I’m not one of those people who is good at writing when there is a lot of extraneous noise around. I’m also a procrastinator. That means when my life gets chaotic, it’s actually hard to sit down and write.
This has been the issue with the last half of Blonde on the Backwater, the fifth book in the Dairyland Murders Series. I wouldn’t say I’ve been blocked. I’d say I’ve been preoccupied. I’ve been fixating on things that are happening in my real life, when I should be concentrating on the alternate universe in my head.
That’s why the garden was so important to me last year. This year, not so much. I’ve been using my free time to hang out with my husband and run off on fun little excursions.
But that doesn’t mean my brain hasn’t been whispering to me the whole time.
This last Saturday, I was working at my second part time job, and it was unusually quiet there. So I took that as a sign that I should just take a few minutes and catch up on my outlining.
That catch-up turned into two pages of outline to fill out another quarter of the book.
And my brain came up with plot twists that simply hadn’t occurred to me until that very moment.
I recognize that I need to be more disciplined with my time. I need to create those pockets of quiet contemplation. Waiting for them to happen is not really an option.
And I know your counting on me. For your sake as well as mine, I’ll get there.
Remember when your grandparents (or possibly parents) complained about when they were kids, they had to trudge 5 miles through the waist high snow to get to school and back, “up hill, both ways”? Sometimes, that’s how it feels, writing a series.
Like you, I assumed it would get easier as I went along, but that has not proven to be the case. It’s harder.
Every book introduces new characters that help to drive the plot of that particular book. Those characters need descriptions and back stories, and depending on how their roles evolve, they may or may not come back in a later book. That’s work.
The core characters each evolve differently with extraneous factors that round out the series itself. Simultaneously, they are also driving the present book plot with the above introduced characters. That’s more work.
A character driven story still has to be a story. There still has to be a central theme, and in my book there are sub plots that act as catalysts for that theme and literally drive the point home. What’s the point? What are the motivations? Why is the story taking the reader down these paths, and how do they come together? Yep, more work.
Because I chose to write a character driven romantic suspense series, there is a lot of research required to make Dairyland Murder’s universe believable to the reader. There’s history, geography, language, forensics, culture studies, current events, technology, civics, even a little botany now and then. I like to think my books are short but dense with information presented in a way that is entertaining but still makes the reader think.
So, while I enjoy writing the books, and I feel validated knowing that I have fans who really enjoy reading them, I still have to make myself sit down and bring it all together. Metaphorically speaking, I appreciate the privilege of going to school, but it’s still five miles through the waist high snow. And it’s still up hill, both ways.
We’ve all felt the pain of a break-up with a significant other. No one is immune to it. That hopeless ache of loss knows no prejudice. And if you are writing about that loss in a novel, it’s very important to communicate that feeling to the reader.
In the last post I wrote about villains. In a story that centers around relationships, antagonists aren’t always villains. They lie in more of a gray area. They certainly muck up a plot like a proper villain does, but their roll is more to do with reenforcing the battles that rage in the hero or heroine’s heads. They may be doing nothing other than existing in the hero’s life, and that in itself is the catalyst for struggle.
Bernice and Evan handle breakups in completely different ways because they treat their love interests in completely different ways.
Bernice is a drastic bridge burner, so to speak. Her relationships with men tend to run hot and short. Because of this, when she runs into them again, it is usually an awkward experience. Bernice is very choosy, however, with whom she shares her feelings with, rather than just her bed. Her trust in the reliability of men is intrinsically stingy, so when she does extend that trust and it is broken, she is utterly defeated and sulks away to bury herself in depression and work.
Evan, in contrast, is stoic yet romantic. He rarely allows himself the privilege of a sexual relationship, but when he does, it’s for keeps. Because his relationships become epic and all encompasing, the break ups are so devastating, he represses his feelings altogether. He simply deflects the situation from his life and moves on. Whether or not his coping mechanism is any more or less emotionally healthy than Bernice’s is up the reader to decide.
The thing they both have in common is neither is good at closure. Leaving relationships behind as open ended question marks may not be a wise idea in real life, but in a book, they become literary devises that can really round out main characters and punch up the dramatic factor in a love story.
That being said, bring on the heart ache. It hurts so good (my apologies for bastardizing not one but two 1980′s rock song titles; entertaining, but lame).