Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We humans never need much of an excuse to indulge in that age-old pastime of contemplating our navels. Birthdays, anniversaries, you name it and we tend to automatically look back at where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
For instance: a year ago, I was writing contemporary women’s fiction and bashing my head against the wall. Either my plots were too blah or the subject matter I wanted to write about was so controversial it bordered on taboo.
It was just after last year’s Moonlight & Magnolias Conference and a firm “no thanks” from the editor I’d pitched to, that my critique partner suggested I do something different and try writing, of all things, a historical romance.
I laughed so hard I thought I’d burst a blood vessel in my brain. But after thinking it over, I figured I had nothing to lose and if my CP was right, I’d have everything to gain. Besides I can easily convince myself that time spent surfing the net is absolutely necessary to my creative process.
So, I came up with a hero, a heroine, a villain and a plot. Everything was going great—for about three chapters. Suddenly plot holes sprouted like pimples before prom night. My characters weren’t motivated to do anything more than hang around annoying me. Just like that silly arcade game, “Whack-A-Mole”, every time I thought I’d conquered one problem, another one would pop up, leaving me gnashing my teeth, howling in frustration.
Something had to be done, and done quickly. I bought every writers “how to” book on the market, read them all until my eyes crossed, set up my sacred space for writing complete with candles and the color green (to stimulate creativity) and even put meditation tracks on my MP3 player to listen to as I slept.
Ironically, the thing that helped the most was the simplest—for me, anyway. I called my CP and talked it through. It’s amazing how the most unsolvable problem becomes nothing at all when seen through the eyes of someone who’s removed from it.
Some months I couldn’t write a word for over a week at a time. Then, I’d sit down in a marathon session and write an entire chapter in one day.
By the end of summer, my story had gone through about three different incarnations since I first came up with the idea. My plot, which at one time was simple, straightforward and boring, is now as convoluted as a rainbow-hued ball of yarn after the cat has played with it.
There are times in life when you must take leaps of faith; times when you just gracefully accept whatever gifts are given. I wasn’t going to attend M&M this year, but miraculously, I did. I wasn’t going to pitch but I went to the pitch workshop anyway.
Then, unbeknownst to me, a friend made an editor/agent appointment on my behalf. The agent requested a full manuscript—something that has never happened to me before. And to think, I almost let it slip through my fingers.
What about you? How has your writing life changed over the course of 2009? Will you do anything differently in 2010?