Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First Post: A Confession

Hello, everyone. My name is Crista and it has been over a year and a half since I finished a novel.

Actually, make that 1 year, 9 months, and 21 days to be exact.

I always thought that after I finished my first novel, it would be easier to keep going. At least that was what all the writing advice I read told me. I bought it, too. I remember finishing my first book and being so elated because that hurtle was done. It was all down hill from there. Easy-going. Now I would be finishing books just as fast as my fingers could fly over the keyboard.

It wasn't quite like that.

I finished my first novel and fumbled around for a while, looking for the next book. I found it while playing a lot of the game Zuma. Don't laugh, but I actually got the idea for an Egyptian-themed fantasy novel while playing that game. So, I started writing. The book took me over a year to finish, but I did get it finished. The first book proved to me that I COULD finish a novel. The second taught me HOW I finish a novel. I'm not one of those writers that sits down and writes a set amount of pages everyday.

I usually hash up a "road map" of what I'm doing over the course of the novel. This is so that I don't get too far off course while writing. Then, from there, I seem to be a lot more organic than planned. Sitting and writing a set amount everyday seems to hamper my creative process. I work much better when I furiously write for a couple weeks then take a couple weeks off to "refill the well" so to speak. I take longer to write, but I also write fairly clean first drafts. Most of the time I only need a line edit.

I thought that figuring out what works for me would be the key to blowing open the writing hatches.

Again, it isn't quite like that.

I finished my last novel in August 2006. Since then, I've written 200 pages of absolute dreck on a Regency romance that desperately wanted to be a sea monster book SET in the Regency, a little bit on a V for Vendetta rip-off that I didn't recognize until about 60 pages in, and a couple pages here and there on failed short story ideas. That's it. For months, I've felt like I've lost my writing mojo.

First, I thought that I was just burned out from Nanowrimo and the Regency Monster Mess that resulted from it. So I resolved to give myself some time off to read books and watch movies and not think about writing until I WANTED to come back. Then Tony and I began dating and I thought that my romantic happiness was killing my creative drive. After all, aren't most artists unhappy creatures that find inspiration in their misery? I have been so far from miserable in the past year that I figured that I had scared off my muse with my delight.

I saw through that line of bullshit about six months ago. Then I thought my new job was eating too much time. Then I thought that my pregnancy was creating stress that kept my muse at bay. The latest excuse that I have been nurturing is my dissatisfaction with my latest publishing experience. I'll get into likely in another post, but I will say that Dust and Shadows has been released. No, I am not promoting it. In fact, I'm sort of wishing that it had never happened. But that is another story for another post.

And, before you think I have ignored them, I have also included laziness and lack of writing talent on the long list of reasons why I can't write. I've spent about a year pretty much convinced that I am not a real writer and that I need to "go back to school and get a real job". Like maybe becoming a baker or something. Even though I don't want to go back to school. Even though I can't see myself doing anything else but writing for the rest of my life. And while I love cookies, I really prefer it when someone else makes them.

I've been entertaining this long list of excuses as to why I have all of these brilliant ideas and no motivation to write and they have all been wrong. The real reason for my creative constipation has been right on my hard drive, staring me in the face for the past six months. My last novel is the real blockade between me and my writing.

It sits there, waiting to be edited and sent out into the world, like its predecessor. It laughs and mocks me every time I open another file to jot down ideas for another book. Don't get me wrong, I like the book. It has interesting characters and a great setting. I only have one problem with this book.

It has two more waiting to come after it. That is two years of work. TWO YEARS.

I have discovered my writing style. It is much more conducive to big stand-alone novels. That is what I WANT to write. I have three ideas in a notebook right now that are just that. Big, stand-alone novels that I can throw my energy into and then move on to something else. The easiest solution would be to just ignore that book and move on to something else, right?

Then, my inner editor kicks in and berates me for giving up on a complete novel that is only about three weeks worth of work away from being sent out. How am I ever going to become a published and paid writer if I write novels that never see the light of day? Considering what a slow writer I am, this is the equivalent of throwing away a year's worth of really good work. I feel like I CAN'T work on something else until I edit and send out this novel.

But my more artistic side doesn't want to do it. In the event of a publication, I will likely be contractually obligated to finish the trilogy. Given the nature of the industry, a new writer only gets three shots to "make it" before they aren't offered a new contract. Do I really want to waste all three of my shots on one story? I have confidence in the story, but only to a point. There is a big part of me that would rather write three stand-alones and hope to hell that one of the three sticks. If I publish a trilogy the first time out, I am pinning all of my hopes to one idea. That doesn't make me comfortable.

So I'm stuck. The two sides of my brain are at war and all writing action has stopped. I've tried any number of creative solutions. The book is about as stand-alone as I can make it. All story lines are wrapped up except the big, over-reaching one. I've thought about trying to combine all three books into one, but the first book alone clocks in at over 500 pages. I wish I could just make a decision. Edit the damned book and send it out or suck it up, shelve it, and work on something else. I feel like something has been missing since I haven't been writing. I miss it.

But for now, my mind seems to be at an impasse.

Maybe I should go buy those cookie sheets now.