Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm thankful...

...that I handed the blasted book in January 1!!

My husband recently asked me if enjoy writing. I said it's like exercise--I enjoy having written.

Okay, that's not entirely true. There are moments when a character does something that surprises me or the perfect word or image comes to mind. But, in general, writing is hard work for me. (I indelicately refer to it as having a bad case of verbal constipation.) When I face the blank computer screen to begin a new book, I feel overwhelmed. How will I ever "break the silence" and write that opening line that will capture readers and not let them go? How will I fill a page--how will I fill 400 pages?? (Yes, I know there are writers who get all chirpy when starting a new book--I've actually met one...and I'm very happy to say I didn't haul off and punch her.)

At this point I start to hyperventilate and I have to try to clear my mind of all the negative thoughts whirling around in my head like angry bees. I remind myself that a book isn't written in a day or even several days. (I'm sure someone has written a bestseller in a week, but it wasn't me.) I remind myself that if I keep my eyes firmly on the ground in front of me and not on the ground 20 yards ahead, I won't trip.

Actually, that's something I have to remind myself of often, even when I'm not writing.

Now I'm taking a little time to bask in the feeling of accomplishment (and to write promotional stuff--ick). At the moment, I love my book--and I probably will until I see it again in copy edits or get far enough into a new book to love that one more.


Alexis Morgan said...

I can't face that blank screen to start a new book either. I start off in a spiral notebook, trying different opening lines/scenes until it feels right. Even a handful of sentences is enough to get me started.
Then I can start on the computer, type in the little bit I already know and go on from there.
Somehow using paper and pencil as a starting point is more freeing for me than a blinking cursor.

JoAnn Ross said...

Congrats on finishing the blasted book!

I've always considered myself lucky in that I'm one of those writers who actually enjoys everything about the act of writing. I love watching the screen (or legal pad) fill up with words, I love deleting half of them and changing the rest. I even love spending an hour coming up with the perfect word. (Which I'll probably end up changing again at hardcopy edit time, but it's fun, for a time to at least believe it's the perfect word. lol)

I'm not sure I get chirpy, but count me in as one of those who loves starting a new book. Because, at the beginning, all things are possible, and I haven't yet faced the inevitable realization that no book will ever equal that misty, magical perfection shimmering in my mind. Also, and this may be a habit I picked up from when I'd write 6-8 categories a year, I always begin thinking about and researching my next book about 2/3 into the previous book, so by the time I begin, I've been itching to start for a long time. (Yet to be written books have their own special siren call when I'm in the middle/muddle of a current one.)

When I first jumped from category to single title, if I allowed myself to think about how much book I had to write -- in those days about 150,000 words after years of writing 65,000 word Temptations -- I'd scare myself, but after reading Bird by Bird, which, btw, EVERY writer must read, I've allowed myself to just focus on one scene at a time. Which is not nearly as intimidating.

Anonymous said...

I'm finding it much more daunting to begin my first book post "THE CALL". Before it didn't matter if what I wrote was crazy, unmarketable, off base, etc. Now I have all this chatter in the back of my head and I’m second-guessing myself. *grumble*

JoAnn Ross said...

Kalen, that's so perfectly understandable! Before, when you were unpublished, you were anonymous, so rejections or possible negative editorial comments really couldn't feel so personal. Now, you feel as if you're risking the recognition you worked so hard to achieve. I remember that feeling well, and although it's not nearly as strong, I still feel a twinge every time I have a new editor or a new publishing house. The trick is to remember that you've written a publishable book before; now just ignore those pesky little voices, go forth and do it again. :)

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea, Alexis. I do jot down ideas while I'm planning a book. But--and I hope it's not only me--I can't write longhand any more. I'm so used to typing, my hand rebels when I try to make it form letters and words with a pen or pencil. And then my thoughts get ahead of my hand and I write the word I'm thinking of, not the word I should be writing. Urgh. And another oddity--I now have to see the words typed on the page to get a feel for the story’s pacing. Is that weird?

Thanks, JoAnn, for the congrats--and I do have to say, you sound darn chirpy!!! But I won't hold it against you--I want to be you. Well, not literally, of course, but I want to go bravely into each new story with excitement. And write just one scene at a time.

The book I turned in--The Naked Gentleman, scheduled for May 2008!--is only my fourth book. So I'm more where Kalen is--still adjusting to writing on deadline and most importantly, still figuring out how to effectively filter out all the "chatter"--the reviewers (good and bad), the concerns about sales, the worry about what my fans (few or many) will think, even the reaction of my family and friends--out of my mind and listen to my inner muse.

I was telling my agent I needed to become more Zen--I think she fell off her chair laughing.

gailbarrett said...

Sally - I can certainly relate to this topic. I usually feel the same about writing (or at least starting a book) that I did about long distance running. I wanted to do it and loved having finished -- felt superb afterwards and an enormous sense of accomplishment -- but during the running I had to force myself to keep going and not quit. It was always a huge psychological battle including bribing myself ("I can eat a big piece of carrot cake if I just make it up this hill"). In the case of running, the reluctance came from knowing that I would suffer real physical pain/exertion, plus a healthy dose of laziness. In the case of writing, I love the process but those evil self-doubts always get me("you will never write another book," "everything you write is trite," "you don't have talent," etc.). In the end, I just force myself to begin (JUST DO IT!). Fortunately, I love to revise. Tinkering with words -- once they are on the page -- is fun for me and I can get absorbed in a paragraph for hours. But man, it is still TOUGH to get started. So no, I am not chipper when I'm starting a new book. I am very happy later when I read something that I've written and revised a million times and think, "You know, that's not too bad..."

Anonymous said...

LOL, Gail. I love it when I read over something I've written and think, gee, that's pretty good--did I write that?

One of my 2007 resolutions--banish the self doubts and negative thinking!

Allison Brennan said...

I'm with JoAnn: I love starting a new book. I love writing, editing, deleting, revising, and finishing. I absolutely love reading the page proofs. The only part I only so-so like (but I don't hate it) are the copyedits. It feels like work. None of the other steps feel like work to me.

I'm about to start another book. It'll be my option book. I panicked for about 24 hours because I didn't know how to start the first chapter, but then I figured it out and now I'm eager to write it. I'm almost done with my novella and I'll actually have time to put it aside and edit it in a couple of weeks. Wow, the luxury of finishing a story months before the deadline . . .