Monday, April 5, 2010

Free Fall-A Writer's Personal Journey


Somewhere around the beginning of the year, I started working on a new book. And suddenly ran into a ton of issues. Let me just say, it’s difficult to think clearly when your body decides to attack itself and there’s not enough healthy red blood cells to keep you from exhaustion and carry oxygen rich blood to your brain. Hemolytic anemia. With no apparent cause. Although this condition may have contributed to some of my unclear thinking... it’s only a small part of this year’s journey.

I love to learn new things. I’m excited to hear and understand other writers’ processes. How they plot. Come up with characters. Find interesting new worlds to write about. And then I’ll take bits and pieces and add them to my own way of doing things.

So when my local writers group, Heartland Writers Group, sponsored a weekend workshop featuring the Roses Colored Glasses Writing Bootcamp, I was there. Let me just say, no matter what your pre-writing routine is, this is a GREAT workshop. If you get a chance to work with Delilah Devlin and Elle James--take it. (In fact, the next online class is scheduled for May 31-June 26--An excellent way to start your summer writing!) Granted, my brain function wasn’t up to snuff, but I did come away with a good handle on this pre-writing process.

Then... I started to write.

One chapter. Had to start it a couple times, but finally, it got where I though it would do the job, and I could move on.


Second chapter. Ripped from me word by word. Even the word ‘the’ just would not come easily. Talk about over-thinking everything. A new idea...arrgh, the stress of trying to decide where in the tale it would best fit. I was taking forever just to write a paragraph.

Finally, after a stint in the hospital, I was diagnosed, medicated (don’t even get me started on steroids. They’re doing their job--but the side effects? I can deal. I can...as long as it gets me healthy again) and getting back to some sort of a functioning normalcy.


But my writing was still as bound up as an innocent in a torture chamber. When at a place like this, it is so difficult to see past the ‘can’t’. And oh too easy to wonder if I’d used up my share of talent. Yikes, did I have talent in the first place? Is there anything left?


Then RWA (Romance Writers of America) came to my rescue. The April 2010 issue of the Romance Writers Report arrived in my mailbox. The very first article, Jo Beverley’s Once More Into The Mist, spoke directly to what I needed to hear. It’s okay when pre-plotting doesn’t work.


She calls it ‘flying into the mist.’ I like that. Fits very well with my love of fantasy and paranormal romance. Jo first gave a talk about flying into the mist at the 1999 RWA conference. You can find the text here. It’s well worth reading.


The basics--there is no right way to write. Some authors do a ton of pre-writing work while others do a minimal start up and just get right into the story. I know this--but reading the words again, at this precise moment of time and need, was liberating. And a Jo states, a validation that my process and I are okay.


I’ve always considered myself a pantser--you know, just writing by the seat of my pants--although I do occasionally do a bit of pre-panning now. You kinda got to when so many tales are series related. Usually I’ll start with taking care to name my characters, think about a couple of things that I know need to happen, and let the tale flow from that. That’s what works for me.


Each of us has to find the process that helps us create the best stories we can. I admire folks who are able to pre-plot and then write. I will continue to listen to their processes and learn from them. Who knows, there may be a book in me that needs to be more plotted before I start. And I know how to do that plotting, how to arrange goals and conflicts with appropriate motivations. You never can tell when you might use those helpful skills.


But for right now--for Take a Keltic Chance--I need to set aside my preconceived notions and take a stand next to the mist. (or perhaps in this case it’s a place next to the world between worlds.) Spread my arms. Open my mind to the tale my characters need to tell. Take that leap of faith.


But instead of flying, I think I’ll free-fall awhile and see where the story takes me.