I’ve learned some things, and I want to pass that on, so let’s talk process.
It goes like this:
I begin a novel. Oh, the golden glory and silver slide of words from mind to finger to page.
I’m half-way through the eighth version of the ‘first draft’. Oh, crap. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve been a fraud all along. Other writers deserve all the publicity and prizes. I am rightly ignored. I must, for the sake of my sanity, abandon not only this novel but all writing.
But my sanity depends on writing. Crap.
I despair. Okay, maybe I should abandon not only all writing but all dreams of writing. I will garden. Cook. Read. It’s enough.
But no, it’s not.
I get pissed off. I hate the present publishing landscape. It’s all celebrity and politics. I slump. Darkness. Fog. Abandonment. A struggle to breathe. (This is when those of us who are prone to addiction issues are most at risk.)
I talk and talk and talk and talk (boring everyone who listens) and dream and dream and dream and dream. All to naught. This is a phase that has, for me, taken anywhere from several weeks to several years. Just saying.
I gain weight or lose it. I can’t sleep or I sleep all day.
Then, I have a conversation with a listening friend (in my case with Susan Applewhaite), or I take a walk or a shower or play with the dog, or …. well, something….
And then, I remember what I told my students:
When there is a moment in the plot to which you have committed… let’s say the protagonist goes to a party, and suddenly you can’t figure out a way to get the protagonist to open the door to the party…. well…. perhaps the protagonist shouldn’t be there.
Really, you say? But I was so sure! It’s what I did in the outline! It must work this way.
Which is why I don’t do outlines. Sometimes the protagonist not only shouldn’t be able to open the door, but she shouldn’t have been invited to the party to begin with.
With the help of a dear, creative friend, I backed out of the plot until I found the moment when I understood what the divergent moment was. I regrouped.
And yes… I wrote. It may not be good. It may not be published. But after months of struggling, at least it feels right.
That’s the trail of breadcrumbs writers follow through the dark wood. God help us.
Have you been there? Can you relate? Tell me how you worked your way out