plenty of advice out there on navigating the midlife crisis of a manuscript (or any part of it, for that matter). As I noticed how similar my behaviors were to someone newly in love, I looked to the advice offered by marriage counselors to see if it might apply to writing through the rough patch.  Here’s what I found:

l.  Remember why you fell in love in the first place. 

    When you are stuck, rewind to the beginning. Write your mission statement for the novel. Think about the magical parts. Outline its future. Imagine the scenes yet unwritten.

2. Know that every relationship goes through rough times, some harder than others.

    Getting writer’s block, feeling stuck, disliking what you’ve written, are parts of the process of building a solid story. Calling it quits is sometimes necessary, but first, you have to ride the wave of uncertainty. Expect it. Make friends with it.  

3. Make time to nurture your relationship. 

    Saying that you’ll finish your book when the kids are in school, when you can quit your day job, or when you finish re-doing the basement, rarely works. You’ll eventfully, find another reason why “now” is not the right time—real or imagined. So strike when the iron is hot, even if that turns out to be 30 minutes a day or two hours on a Sunday. Meeting once a month is not enough to make progress. A year from now you’ll regret not having started.

4. Take a break if necessary.

     After putting in time and effort and you still feel stuck, try starting a new writing project. It’s like having a fling with no consequences. (What fun!) Then return to your book with renewed energy and fresh eyes. See how you feel.

5.  Get help.

The writing life can get lonely.  Working on a novel brings frustration and self-doubt no matter how experienced you are.  Don’t go at it alone. Find a critique partner. Join a writer’s group. Take a class or workshop. Attend a conference. Read guidebooks from those who walked the path.

5.  Don’t give up— at least without a fight.

    Sometimes the first novel is a warm-up, a learning experience. It becomes part of your past. Even great ideas may fizzle in execution. And not all books should be written. If you do decide to break up, at least you know you gave it your best. Then, you have to figure out what to do differently the second or third time around.  Maybe you’re hoping to finally meet the Right One. But how will you know? Writing a novel is as much a process of discovery as it is an act of creation. You will learn things about yourself. You’ll discover truths. You may create something you never thought possible, something more whole, real, and satisfying than earlier attempts.

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The beginning of any relationship is both exciting and scary. Starting a new job, moving to another city, adopting a dog, making a new friend, all carry uncertainty.  In a romantic relationship, this is amplified. Does she like me for me?  Can I trust him? Is she the one? Can I commit? Will he still love me when I’m sixty-four?

Unlike humans relationships, a romance with a novel puts you in control. The book will never abandon you.

And you always have the last word.~  

 

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21 responses

  1. That is the cutest, sweetest post I’ve ever read! I didn’t know you were into writing novels. That’s awesome, though I have no idea what that would entail. It sounds like a very exciting relationship – one that will always be there for you when you return, and one that will be with you when it gets published, read, and loved by so many.

    I once had to read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”, just to find the energy to go to school in 2010. (I was afraid of writing for the longest time until I read that book and did its morning pages. Now I can’t stop writing, LOL.)

    I can’t wait to read your novel one day. 🙂

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    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Writing novels is one way to live other lives and exert control over beginnings and endings. I was always a storyteller and loved reading as a child. Do you like reading novels? My first book is a nonfiction guide to reading/writing instruction for classroom teachers. My second is a young adult novel. You can read about it on my Meet My Book page. A lot of adults seem to enjoy it, as well. I love writing short stories, too, and have published a few. More recently, I’ve been writing personal essays. From reading your many thoughtful responses and your blog, it’s clear you have a lot of interesting life experiences to share. You are also a good writer. Have you thought about taking one aspect of your story and shaping it into a personal essay, or even fiction? Feel free to contact me via my website if you’d like to know more about this process.

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      • Thank you, Evelyn. The only novel I read (if it is considered a novel) is Harry Potter, LOL. I used to dislike reading as a child, so I missed out on all the good books like Moby Dick and Huck Finn, etc. But I’ve recently learned to love reading (lately it’s been research articles and online news), and I’ve gotten spoiled with being able to say that I loved the book more than the movie (I now know what that means). I wouldn’t know how to write a memoir or especially a fictional memoir, and I wouldn’t know the legalities to it. I suppose I could check out your website(s) for some clues. I once joked about writing a memoir called “40 and an Undergrad,” which seemed like a funny and catchy title at the time. There were many middle-aged (and undereducated) people I knew who really wanted me to write that book, but I was joking at the time. I’ll definitely check out your books and “Meet My Book” page. Thank you for saying that I can write. I don’t edit much when I write though; it’s mostly a “stream” of writing process, just to get out what I’m thinking and feeling (sometimes I’m coherent, other times I’m just all babble). I can’t imagine what it is like to develop a character for a fiction book though, and to maintain plots and things. That’s so cool the way writers can do that!

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  2. I fell in love with my characters Adnama (my name backwords) and Alex. They are vampires not in the usual sense. They are lovers which is the focal point of the story. Their relationship with each other.

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  3. I am very glad I had a chance to read this, as well as your background page, Evelyn.
    You are truly busy and in many forms of connecting and writing! Raising three children, this is a big and enjoyable activity.
    I write my blog to keep my mind active, I’m a grandmother (Nana) to 7 grandies. I used to write in journals. I started my blog with NO pictures! For over two years! 😀
    I wrote four children’s books but do believe I may never publish them. They served purposes in my life, as a child advocate, church school teacher and as a 4H aide. Each were printed out and shared.
    My longer murder mystery is what brings me to reading on these subjects, as well as reviewing books off and on.
    Last year, I think I reviewed twelve books. This year, I’m not sure I may just do ten. We shall see! 🌞 Thanks for your​ response about the zoo and giraffes. ~Robin

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  4. Evelyn, this is a wonderful post and the first paragraphs had me hooked – the comparison with a new romance is terrific. I like the idea that you are in control of a novel … but not quite sure how true that is – mine seemed to try and escape, had its own ideas! I love all your suggestions for writing and the first one strikes a chord – remember why you started writing in the first place! Good luck with your latest relationship – you seem on solid ground! 😀

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  5. I feel like you’re talking about my newest work which is not actually new but a rekindled romance. We met long ago. Had a bit of a falling out and went our separate ways. We met halfway for coffee. Worked things out and realized the spark was still there.

    So here we are. Discovering one another as if it were all new and you know what….it is.

    Excellent piece. Thank you!!!

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