Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trusting Your Gut

So, I'm still writing in my closet and convinced that this is definitely the place for me. This summer, when I have more time, I plan to turn this space into something fabulous. Even now, with badly scuffed walls, diaper boxes on the floor, and my husband's shirts hanging over my shoulder, this space is inspiring. Today, I'm peering over the top of my computer out the window to see a gentle rain spattering the brick street in front of our house and, finally, after a long, hard winter (it snowed again not too long ago...), there are fat, red buds on the maple tree.

In my last post, I wrote about having a place to write that "feels" right. But, more important, is having something to write about that "feels" right. You can fake it with a short story, and God knows I have. I've gotten a few pages into some and had second thoughts, but I'd usually finish them anyway. It was good writing practice, and there's not too huge a time investment in fifteen pages. But, a novel requires big-time commitment. We're talking years, potentially, before notes and scenes resemble something like a book and then are revised many times to resemble something like a book that someone might actually want to read. 

After getting some agent nibbles on my first novel, I set about writing a second. I had some ideas about my main characters, and I had a very basic conflict, but I needed to do a fair amount of research before starting. I got a bunch of nonfiction books on my topic and found out, I hated it. I dreaded my work mornings because I just wasn't at all energized by the material. In fact, I'd end up gloomy and depressed. Honestly, writing is hard enough. Publication is practically impossible. If you don't enjoy doing it, what's the point?

My happiest day while working with book two was the day I decided to scrap it.  Then, I allowed myself to just read, mostly nonfiction, for a few weeks, on topics that I was really fascinated with. And there it was, a throw-away line in one of those books, that made me see all these connections, instantly.  It was like all the various ideas and characters I'd been thinking about were stars, and suddenly there were lines connecting them, turning them into the constellation that could become my next book.

Remember when your high school guidance counselor said to find what you love to do and then find a way to turn that into a job? Yeah, I don't remember that either. Nevertheless, the principle makes sense.  Think about what keeps you up at night, what you love to talk about with your friends, and then put your characters into a world where they can be obsessed with the same things. Do you want your readers to lose sleep because they just can't put your book down? Of course you do. Then, guess what? You have to be chomping at the bit to work at it every day. If you're not, if you think, oh god, this thing again! they'll be able to tell. I don't know how, but they will. Your passion for your subject matter, your love of your characters, even the naughty ones, comes through on the page. My new book two is something I can get excited about and hopefully someday, readers will, too.