A couple weeks back as I began to really work on my newest book project, I found myself struggling to get the story on the page. It’s not a new challenge, hell, it’s not even unexpected. Every time I start a new book, I spend the first few weeks stumbling around, bouncing off of weak character motivations, lame plot devices, boring world setting, or any number of things. It’s gotten to a point I expect a rough start to any book. The problem this time? I honestly thought I’d bypass all this gut-wrenching, stress-inducing madness since I actually plotted the series and the world. (See previous post at end of January)
But nope, all that planning was great. For the series arc. For the actual first book? Not so much. In the end, do you know what I realized? While the series has a fascinating, comprehensive plot arc, filled with all my twisty turny things I like to do, the first book was lacking a….
*hanging head* I know, I know. How on earth does this happen, you ask? My answer: I was too focused on the big picture to realize the first book was too general, more of a hastily sketched picture versus a detailed collection of lines. And this realization didn’t hit me until after I spent days struggling with the following:
- My Hero had no reason to give a damn about anything happening around him. There was nothing for him to be vested in.
- My Heroine needed a reason to be in the picture at the same time as our Hero, so they can do what they do best and takes us for a heart-pounding journey.
- My world was leaning too far into the weeds of details. Details readers don’t really want, but as the author I needed, just not in my actual pages going before readers.
- My world details were so precise they were becoming bigger than the story, which meant I was getting frustrated because I could barely get my characters across a scene without wanting to scream.
Frustrated, heart-broken, and worried I’d made a huge mistake taking this story idea on, I
whined to sought out my fellow writer and bestie for help. In fact, I was so inside my head, I came up with a completely different story idea and got all excited about it, claiming it would be my next project.
And like the true friend and writer she is, after kicking my ass around, she (with all the love in her heart) told me, “This new idea? Yeah, no, change the names, change the setting, and it’s just like your other series. Stop being a scaredy-cat and get back to your project.”
Oh the agony, and the resulting shame because she was spot on. Seems when I’m cornered creatively I revert back to what I consider “safe”, and that’s a big no-no for me. With every book, every series I create, I try to stretch my skills, try things that scare the ever-living crap out of me. This new series is no different. There is no paranormal or magic to fall back on and the world is harsh and brutal, but exactly what the story must have to be.
I swallowed back a couple of whimpers, then pulled up my big girl panties and went back to work. Strangely, as if her reality slap had knocked my creative problem solving out of the rut and I got out of my own way, the first book’s plot came together and my initial excitement for the series returned with it.
So my lesson for the week: When fear and self-doubts start to shove you around, step back and out of your own way. Don’t worry about trying something new and failing, because that tumble will show what not to do next time. Get back up, knock the dust and mud off, and look around. You might discover a new path or two to take. You never know what’s waiting down the road.