I am stunned by the amount of fear I have when facing the blank page. Not knowing where to begin. Agonizing over the first sentence. Wanting to get everything perfect. Not knowing what the final story will look like. Not knowing how I’m even going to get there. It’s the same everything I sit down to write, you’d think I’d be used to it.
It’s not like I’ve not done this before. Opening my closet of dirty little secrets, I wrote four books before my first book sale (in order: Strange Fruit (which took seven years to finish), Pantheon of Dreams, Caught Up, Black Son Rising). My books 5, 6, and 7 have been released (King Maker, King’s Justice, and King’s War). Books 8, 9, and 10 are in the can/finished the first draft stage (Lyta’s Dance, Shepherds of Community, Prone to Wander). So here I am starting book number 11 (Scout).
And it’s like I’ve once again forgotten how to write. But this is what the process looks like for me:
-I lie around watching television, pursuing some social cause, or otherwise finding excuses not to plant my behind in a chair and just write.
-Once I’ve convinced myself that it’s time to write (i.e., a deadline looms), I begin my stare down with the blank page.
-Invariably, I lose the first round and retreat.
-I begin/continue reading to more to spur ideas and further fleshing out either my world or my characters.
-My notepads swell with jotted down snippets of dialogue, plot points, or description.
-I build a momentum of notes until something amazing happens: I have my A-ha! moment. Characters come into focus, I find that emotional place I want to tell the story from, or a cool idea has wrapped itself around my brain
-Thus armed, story finally fully gestated, I can’t help but put pen to page carried away on a wave of story.
It’s the waiting for the A-Ha that panics me most every time. I suppose this violates the “never let them see you sweat” credo, but it took three months for that moment to arrive with King’s War. I sat down in January of 2010 to write it, but it wasn’t until late March when it suddenly hit me on how to approach the story (when I found my emotional space to write from). Until then I started and stopped writing. Constantly re-wrote my opening line, paragraph, and scene (all of which got chucked anyway). The whole time nursing that fear that the book would never get written or being convinced that this, or any, idea is completely unworkable as a story (particularly panicking if you are on the last book of your trilogy).
Plagued by doubts, mounting desperation, and fear; curling up under the covers gripped by sudden helplessness or the feeling of having finally hit the wall of writing block, I toil away. Somehow I get to the end of the book and am equally amazed by the fact that I have somehow completed a novel. I revel in the accompanying feelings of pride and satisfaction, that cigar moment of “wow, I just finished a book” … then I repeat the cycle all over again.
In the mean time, blogs are written. When in doubt if I can’t perform the process, I can at least write about it.
-File under the emotional life of writing
*I could have gone with “Ta da!”, but the image of an 1980s pop group showing up whenever you had a breakthrough in your writing now haunts me. A ha fans, both of them, are still despondent over the fact that the band split up last year. Yeah, I was as shocked as anyone that they were still making music.