I think about my characters always. In the shower, in the car, at work (sorry, Terry), and even when I'm playing games with the kiddo. I can't not think about them. This mental work tires me, and yet, I can't have it any other way. If I back off to "get a break" it's as though a jar of marbles just smashed on the floor and I spend the next "writing day" trying to find all the loose pieces to recover ground.
I can't say I have a writing process as much as a writing lifestyle. Finding the magic, losing the magic, refinding the magic. It happens in cycles, but they are familiar cycles. (There is no angelic muse on my shoulder, mind you. Just me.)
And then there are times when I get discouraged.
Times when confidence flutters in the breeze because it's not anchored to anything. Times when I don't feel appreciated, or times when I do but I don't believe what people are telling me. And there are times when, for no good reason, I just don't know that anyone cares about my work--the hours spent writing that they don't see. (That is the biggest issue with the writing profession, I believe.) And times when depression creeps in and all my characters whom I spend every day with go silent.
" . . . "
In those days/weeks, there's this other thing I try to remember. My [good] warlocks' motto is, "We press on." I think that's key in anything you do whether it's writing, art, relationships, horrible-awful-no-good days, parenting, having a career, anything. We must press on. Always. Push yourself to be better than you are today in whatever measure of progress you need. The world will wait for you simply because that's what it was made for--you. Then you go and make it what you need it to be. Press on.
(Sometimes I write these short pieces to clear my head, break up--dare I say it--writer's block, or to hang out with a character I can't get a handle on. Not sure what to call them, but here's another one.)
When she pulled the magic, it was like drawing a thread from a spool: slow, steady, friction warming everything. Pippa gripped the spell’s silver coil and grazed her finger over the surface of her own power. Technically, the world could wait for the enchantment. But for how long?
A rustle sounded in a dark corner of the vacant motel room.
“Quiet, you,” she shouted to the nothingness behind her. Her hair bobbed in front of her face, red ringlets corkscrewing into her vision.
She sidestepped to the window and glanced across the parking lot. Rain tossed itself about in waves, falling into shallow cigarette-littered puddles like pennies in a fountain. The candlelight flickered. The storm’s heart wasn’t far off.
The shuffling came again. A deep whispered voice followed by a hush. “What’s she doing?” it said.
Pippa slid her feet along the baseboards, marking the parameters of the dark, empty room, feeling for the creature her eyes couldn’t see. “None of your damn business, that’s what.” Her fingers went to work, toying with the spell coil again. Once she released the fibers a sequence of events would begin. Sorcerers should calm. Warlocks still. Witches would reign supreme.
“Don’t toy with it,” a growl came from the darkness. “Don’t play with us.”
“Shut up.” Pippa tugged her leather jacket around her shoulders and zipped it tight. “I’ll do as I desire.” She inspected the silver shimmer in her palm. The magic called to be used like a dog holding a leash between his teeth. “It doesn’t control me.”
Grating giggles ripped from the corner before twisting into a gravely hiss. “Then do it.” Panting followed rapid footsteps. “Spellcast. Let us out.”
Only because I want to, she thought. Pippa threw the coil into the air and ran from the abandoned room into the downpour. She slammed the door behind her and snatched the knob to keep it closed.
Vibrations shook the entire structure. Flashes of light exploded outward from inside the tiny room. The knob heated.
“No,” she screamed. Her skin pricked with pain as the metal grew orange. “Stay back.”
High laughter stung her ears. A bang knocked her backward. Her fingers slipped. Nursing her hands, Pippa watched the knob turn. The door squealed open. They were free.
And then it occurred to me: I'm in a brand new territory I've never seen before. I've written many books, but never taken one of them this far before. This is the farthest I've ever been from the Shire. (*If you're a geek and got that reference, pat yourself on the back.)
I want to underline for you how great it feels to push yourself. Challenge yourself daily, weekly, monthly, whatever. But do not let your days bleed into one another. Instead, mark each day with an asterisk. Make them noteworthy in your life and for yourself and/or others around you. (Note the "and/or" there. It's okay to pick you as the only one enriched.) That's what I feel like I've been doing by quietly working on this book while the rest of the world slept. I'm proud of each day I put into it.
