beneath a hollow moon


I haven’t written much in the last three weeks. I allowed myself to get distracted by my mother’s memoirs (and I do mean allowed). Then late Sunday night I came down with either a stomach virus or a bad case of food poisoning and have pretty much felt like I was run over by truck all week. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I’ve been on a writing vacation. (Screwing off, in other words.) I’m finally starting to feel human again, health-wise, so I’m rapidly running out of excuses not to write. I need to just hunker down and do it.

I’m about 80k into the novel I’ve been working on. That sounds way the hell more impressive than it actually is because this novel is basically stitching together a bunch of pre-written stories. However, I’d say about 25k of that is new writing. I’ve gotten to the part of the novel where the pre-written material has mostly been used (there’s one more story for near the finale). I’ve completed chunks of partially written stuff and done substantial stitching together. My last bit of serious writing before flaking off was finishing a barely-begun story that had been sitting on my hard drive for years, than slotting it into place. It felt really good. I liked that section so much I even considered ripping it out and marketing it. But it doesn’t really work as a standalone story. It works quite well in the context of the novel framework, so I’ll just leave things be.

Finishing that was an important for me. I’d completed a couple of stories late last year—the first I’d finished in years, and real milestones on the road to recovery from writers’ block. But they weren’t great stories, more like stretching exercises after a long time of sitting idle. But they were finished, and they were stories. The one I just completed inside the novel was solid work. It will have to be edited, et al., in the larger context of the novel, but it was a substantial thing. It had always been a linchpin story in the greater context of the world I created here, but it had existed in my mind, not in actual writing. That was also true of other stories I had to complete for this project, but this one a big deal for me.*

Now I’ve arrived at another story I’ve needed to complete for some time—the last before the big push to the end. I always knew it was going to be the hardest to write. I’ve poked at it a little and edited out some superfluous material, but I’ve mostly been like a horse shying at a jump. I know myself as a writer well enough to understand that part of the reason I’ve shied away is because it was going to be difficult to write. I just didn’t want to go there and had to wait for my psyche/right brain/whatever-the-hell to build up its nerve. (This is a totally unconscious process, by the way, and has to work itself out in the back brain.) So, the time has arrived to get over myself, jump the hurdle, and get on with it.

The good news in all of this, is that I’ve started to tell myself stories again after a long while of nothing. I’ve got new ideas on the back burner wanting to be written and decent enough that I want to write them. (And by stories I’m afraid I mean novels. I don’t seem to be able to write anything short to save my life.) Also today, the end scene of the current novel popped into my brain fully formed, so that’s a very good sign. (I’d been vaguely aiming at a last line before this time.)

It feels good, it feels like I’m a writer again. I’ve even started to take it a little for granted which I haven’t done in a very, very long time. I don’t want to take it too much for granted because I know quite painfully how easily it can be taken away from me again.

By my own psyche, of course, but we’re always our own worst enemies, aren’t we?

 

 

*For those familiar with my Dos Lunas cycle of stories, Ramona finally got hers.

This morning one of my finished novels, the one that had some of the best writing and worldbuilding I’d done but was structurally flawed, starting talking to me, giving me new ideas and ways to fix the broken bits. Basically, after I finished this novel I realized that I’d tried to write a trilogy within the skin of a single novel (one of the curses of being an organic writer) and it would take a mountain of work to make things right. I’d slogged away at this thing for a year and a half and didn’t have the heart to do a massive restructure and start over, at least not at that juncture. So I shelved it and went on to another novel. I needed the break.

Well, today, as I said, that old novel started talking, doing a full court press, the new structure unfolding before me. It will still need more thinking, but I begin to see how to fix things. And, of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with the novel I am currently working on. But having finished six novels, I’m familiar with this syndrome. It is yet another elaborate attempt at sabotage by my subconscious—because the novel you’re not working on is always more attractive than the novel you are currently working on.

So, I took some notes and politely told the old novel to hold its peace. I would get to it in due time—but first I am going to finish what I’m currently working on. Like I said, I’ve been through this process enough to know that distractions are not my friend. Finish what’s on your plate before planning the next meal.

I actually take this as a positive sign. If the old habits of distraction are trying this hard, maybe it’s a sign that the Wonder Machine really is back online.

I’m so afraid to be hopeful because I’ve been disappointed so often in recent years. This time feels different from all the other abortive attempts, but who the hell knows?

I should probably stop talking about it, so if I go silent it isn’t necessarily a bad sign. Just conservation of resources.

I’ve got just over 42k done on a new novel. That’s not as impressive as it sounds because much of that was prewritten long ago and I’m getting back to it. But I have written over 4300 new words in the last two weeks. I’ve never written at a blistering pace. If I can write 700-750 words on a given day, that’s an impressive word count for me. So, I am unreasonably pleased by that 4300 words, enough so that I feel comfortable about talking about it now.

But not too much. Talking about what I’m writing is a sure way of killing that thing for me.

I’ve been flailing for so long, trying to get things back online, trying old ideas and new ones, and, apparently, I finally landed on the right piece of writing at the time that was right for me. I have been able to put in an almost daily writing habit, something that has eluded me for a very long time.

I won’t say it’s always been easy. The forces of procrastination are still there—but they are the normal forces of procrastination, the ones I’ve been used to dealing with my entire writing life. Not the procrastination of the soul that has been plaguing me for so long.

And the forces of sabotage are still there. As I said recently on Twitter, “I love how when you finally start to make substantial progress on a piece of writing and it’s feeling good the inner critic has got to find new and more extravagant ways of sabotaging things.” But I recognize that voice for what it is and I can tell it to shut up and move on with what I’m doing. It’s been nagging me all my life, it’s part of the artist’s way, all artists everywhere (or most I know), and part of the deal we make with the Universe. For some Universe-only-knows reason.

But unlike the last few years, I recognize that now, too, and can shove it roughly out of the way and get back to what I need to be doing.

So, wish me luck. I’m on that bumpy and thrilling road again and hope to keep on traveling.