Hello there, readers! It’s been six months since I was last up on Heroines of Fantasy, and I’d love to say I’ve been super productive during that time, finishing up my next novel, editing projects, and just otherwise moving forward on my stagnating writing career.
I did finish another draft of the never-ending novel I’ve been working on with a co-author for the last few years, and I am happy to say that it is now stalling out on my co-author’s desk rather than mine. I have almost completed edits for the lovely and talented Melissa Mickelsen’s next novel, her fantastic sequel to Nightingale (and if you haven’t read it, you should). But my own writing? The third installment of the Song series?
I have a couple of good excuses. Cancer, for one. That’s a good one! Then before my treatment fully concluded, I went back to work teaching seven classes to make ends meet. I truly did not have time for generating story. But when I completed the semester on May 22, I ran out of excuses. It was time to get down to business. I was excited to get started on outlining the next novel, and looking forward to making solid progress.
Then I opened the document. Nothing.
Next day: nothing.
And so on.
The summer started to fly by, and I panicked. Why couldn’t I write? Where were all of my ideas? I had never before experienced writer’s block to this degree. I was actually beginning to fear that I couldn’t write anymore, that I had quite literally forgotten how. On more than one occasion, I decided to just quit. Forget it, I told myself. Nobody cares about your third book, anyway.
But to my surprise, nobody quit on me. My friends kept asking me, “when is the third book coming out?” My answer, “when I figure out what to write,” made me feel even worse. I went onto Goodreads and discovered that people are continuing to read and review my books; even they are questioning where that next book is. I went from feeling insecure to trapped, and still no words would come.
At some point, I managed to sit down and plot out the beginning, middle and end in Scrivener, hoping that using a method and program I’ve never used before would help me break out of my own head. The problem, though, wasn’t ever that I didn’t have the beginning, middle and end plotted out. The problem is figuring out all that is supposed to happen in, you know, the rest of the book.
And then, magically, it happened.
While I was quilting with a friend, not thinking or talking about writing at all, an idea suddenly occurred to me. You see, all these many years, while plotting out the general path of the series, I had planned on four books. Book two, largely, was a vehicle to get to three, and three to four. But suddenly, while innocently sewing two squares of a memory quilt together, I realized that I could combine books three and four. The idea blew my mind. Before I knew it, the possibilities were rolling around in my head. What if this happened, and that? How would that resolve?
The next day, I sat down to produce something for my writing group. I knew I had started this novel before (2011!), but in this iteration, I had been struggling to start with a different opening. However, time was short and I absolutely could not show up one more time without any writing! I opened the document, and was surprised to discover that the beginning was… just fine. A few revisions here and there, and it will be a fine first draft opening.
So what did I learn from this? First, writing is hard, particularly after a very long and foggy break. Like any other muscle, this one needs exercise to stay functional. Second, writing, at least for me, can’t be forced. The story needs to find its own way, and no matter of pushing and struggling on my part will make it fit into a certain prescribed pattern. Last, but probably most important, I need my readers. My friends, my writing group, my little coterie of fans—you are the reason why I do this, and you are what keeps me going.
That, and the voices in my head.
So, enough about me. Tell me, readers: what pushes you out of your writing slump?