Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Take a Deep Breath

Three times this week I’ve gotten the same advice from writer friends. I was complaining that the thriller I’m working on—and have been working on for 18 months—was taking forever. I had just been at a reading where someone asked me how long it took me to write a Samuel Craddock book. I breezily said it takes anywhere from two to four months.

            Hearing my complaint, my friends said that I had to realize that the Craddock novels were extremely rare. They reminded me that most people take a long time to write a book. I sulked. I want to be done with it! Tough, they said. Some books take longer than others. Take a deep breath and relax. 

            Since they are both fine writers who produce great books, I had to listen to them. Then the coup de grace happened .The next day one of my all-time favorite writers, Nancy Pickard, pasted this on Facebook: “Sometimes writing feels like waiting for a slowly dripping faucet to fill up a glass. The good part is that if I actually do wait, what comes out is clear and satisfying to me…If I try to force the tap, I get swamp water.” I commented that she was the third person to give me that message. And she said it was a powerful message from the universe. And she also said that waiting was hard for an author. She’s got that right!

            Partly because it took me so long to get published, I always feel like I’m playing catch-up. There are so many stories I want to write that I always feel like I’m behind. At least I’ve learned not to stop in the middle of something and start something new, unless the something new is under contract.

            I started book six of my Samuel Craddock series last week and the contrast couldn’t be greater. I’m pouring words onto the page. I’m already 12,000 words into it, and the only thing that stops me every day is physical exhaustion. I can’t type another sentence. If only I knew my thriller protagonist as well as I know Samuel. I continually ask myself why I don’t. The thriller is set in California, where I’ve lived a lot longer than I ever lived in Texas. Why should the man at the center of it be such a cipher?

            I worry that I’m a one note Jennie, that I don’t have the ability to imagine a fresh new character. But then I remember that in every Craddock book new characters show up all the time, and I never seem to have any problem seeing and understanding them.

            I think about advice I have given and received about how to develop characters and nothing feels workable. So I have decided to keep plugging away and try to trust the process. I keep thinking that somehow in this delicious story that I’ve come up with, I able to locate the essence of the character.

Book recommendation: Adrian McKinty is up for an Edgar. I discovered him this year and read the first three books in his series about the Irish “troubles,” set in the 1980’s, in rapid succession. If you haven’t read him, you’re missing a powerful writer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. You have done so well - all the best ! Thelma Straw in Manhattan