How many of us take time out to think now-a-days? With all of the instant gratification for communication available to us, it is so easy to throw a thought, opinion or emotion out without forethought. Do we think of the consequences? I know I don’t.
But stopping to think is exactly what I’ve been up to these past few weeks. I got so close and intrenched in my material that the words felt like a mountain on top of me. I couldn’t make sense of the edits and revisions I was making to my novel. I had other people’s opinions in my head, and a tool belt full of practical information that I believed should make writing easier, that I felt were failing me. Or more to the point, that I was failing them.
I know the basic rules of good writing:
1. Present questions
2. Leave clues
3. Start a chapter with a question, answer it, present a new question
4. Conflict is key
5. Think about the dynamics of each relationship and throw in obstacles
I know my story and my characters. And yet I was making choices that were not in line with all that I know. And I always find it ironic that I can point out the very same mistakes I make in another writer’s work, but can’t identify them in my own. So I had to tell my slightly obsessive ego to take a break.
A good friend of mine, Lisa Manterfield, told me to do this after I completed my first draft, but I didn’t listen. I was in the middle of a hot streak and I didn’t want to lose my momentum. After the second draft and my brilliant idea to change the plot in the first third a bit by amping up the drama during my fourth, I got lost. I understood technically what had to happen, but the imagination required to write it – well, escaped me.
I had too many voices in my head. I read UNDER THE NEVER SKY, by Veronica Rossi and fell in love with Aria and Perry. I read THE WOLF GIFT, by Anne Rice and got lost in her long sentences and her ability to make a person alone in a room interesting. (having a character in a room alone thinking is a big no-no for me, it is EXTREMELY difficult to create drama and maintain a reader’s interest)
My other dear friend Kimberley Griffiths Little author of CIRCLE OF SECRETS and THE HEALING SPELL, read my first three chapters and told me they were “GOOD!”. She was open to my brainstorming with her about my new ideas and she was excited for me and told me the changes would take my book to the next level and I should trust my instincts. My instincts were good.
The thing was, after the initial exuberance, my energy fell flat and I became overwhelmed with the task at hand. The passion for the book was eclipsed by the effort it would take to finish it all. I needed to step back. I needed to take a deep breath and a short hiatus from my work in order to gain the perspective necessary and to rein in my spinning mind. I had to quiet down from the spontaneous writing and editing I was doing.
It’s been two weeks and I miss my main character, Olivia. But I am going to hold off another week before reading my book cover to cover. I’m going to make hand written notes on the printed pages and take a moment to congratulate myself for doing that much. (not likely, but a girl can dream) Then I’m going to attack the book again and hopefully come out the other side with something you’re really going to want to read.
Until then, remember to take time away too for whatever drives you. Perhaps you too will gain new perspective.