farm sunset 3/11/14
When a person is a writer, there are emotional aspects to the deal which aren't always addressed. Who wants to discuss the negative side (or even dwell on it) of something that otherwise is so important to our lives! This week has given me vivid examples of downs and ups where it comes to my own writing.
Discussing this is rather like talking about having children. No matter how much you wanted them or love them or know it's a choice you'd make again, there is a down side to it. I wrote about it some years ago that when mine began school and they had problems, maybe friends hurt them-- Wow, I discovered something-- their pain became my pain. I had no idea that the very joy of having them left my happiness forever hostage to theirs. Intense emotions of love are that way.
Of course, writing isn't like having a baby or a child. Living, breathing children, with minds of their own, are not the same as writing a manuscript, but there is this same dichotomy of joy with pain. It's a choice most writers would make again but there are downsides. I came across this article that discusses one of those even for authors who have hit the big time in terms of sales and critical reviews.
So, no matter how popular you have been in writing, how well received, your next book or even that one won't always be appreciated. It might be why someone like J.D. Salinger didn't publish another book after his Catcher in the Rye was such a phenomenal critical and sales success. He isn't the only author of what is regarded as a classic (To Kill a Mockingbird) where the author only wrote one book. Mostly we won't know why, but it could be that felling of never matching the first.
So, for me, this was one of those weeks where the joy went side by side with the-- what the heck happened. I've seen such times before but maybe not so vividly illustrated at the exact same time.
In late February, my books stopped selling period. That extended the first week of March until finally there were some sales (and another of those what-the-heck-is-that-about refund). Pretty much since I began this, I've had times where an individual book has been getting steady sales-- right before it falls off the map. It would be nice to understand why but alas it's not how it is-- but it is the downside to any creative work where it might be appreciated one day and hated the next.
But alongside that has been my joy of starting something new. If all of writing was about waiting for sales, I'd definitely find something else to do! It's not, it's about the creative process that is especially exciting with a new work beginning.
Because I had just finished the rough draft of a second novella, in a metaphysical trilogy where the first one has found almost zero readers, and was researching the Native American mythologies to get my monsters lined up, I was determined to write that third whether any found readers. I don't let popularity of earlier books determine what I will write. I write what comes to me. The second had been fast and rewarding to write (editing yet to come). First still has an iffy cover (hard book to come up with a cover that really depicts the story) but the second has a great one whenever I bring it out (creating covers are part of the fun of doing this for me).
So back to what interrupted starting that third trilogy. I've talked before about a short story anthology in which I became involved. When I had gotten into that project in December, I started a short story that quickly told me that it would make a better book than short story. I decided I'd use those characters to create a third story for my Arizona historicals.
When in Arizona in January I had done research for that third Arizona historical as from the short story I started, I knew it'd have a strong Yaqui aspect to it. Then, I put off writing it for the novella. There also was a lot to write regarding the short story anthology.
Anyway, last week I decided it was time to start-- to do what I have often said is how you get started. Write the first sentence.
Grace O’Brian descended the train steps, a small bag in her hand, unsure where she’d retrieve the remainder of her things.And so it began. One sentence and the rest took off. I did run into a timeline glitch and had to change the opening date of the book. These days, when I write an historical, I put all major characters' birth dates (and deaths if they died) onto a timeline along with important events that impacted their lives.
When I was writing the unpublished Oregon historicals, a glitch like I saw in the new story was easy to fix. Until last year, I hadn't actually done any timelines. I put dates onto a piece of paper and hoped it would make sense later. Timelines avoid mistakes that readers would find frustrating with someone one age in one story and the next one going backward even. Once I knew the birth dates, I knew more about how they would have been influenced by outside events.
Once I got my date right for the third Arizona story, I found out I had something major going on that I could use. That led to more research on two different aspects. As i got that info, the story took off which is the exciting part of writing. The major plot events have not been changed by this, just what's along the road to get there. It's what I consider the joy of writing.
The business of writing, where you take your work seriously, has a wonderful side where I dream about the plot and characters as I begin to put together a plot and deepen the characters. But also the downside-- where if I had to believe it would find readers, I might never even write it. Creating and then learning to release is what a lifetime of writing is about.