That said, I've also played around a lot with the title. Burning Spirit always felt like a placeholder for me, so now, the current working title is The Flame Wars. That's how I'll pitch it from now on and if further down the road it needs changed, then I'll change it again. So there you have it.
* The Flame Wars by Margaret Telsch-Williams *
I rather like it. What do you think?
While you've been missing me terribly and suffering through having to read other fantastic things, I've been editing. If writing a novel from beginning to end was a fifty step process, I'd say I'm somewhere near forty-four or forty-five steps in.
Today I'm prepping the novel Burning Spirit to be sent to beta readers. While I'm glad to be nearing the end, I'm terrified of how much these amazing readers may point out my flaws. That's writing in a nutshell, I suppose.
Self doubt + hard work = a better book than when you started.
Take away either of those elements and the story/characters/magic may fall flat. But this isn't a writing blog, you say, so what else has been going on?
We moved! Yep, through all of this novel writing journey, the fam and I picked up and moved across town. We've done a move like this before, but for whatever reason (perhaps because it feels like I lost about 40,000 square feet of space), this move has been a challenge. I don't know where anything goes, and I don't know where anything is. Don't ask me, okay? 'Cause I don't know where it is. I'm just thankful I know where my laptop is and I can find the printer. That's really all a girl needs anyway, right?
Also, I'm still getting the plot and first draft of Burning Spirit's sequel on paper. Everything I've written I cannot wait to share, and then--much like our move--I don't know where anything goes or where it is after that. Don't worry though. About eighty percent of the story is in first draft form, so it's just the last twenty percent that needs to be written and I'm working out the best place to stop and leave off for the third book in this series.
Lastly, when I haven't been pulling my hair out with edits, I started a few boards on Pinterest. There's one for each book, in fact, so check them out and see what interests you over there. Now that's a website I could get addicted to.
There you have it, so I better get back to edits, huh?
Believe it or not, I wrote an entire post for you about 2013. I spilled my guts, stated my goals in writing and life, and sounded really optimistic. And then that post sat there in the "draft" stage for nearly two weeks and I never posted it. Why? I don't know. I really don't. Maybe because I don't have any mountain moving things to say, or because my goals sound like those of other writers out there: query agents, edit, write. It's not that this aspect of my life is bland, it's just that the whole post started to read like my laundry list, and you really deserve better from me than reading my laundry list.
That list is for me to check things off from, not for you to go, "oh look who posted, and what drabby-shabby information she shared."
Basically, if I had to sum up in a word how my life is going right now, I'd say things are simple and straightforward. There's three words actually. Sure, I struggled with depression over the holidays and will continue to (I've blogged about depression before), but things aren't horrible and I know they'll improve.
But if I step back even a few feet from my mediation and my obsessive nature about being near my laptop, my life is more like this crazy juggling act that involves flaming knives and maybe a few cats.
As of right now I'm editing Burning Spirit (teaser on that here). So far Burning has been all the way through my critique and I'm planning to spend the next seven months cleaning it up real nice like. You read that right. The groundhog saw his shadow, seven more months of edits.
I'm also two-thirds done with writing the first draft of Darkened Sky, the sequel to Burning Spirit. This is where my brain lives right now. When I'm sitting at work, I'm thinking of Elsbeth. When I'm cooking dinner, my mind is deep in a cave spending time with warlocks. When I'm in the shower, you guessed it, I went to work with conditioner in my hair because these characters took over my mind.
Add all of that work to my day job, which I enjoy, and being a wife and mother, which I also wouldn't trade for anything that isn't dark chocolate, and my schedule was definitely too full when our car broke down for two weeks. Stress, yes. How life goes, yes.
I guess the real point of this post then is to say, yeah, it's a crazy, hectic life--we should enjoy it while we have it. If I quit writing, my heart would feel like something's missing, so I'd rather have the crazy any day than sit on the sidelines and watch it all go by.
How are you holding up in 2013? Leave comments below.