So I've officially started work on Alacrity, which is releasing on May 20th, and of course that means that once again, I'm going to put myself through the meat-grinder of emotional tailspins. The highs, the lows, and everything in-between. Figured it would be kind of funny to give you all a visual of the sort of roller-coaster I ride when I write a book, just so, you know, you can laugh when you realize which one I'm on when I announce projects as they progress.
Just FYI- This is totally how I handle book writing. As always, it might not be the same way for everyone else. It might be exactly the same and we might be twins separated at birth. Possible, yes?
Level One: Shiny! New! Must write down ALL THE THINGS!
Writers, you know this feeling. You're wandering down the cereal aisle, debating on if you really want Chex or Trix because heck, you haven't had cereal in months, and then it hits you. Like a shopping cart to the ankles, a glass jar slipping off the top shelf and slapping you on the head. Characters blossom to life in your head in seconds, scenes and motives and plot pieces to a story you dream of in this wild rush. It's better than any food, any drug you could imagine. And it overrides your brain so fast, you short circuit. This is why we look half-dazed all the time, guys. It's not because we never sleep (I mean, that's part of it) but it's because we're constantly waiting for that next jump of a story.
But until that new shiny story comes, you tackle the one you've just created. So what if it sounds kind of cliche? So what if you have a book on deadline due in eight hours and you're only halfway done with the final draft? So what if you haven't done laundry in a week, showered in two, or remembered to feed the cat in a month? Actually, please remember to feed your pets. Those are kind of important.
Level Two: Instant Regret
Let's be honest with ourselves, shall we? Writers, we're not robots. Repeat after me: We. Are. Not. Robots. As much as every fan wants to think we just have laptops glued to our hips all day, and we sit in tea and coffee shops nursing cups of hot love between our chilled fingers as we figure out why the villain wants to kidnap the heroine again, we don't. We totally don't. Which is why, when we take on a new project, it's all sunshine and rainbows for all of five seconds.
Then reality hits. By the time you've already found yourself head over heels in love with a character and dived head-first into a project with hours of time devoted to it, you look back at the dozen plus manuscripts you need to finish for agents and publication and publishing houses, and the cramping in your stomach start. You reach for bottles of Pepto like some people see shrinks. Why? Because you need the relief from the fact that, yet again, you've bitten off more than you can chew.
And it's not your fault. Really, it isn't! We just love these ideas so much, and want to write all the things that spin through our brain (I'm still working on a duo Warlock story that's nearly a year in the making, guys. A YEAR. IN THE. MAKING.) that we forget we made commitments to other things before that. Those story ideas are like shiny lures, and we're hungry fish. Don't bite… don't bite… and suddenly you're on a boat getting gutted and served for dinner with steamed broccoli.
Level Three: Wait, I've got this. Right?
By the time we hit the middle of a project, it's roughly around this stage that you hit those funny forks in the road. On one side, it's bliss. A bold, shaded paradise in the desert that entices you with water and fresh fruit and all the sorbet you can eat. I mean, it's that good. You love the story. You love the plot, the characters, the flow; it all meshes like it was meant to be. Of course it does! Because it was meant to be. We say so.
On the other side, though, it's a little less friendly. It's hot, dry and lonely. Nothing but sand and solitude in the middle of no where. You're pretty sure if you continue down this path, they'll find you on an archeological dig in another thousand years. This is the path you feel yourself on when the book flat out sucks. The plot is weak and falls apart, well, like sand in your fingers. The characters are so annoying, you just want to kill them off for the mercy. Don't even mention the flow of the book, it's laughable at best. It's stiff and stagnant. Boring. You can hear the reviews now if you ever take it publication. "Held great promise, until I tried to get through the writing. So. Boring." So you grab a bucket of popcorn, slather some melted chocolate on top, and swallow a few mouthfuls.
Somehow, we manage to jump between these two trails like we play hopscotch for a living. It's incredibly frustrating. These are the nights you'll find an author wide awake at 5AM, clutching a seventh cup of tea while sitting in the dining room, shaking from the idea of ever writing another word of this awful piece, but too far in to turn back.
Level Four: Mystery unraveled! It all makes sense!
Just when you think it's all over, and you have to trash a project you thought was going to be the next novel on your list, it hits you all over again on the head. You practically shove your face through the monitor when you realize what's been staring you in the face all along!
Suddenly you don't have to consider throwing away all those precious pieces you've created. Sure, you might need to re-work a few scenes, skip some pieces you originally loved, and probably have to kill off a character or two in the name of plot progression, but it's okay. You worked out the huge knot that was holding you back, the staleness that made you cringe just thinking about reading it. Your fingers fly across the keys. Any author knows this is the part where you start to cackle under you breath in those coffee or tea shops, marveled at your crazed little characters. Of course people stare. So what? Let 'em. You're writing the next big thing, baby.
Level Five: Survival of the Fittest
All too soon, it's over. Like smoke clearing from a battlefield, you finally take your eyes away from the screen, and a weird sensation takes over.
What is it? Satisfaction.
Sure, it might not last more than a few days, but that's okay. That's what writing is about. You took a story from a conception to a full-fledged idea, scrambled through the messy middle where everything fell apart, pulled it back together, and saved the day. That's real hero work right there. So put the draft away, sit back in a chair and sip some tea or wine or whatever tickles your fancy. You deserve it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to pull myself out of level three. This book has promise, I just… you know, can't see it yet.