In October of last year, I was finally ready to query my manuscript. At this point, it had gone through two editors, eleven versions, numerous people in critique groups, and more hours than I care to count. Needless to say, it’s been through the fire but (hopefully) came out in its purest form. And while I wait with bitten fingernails to hear back from agents, project number two must begin… Grab cheeks and queue Macaulay Culkin’s character in Home Alone—AAHHH!!!
I was invited to join a virtual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) team at the end of October. Hey, that’s as good a time as any to start a new story. With several ideas in hand, all I had to do was pick one. Easy enough. I got the basic premise down, the main character’s internal struggle, and began the outline.
Snag. I got caught in a plot hole, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t dig myself out. What’s more, all I could think about were the characters in my completed manuscript. I wanted to write more about them, not these strangers I was trying to force a story out of. I started to wonder if my original characters were all I could create. Was I a one-trick pony?
I decided to say, “Screw it,” to NaNoWriMo and instead just play and see if anything grew from that. I did some word mapping (that’s when you pick a word and write down everything associated with it; then select one of the associated words and do it again), picture mapping (same concept), writing prompts, etc. But while fun, none brought me closer to my next story. The process wasn’t working.
At the end of November, I was no further along than I was at the beginning. Some writer I am. I took a break and started on my website—this one. On December 30th, an idea popped in my head. It was actually a mash of two separate ideas I’d had earlier. I played around with it in my head. That evening, when I went to bed, my brain began running scenes…with NEW characters! They were still there the next morning, fighting for my attention. It was then that I knew I had my next project, and just in time for the new year!
I never thought I would be as emotionally invested in some new characters as I was my old ones, but here I am. And the more I get to know them, the more excited I am to tell their story. Part of me wonders what would have happened if I kept trying to force a story that wasn’t ready to be written. Or worse yet, if I’d decided I really was a one-trick pony and stopped listening to the incoming ideas. We all go through dry spells and periods of writer’s block. I think the trick is to be kind to yourself. Take a break. Start something brand new. Play with some FanFiction. Mess around with words. Whatever you need to do to loosen up your mind. And this last part is hard (especially for me), but be patient with yourself. Because sometimes, it just needs room to breathe.
‘Til next time!