I Have No Idea

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I’m at that point in my story where I question every decision I’ve made and feel like it will never be finished. It is usually at this point that I start to think I must be crazy to ever write a novel. Every reason to NOT write sucks the life out of my ambitions and pulls me into a vortex of apathy and despair. I imagine painful reviews stacking up on Amazon, book signings where I sit alone for hours while the store owner sympathetically brings me soda, and email treatises on everything wrong with my story filling my inbox. But mostly I take a sideways glance at tumblr and shudder.

Tumblr is a website devoted to SuperWhoLock, shipping, anime I’ve never heard of, and gifs of aggressive chicken dancers. And other stuff. I refuse to get a tumblr page even though John Green has one. As much as I amuse myself with “best of tumblr” collections on Pinterest, the Potterheads, “We have a gif for that” Supernatural fans, and night bloggers scare me. I think they should scare anyone hoping to publish a book (especially John Green).

The climate of tumblr tends to be one of intense scrutiny, immediate ridicule, and infamy peddled for notes. It’s also one of extreme political correctness, trigger warnings, and assumed microaggression. Tumblr is a series of “Am I the only one who thinks this?” propositions followed by beatific ardor or death threats, often over innocuous topics.

There are a lot of good questions being shouted down and a lot of bad questions being celebrated. And there is a lot of obsession. Popular television shows, movies, books, and web series are summarized in photo strips and gifs, distilled into fan art, and expanded into “head canon”.

(Head canon is just weird to me. But I also don’t like fan fiction. See this post for why.)

Then the discussion begins. Every sentence from an author’s work is dissected and debated in increasingly bizarre fashion as if a manic Salvador Dali were teaching Literature 101. The discussion takes on a life of its own until the fans begin to act as if they know the work better than the author (and if we’re being truthful, they just might).

This maelstrom of obsessive curiosity prowls on my shoulder like a hungry gargoyle as I write my novel. Do I really want to poke my head above the wall and say, “I HAVE AN OPINION!” It would always be an invitation to hit me with rotten fruit or toss roses at my feet, but multiply that audience by the billions and remove any real consequences for appalling verbal abuse by hiding them all behind computer screens. I imagine the manic Dali holding my novel over a rabid pit of bloggers with dripping red pens and scissors for teeth, eager for plot holes to probe. After they finish with my book, they start in on ME.

I don’t really know where this post was going. I guess I should go back to writing my novel. Consider this the closest thing to a “stream of consciousness” post this blog will ever see. It took me roughly two months.

15,000 Words And Counting

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I’m up to 15,000 words on the new project. It’s a totally different experience than any other book I’ve started. It’s a different genre (contemporary speculative/literary fiction vs. my usual science fiction) and a different target audience (adult vs. YA). It’s set in a normal American city with a normal young mother as the main character, so it requires no research beyond a quick trip to the Social Security list of the most common names for people born in the 1970’s and 80’s. It’s just easier and more fun than anything I’ve tried to write so far.

There’s one little thing about it though.

If you boil it down, the first half of the novel is about fear. The main character spends much of the first half of the book progressing from slightly anxious to paralyzed in terror. Since the story is written in first-person, it makes me jumpy to work on it. Typically I’m sitting alone in the kitchen writing. Late at night. With a window at my back. And wind chimes hanging outside of the aforementioned window. In Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. And yes, I’ve seen Signs. 

It’s basically a recipe for panic attacks at 1am.

Despite the insomnia-inducing feelings of paranoia late at night, this book is a joy to work on. The characters are so real to me that they take no effort to write. Even the house the main character lives in and the church she goes to are vivid in my mind in a way that the settings on Mars never were. Even though the plot is insanely complicated to explain (to the point that I’ve given up trying to explain it even to my husband), to me it is straightforward and makes perfect sense. When I sit down to work on it, I know exactly where I’m going and how it will all connect in the end. Best of all I don’t have the urge to edit anything yet. I just want to write new scenes! If you’ve followed my writing posts at all, you know this is the complete opposite of my typical feelings about my first draft. I’m usually frustrated, lost, and scraping the bottom of the bucket for ideas. Instead I’m looking for excuses to write and lying awake creating plot twists.

Maybe this is the story where everything “clicks.” I hope so.

I’m thinking about posting a few snippets of scenes just to see what people think, so please comment if you’re interested in that. I need to get back to writing.

Beginning My Return Voyage After Eight Months

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I revisited my Mars novel. The process involved the novel on a pdf on our e-reader, a composition notebook, and a pen. I read what I wrote and jotted notes on what needed to be fixed. I got to chapter 8 before I simply had to fix the mistakes and started editing. I am glad for the self-imposed time off from writing and editing. I’m glad I left Mars in its own orbit while I entertained other flights of fancy. I needed the brain break.

If you recall my post from a few months ago, I imagine you may be wondering, “Did you fix your plot problem?!?”

Yes, but my husband gets all the credit.

Caleb is deeply invested in me finishing this story because a) he is tired of me complaining that I’m not done writing it, and b) he really wants to know my finalized ending. He knows the plot about as well as I do. He’s seen my notes and knows the back stories of the characters and the history of the world I’m creating. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he suggested the solution to my thorny plot problem. It was obvious and simple. Brilliant, really. It saved my favorite character from extinction and kept his back story 99.99% intact.

It took me several weeks to warm up to the solution because I didn’t want to make that return flight to Mars. I acknowledged it was a lovely idea, but I just did not want to write. I was content to make notes about anoxic zones and species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico. I hadn’t written a word since October last year, and I was fine with continuing that trend. It wasn’t until Caleb pushed me to read through my novel “just to remember where you were” that I wanted to fix the book. I wanted to start writing again.

Life is very busy right now and will only get busier. I don’t expect to finish it soon. It might be another five years. It might be six months. But I know I can finish it. I want to finish it. That is huge.

Prayers for discipline and inspiration would be appreciated.

The Plan

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My goal for this year is to finish my novel by August. I think perhaps I might be mad. At the moment, the novel sits at 34,000 words, and I aim to triple that amount before I’m finished. To complete the novel by August would mean writing more than I have ever written in my life. In 8 months.

I thought I was nuts until some simple calculations revealed that my pace needs to be about 500 words a day. That is definitely doable. However, that pace means no weekends or vacations off. I’m not known for my consistency, so this will definitely test my perseverance.

To give myself an incentive, if I am on track by June 1, I will pre-order the final book in The Hunger Games series.

If not, I get to wait until September 1 to get my copy. Which will be pure torture.

Any ideas for other smaller incentives I could give myself along the way? Cuz I’m gonna need ’em.