Ask any mother with more than one child if her pregnancies and deliveries were all the same and you will typically hear a resounding no. With my first daughter, I had oddly specific cravings for things like "mall pizza". With my second, I developed a powerful aversion to chicken, a bird I spent nine months believing was sent from the devil. With my third, I ate pretty much exactly as I always had. My first was born two months premature. My second was full term with the help of medication. My third was six weeks early, and at nearly seven pounds, was the biggest baby in the NICU. That's just how it goes. Every baby creates its own birth story.
Book babies are no different in my experience. Every book demands its own process. And it makes me kind of insane.
Because here's what happens: I come fresh off the last book, take a small creative writing break that can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of months, depending on what other irons I have in the fire, and then I sit down to start drafting, expecting everything to show up and flow through me exactly as it did before. But it doesn't.
I will spend the next few weeks just trying to orient myself to how this book is choosing to show up, how my writing flow is responding, and what I need to carry me through the disparities. Like, it will take me a solid week or two to remember, "Oh yeah. That's right. It's always a little—or a lot—different than the time before." And then I spend another week or two simply begrudging that fact. And then the following week or two actively trying to adjust. And then sometime after that, I am finally on board with the book I'm writing instead of stuck in the book I already completed.
For example, I am currently drafting a proposal for my publisher that includes a pitch, a synopsis, and a number of sample chapters. Which means I have to go ahead and begin drafting this story, at least through the first act—maybe more, just like it's full steam ahead. Only, my last novel felt smooth at the opening, those first several chapters flowing out of me with abandon. I knew exactly how that story was starting and where my character was going. That first act was mapped out in my brain organically. It was somewhere in the second act that things got sticky.
But this novel has been a pain in my ass practically from the word go. And I have no idea why. The pitch was there, the synopsis mostly easy, the characters fleshed out in my mind. The first chapter turned out to be a delightful breeze. But by the second, something didn't feel right. And it has been an agonizing few weeks just trying to inch my way through the first act of this novel, which I am not done with. My prayer is that this means the second and third acts will fly from my fingertips with all the speed and grace of a lubed-up falcon. That remains to be seen.
Adapting to this unexpected challenge has required a change in my routine. I have to take more frequent breaks, content with writing less at a time. I have to brainstorm more frequently, which means stopping the flow of writing to sit and ramble over various possibilities instead of automatically knowing what comes next. I've had to leave my laptop altogether at times and take a drive or go for a walk in order to shift the energy and get things moving again. And I've had to consider writing in other places—my dining table instead of my coffee table, a coffee shop, a friend's house—wherever I can invoke a change of scenery in order to inject novelty into my process and generate more ideas.
And all of that change is incredibly annoying to me. Because as a writer I am a creature of habit. And when that habit gets interrupted, I pout like a sulky, petulant cat. I get up and meander into my living room. Have my coffee or tea or whatever my current morning drink of pleasure is, and then I do my yoga, feed my dogs, and get started. My day unfolds as a series of starts and stops. I write for a few hours. I take a break to eat lunch. I write for a few hours. I take a break to have a snack. I write for a few hours. I recognize that my brain is turning to a pulpy mash and finally decide to push my laptop aside for the day. In there are about a hundred short breaks where I get up and down to let my dogs in and out and occasionally take a call or respond to an email or watch seven minutes of a show or read a page and a half of a book while I let my brain cognize the next immediate step.
But now, I have to do things like wear actual clothes and go outside into the oppressive heat and drive my car around the block because, for whatever reason, these characters don't want to tell me their next move. And I have to wait... Wait for fictional characters to respond to me. I hate waiting. Waiting may be my least favorite thing to do. Which is ironic because publishing is all about waiting.
Is there a point to this blog? I don't know. Maybe it's simply that however you are doing it is good as long as you are actually doing it. In other words, play the game however you need to—barefoot, with a helmet on, in the rain—just keep playing. The brain is an amazing organ, and writing is a magical act. But it's normal to run into complications when engaged with either. Don't feel bad if the only way you can get that first or tenth or twentieth chapter down is in your bathrobe at an all-night diner after seven pots of coffee. This is your story. No one can tell you how to write it.
THE WITCHES OF BONE HILL: 9*26
Cordelia Bone's meticulously crafted life and career in Dallas are crashing down around her thanks to a philandering husband with criminal debts.
When her older, carefree sister, Eustace—a cannabis grower in Boulder—calls to inform her the great aunt they never met has finally died and they must travel to a small town in Connecticut to deal with the estate, she sees an opportunity to unload the house and save herself.
But once there, the sisters learn they are getting much more than they bargained for. The Victorian mansion they stand to inherit is bound in a dynasty trust controlled by their late aunt's aging attorney who insists they inhabit the house and retain it but keeps them in the dark about the peculiar rituals of their ancestors. Not to mention a sexy, tattooed groundskeeper with a shrouded past who refuses to leave the carriage house and a crypt full of dead relatives looming at the property line.
As both women grapple with their current predicament, they come face to face with a haunting family secret, the truth of what happened to their mother, and the enemy that's been stalking them from the shadows for generations. In a twisting torrent of terror and blood, the sisters must uncover the power within them to heal their fractured relationship, reverse their mysteriously declining health, and claim the lineage they wanted to escape but now must embrace if they are to survive at Bone Hill.
"A simmering, supernatural tale that conjures a brew of legacy, sisterhood, and Scandinavian witchcraft..." –Katherine Harbour, author of the NIGHT AND NOTHING series
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