I learn something new with every book I write. Usually, it’s craft-related, or characterization, high concept–concrete things.
But this next book taught me something deeper and more important. I’m hoping something in my pain and suffering will keep some of you from the same.
First, a bit of backstory. The past almost two years, I’ve taken huge hits in my career as an author. I love romance, but have wanted to break into women’s fiction fo-evah. So:
- I wrote the book of my heart. I loved it. NY loved the writing, but eventually turned me down – not a large enough audience for a Western Women’s Fiction. Okay, fine, I self-pubbed it. (Days Made of Glass).
- I started a hard-hitting, Jodi Picoult-esque women’s fiction proposal. I slaved over every word. The editors loved it. Except. It was too sad. So I rewrote the proposal and synopsis. They still thought it was too sad. Ouch. I’ve put the book in the drawer until I can find a way to appease NY, and still write the book I want.
- I took time out of chasing NY to write a romance novella for an anthology with some friends of mine. (Cowboy Karma).
I was lost. I had a heart-to-heart with my agent and she suggested I go back to what I know NY wants – my brand of romance. My publisher, Grand Central, wanted more books from me (thank God).
This book. It started differently. The character came to me – a funny, irreverent voice that is so not me. She came with an opening scene that just flew off my fingers. But that’s all I had. I could have just smiled, and put it in a drawer. Except, I really liked it!
So, in my normal pantser style, I dug in and started writing. I didn’t know anything about this woman except her town, and surface things. And the plot wasn’t developing with the writing, as it usually does.
That’s where everything fell apart.
My critters didn’t like it. They usually make comments, I fix it, and move on. This time, they didn’t like my character – they didn’t ‘get’ her.
Do you have this fear? That the ideas will dry up? that you’ll never figure out what comes next? That your editor will line the bottom of her bird cage with your pages?
Yeah. That’s where I was.
Thank God I have amazing writer friends who buck me up, and talk me off the ledge. I called, and they helped. But if I called a lifeline every time I was lost in The Pit of Despair with this book, they’d be dodging my calls.
Then vultures showed up
I was freaking out. Literally. Nightmares, depression, thinking about backing out of the contract. I was out of options.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. This crisis pushed me places I’d never been before. See, I’m a doer. I believe that the best way out of a mess is action. As my Alpha Dog says, ‘Do something, even if it’s wrong.’
What To DO?
I did what scared me the most. I sat with the fear. I sat with the looming possibility of disaster.
You know what I found? There’s an eye in the middle of the storm. When I stopped fighting, expected nothing, and just sat with the story, a calm came over me. I wasn’t afraid. I was almost disassociated from the mess, seeing it from the outside.
Did I have an epiphany? No. Did I unravel the plot? No, I didn’t.
I got something better.
I remembered that I can do this. Those eight books weren’t a fluke. I remembered – I’m a goddamn WRITER! I’ll figure this out, type The End, turn it in, and go on to the next.
It was like my brain sent me my own lifeline. But it didn’t do it until I was willing to fail. Until I was willing to take on my worst fear in a stare-down.
I’m now writing the second half of that book. I know the end, but not how I’ll get there. But I’m no longer freaking out, because I have my confidence back.
If you’re stuck in this horrible place (and I pray you never are), try it. The weirdest recommendation ever:
Have you ever tried this? Are you willing to?