Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writing (and Rearing Children) -- Phases

We spend our lives living through phases. "Oh, she's just a kid." "High schoolers. What are you gonna do?" From graduating kindergarten, when children don't know anything other than what their parents teach them, to grade school, where the world begins to open up to them, to middle school when hormones begin to rear their ugly heads, life is a series of phases. From "I can't live without my mommy," to "I love my mommy," to "I hate my mother!", parents have generally seen it from all angles. The only thing we can rely on during these testing years is that we lived through them ourselves. Every time we enter a new phase, we relive our own lives during that difficult period and remember how we felt. Well, maybe not every phase, but generally. It's the only thing that makes some of the ugly parts bearable, knowing it will pass and life will shift once again.

Writing isn't altogether different. In many ways, our novels are our children. From the discovery phase, where the story is exciting and intriguing and new and fun--we are attached to it in a symbiotic bond that we're sure can't be severed. Until the dreaded middle. Suddenly, the story is acting up. This isn't how it was supposed to go. The characters are fighting with you, the plot isn't working the way it should and you are in a state of distress. How am I going to survive this phase? Until eventually, you find your way again. You make peace with your characters, the plot moves on, and you get to the end of the story with a feeling of accomplishment, that you created something good. Granted, not all novels are good. Some require more effort on our part as an author. And some are beyond help. Writing, as in parenting, requires one thing. You can only do you best. When the time comes to let your baby out into the world, you hope you've done everything you can to launch them successfully.

I'm so pleased with (and thank you for all who were a part of) the launch of Return to Hoffman Grove, and yet I still wonder if it will succeed. This one is my altruistic child, my do-gooder. Those are the ones you want to see do well because they are the ones who help others along their journey (I'm still sharing royalties with the crisis center).

Meanwhile, I'm struggling with my "teenager" of a book, my next project. Through the excitement of discovery where I was putting down pages at breakneck pace, I'm now in that middle section where I'm arguing with every word. It's a struggle, just like raising teenagers. And every one is different. Some are easier to work with than others. The thing that keeps me going is realizing this is a phase. This, too, shall pass, and then I'll look back fondly on this moment and know that the effort was all worth it in the end.

But while you're in the thick of it, it's still a struggle.

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