Have you ever looked at a brand new blank page and told yourself you have to write. Probably not, but too often that happens to authors. Faced with three novellas for boxed sets that need to be completed this summer, I’m staring at blank pages and asking myself what to write.
To make matters worse, I just completed a full-length contemporary novel. Divorcing our characters is the most difficult thing. But my characters from that story are fading. I must move on.
People ask where I get my characters. Sometimes I wonder when I’m looking at that blank page. Well Friday night I decided my brain was no longer capable of creating characters and stories. I was certain I was mentally slipping away ready to toss my author pen in the trash. That’s when I decided to take my own advice and just start writing. You can’t edit a blank page. Start with some action. Guess what? A story formed.
Grabbing mail from the mailbox isn’t very exciting unless something in there might change the course of someone’s life. Do I know where this story is going? Not yet. Will I toss it aside? Maybe. I’ve done that twice in the last couple of months because I knew those stories would grow too long. Oh, I’ve not thrown them out, but merely placed them in a holding pattern. Never toss a story! No matter what, it can always be edited.
So I have started on the Authors of Main Street next boxed set, a story of love for a summer romance. I don’t have much of a start on this novella – just a few hundred words. Maybe writing a blog post is easier. 🙂
But to some extent as I was doing the laundry Saturday afternoon, I began to feel more confident about the story. It began to take shape in my mind with some forward movement. I still haven’t decided what exactly is in that envelope. What will be earth shattering? Umm… Darn it, I don’t write that. No deep mystery, no freaky stuff, no aliens, no zombies, nothing that will scare you, just a solid story for your enjoyment.
I did a little brainstorming while I ate dinner with a friend who is wonderful at helping me get the kinks out of my stories. Yet we don’t write the same things. We are about as different as they come. But sometimes she will kick up an idea that triggers another in my mind and my story takes off. Not in the direction that either one of us had planned, but as a result of her bouncing ideas. She’s my number one plot partner when I need help.
On my computer is another unfinished novel and I’m not certain I will release it. It’s a little dark with a very disturbed villain. We were kicking around some plot ideas at a coffee shop one night for that one. I guess we had forgotten that other people eavesdrop on our conversations. One man turned to us with a very strange expression on his face when we were plotting a great way to kill this deranged character. With a very polite ‘excuse me’ he asked if we were authors. I should have told him no, except I suspect he would have walked outside with his coffee and called the police. I’d hate to have to talk my way out of that one, and I didn’t feel like spending the night in jail.
Sometimes a story needs a bunch of what-ifs tossed at it and that’s what my friend and I did over dinner Saturday. A few what-if scenarios and the story started forming. Now I know a lot more about my characters and where it’s going.
That blank page has a few paragraphs. I figure it needs about a thousand more to grow to the proper size. That’s not too many. I can do that. And I can do it two more times for the Christmas novellas. It’s not impossible. Just break the job or any job into bite-sized pieces, right? It’s amazing how quickly things work out.
I no longer need to worry about editing a blank page. By the end of the month, I should have a novella. I know, most people can type more than that in a day. But I can’t! I’m not exactly a two-finger typist. I think I’m five-fingered, three on one hand and two on the other. And I use my left thumb on the space bar. Does that count as a finger? If so make it six fingers.
I need to think about what I’m typing. I sort of spell each word as a type, find the proper key for that letter, and press. And depending on whose point-of-view I’m in, I must climb into that character. I become her as she steps through her front floor and sorts the mail in her hand. What exactly is her feeling as she spots the envelope? Where does she put it? What does she do next? How does she feel about the unopened envelope as she starts to do her normal after work routine? Is it a scam, a hoax, or worse…an unpaid bill? And I just lost twenty minutes running those thoughts through my mind as I type words at a snail’s pace.
Writing is a slow process for me. But it’s also the most fun. And when I’m done, there is very little that I ever change other than a word or two or six to create a better way to express it. Or I find a duplicated sentence. I do read through it at least two times before I send it to my editor. Of course when my editor gets it, she probably freaks at the number of mistakes I have. But she points them out with her red ink (track changes in MS Word) and sets me straight. I get it back, fix those errors, and muck up another area because I notice something, read it entirely a few times, and send it on to my next editor. I repeat that process a few more times. Until it goes to my last editor and she doesn’t let me touch it when she’s done with it because I’ll just mess it up again. I’ll check the format and send it to a few eagle-eyed friends. Then I can tell my formatter, page 125, second paragraph, missing quote marks at the end of line… They don’t let me touch it! And I almost hate to read it that time because I know I’ll want to change at least 5 lines. But at that point, it is too late. So before it goes for that final edit, and to be formatted, I must be certain it is purr-fect! Then I hold my breath and push send.
From the moment I type that final sentence, it takes about two months to get through edits. And I dread edits. That’s where I bang my head against the desk and wonder how I could have written something so stupid.
It’s all part of the process. I write full time. This is my career. Each step is taken seriously because I don’t want to disappoint my readers. They expect the best from me, and I try to give it them. Is it easy? NO! It might look as though I can scribble some words and turn it into a book. It’s not that simple. And when I’m not writing, I’m looking for stock photos for my book covers. My life circulates around my writing. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s also the hardest and requires the most hours. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.