You’ve finished one manuscript, and you’re seriously
wondering if you have another one in you. Can you really do that again? That
herculean effort of getting 60, 70, 80 thousand words (or more) on the page,
then proofreading, sending to critique partners, sifting through their
feedback, more edits, more polishing—until you’re ready to set the entire thing
on fire—only to realize it’s perfect and beautiful and yours. Are you sure you
want to do that again?
Well, duh. Of course you do.
But can you? Yes, yes you most certainly can. But how to
transition to that new project?
Yeah, I have no idea.
Once I finished my first completed novel (the number of
unfinished manuscripts in my drawer are too many to count) the transition to my
next idea was quite natural. That idea hit me like a water balloon to the face—there
was just no way to ignore it. And it was this second manuscript that would
manage to catch my agent’s eye. As soon as the final edits were approved we had
a little back-and-forth about my new ideas and settled on two that seemed
promising. It was up to me to figure out which one I’d run with.
I mean, I could do this, right? I’m a professional now.
Right? I was in control of this and whichever story I chose was going to do
what I wanted it to do because I’m running this here operation. Right?
So I happily sat down at my laptop and—cue crickets.
Nothin’. Nada. Zilch.
It’s been an agonizing couple of months as I’ve managed to
pull almost 20,000 words out of “the chosen one.” Every time I think I’ve
broken through and have a handle on this story I hit another wall. To be fair
to myself, this one is as different from my previous work as it can possibly be
and encompasses two very serious social topics. I desperately want to do this
story justice. But the words just won’t come.
So what have I done to overcome it?
I’ve read a lot of books. Done some CP work. I’m caught up
on Salem, Once Upon a Time, and Supernatural. I even know what’s going on with
Wicked Tuna (one of hubby’s favorite shows) and volunteered to help out with a
couple of writing contests. Yesterday I went to see Cinderella with a writer
friend and plan to trick my dear husband into renting Into the Woods later
today (it’s payback for getting me “hooked” on Wicked Tuna, y’all).
And the distractions are working.
I gave my brain a break and that was exactly what it needed.
Even though I haven’t been writing much (my “writing time” has mostly consisted
of Facebook and Twitter surfing, #truth) my brain has delivered up more ideas
than I can shake a stick at. I’m so excited about getting back to writing that
I’m even planning to do something I’ve never attempted before—working on two
manuscripts at once. Maybe. Because, well, you see…there’s this new sparkly
shiny idea that’s talking to me. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Because I have no control over this at all. None. I was so
What I’ve learned through this process is how important it
is to feed the creative side of yourself and to give yourself permission to
walk away for short periods of time so you can come back refreshed and ready to
work. We’re story tellers, and story is all around us. Listen to music, go to
museums, watch movies, catch up on your favorite television shows, and read,
read, read. Let your brain enjoy other people’s stories. It’s okay.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important for writers to
write every single day. We should have daily writing goals and blocks of time
set aside to meet them. Absolutely. But trying to force an idea to the page?
Ha. If you can figure out how to do that, please, pretty please, will you let
Until then, it’s time to put Operation INTO THE WOODS in
P.S. He absolutely HATED it and I’m not allowed to pick the
rainy day movie ever again. Sigh.