I spent most of my spring and all of my summer finishing my fourth novel, How Can I Tell You? (Touchstone, August ’09). Hours blurred into days which turned into weeks which…well, you get the idea. The only thing I really remember about this time is asking myself every morning as I sat down and every night as I curled up into a fetal position in bed was, “How the heck did I manage do it the last three times?”
You’d think that I’d have some sort of idea of how to write a book by now. I’ve even taught a course on it. True, I have the basics down, but somewhere in the midst of the process, I always find myself scrambling. The worst thing I can ask myself is: What am I doing? Nothing derails a productive, if not creative day, in front of the computer more than self-doubt, self-pity and all those other wonderful little demons that run rampant when the mind is looking for reasons to shut down and take the body to the movies.
This time, around late May and early June, I abstained from playing hooky and instead invested in books on plot and structure, how to write faster and about three or four different writing software programs. All promised to get my thoughts in order and guide me through this dark time. In the end, I could do no more than skim the books—they reiterated much of what I already knew, and it was nice to see I wasn’t totally on the wrong track. I went back to MS Word, as I always do, because I just couldn’t handle the learning curve of something new. Suffice to say while this was going on, I was doing very little writing but a whole lot of worrying about it.
Paradoxically, I was also fighting off the urge to start, or re-start, other projects that suddenly seemed to call for my attention. They coaxed me with promises of good times in front of the keyboard. The exact opposite of what I was going through with the manuscript I was supposed to be tending to.
Despite everything, I got the manuscript done (nothing puts the fear of litigation into my heart like a contractual due date) sent it in to my editor and promised myself, “Next time things will be different!”
With that experience a few weeks behind me, I’m now concentrating on promoting my third novel, More Than This (Touchstone, August ’08), enrolled in a couple of classes at my local college and I’m taking my time to figure out what I want to write next. Do I finally commit to revising and polishing that one novel that’s been my unrequited love for a few years? Or focus on my YA idea that’s been on the backburner for far too long? Along with those, I have at least two or three more projects that are all calling, yelling, screaming for my attention. “Pick me, pick me!” they each beg. But no, not yet.
There’s time enough for that. I’m enjoying not being tied to my computer and facing down a deadline. I almost feel human again. For now I’m going to enjoy reading what I want, writing just for the fun of it and maybe getting some sort of a life again. Soon enough, I’ll take another look with fresh eyes and see which of my little darlings is ready to become full-fledged manuscript.
I’m sure I’ll find myself panic mode at some point, wondering how I ever got myself into this mess all over again. On the plus side, I’m already stocked up on the how-to books and writing programs.