Some of you know that I have a new novel, Silver Sparrow, which is coming out in May. Although I finished writing the novel over a year ago, there was still a lot of work making changes with my editor, going over page proofs, etc. But all that has been done for six long months. It’s time for me to get cracking on something new.
Where to start? Well, I have been thinking about a new project. I have even written grant proposals for it and come up with a swell catchy new title. And I have spent lots of time thinking about it. I’ve been talking about it, too. When friends says “So what are you working on now?” I’ve got something to say. But have I been writing it? Not really.
Please indulge me in a little digression:
When I was almost sixteen, I met the man of my dreams. My prince’s name was Kenny; he was about seventeen and he lived far far away in a distant Kingdom known as Jacksonville, Florida. I only was in his company about three hours at Cathy Carpenter’s sweet sixteen party, but what a three hours. To this day, I get a little misty whenever I hear Luther Vandross’s “If Only For One Night.” For weeks--weeks!--I corresponded with Kenny via letters. I confessed, I loved him! He confessed, he kind of loved me too! It was the best relationship I ever had because it lived only in my head and my ridiculous teenaged heart.
I kind of feel the same way about this novel idea that I have been bouncing around in my head. I have talked in girlish whispers about it to my bestie who has squealed appropriately in delight. “It’s brilliant!”
Back to Kenny. I know that in real life he never could have lived up to my fantasy. And in real life I never could have lived up to his.
Back to my book (or my book idea, if you want to split hairs.) My real fear is that the idea isn’t as good as I think it is, or even that I am not a good enough writer to pull it off. So I haven’t really worked on it. I’ve been researching it (honest!). And I have been thinking, thinking, thinking about it. Still, I haven’t really sat down in the chair and gotten moving on the project. (Those half a dozen pages in my journal don’t really count, or let's say they don’t count for much.)
I meet a lot of beginning novelists, who have a million questions for me on how to write a first novel. I almost always give a short and sweet reply, “You just write it.” They sometimes literally throw up their hands and say, “But HOW?” I give them a been-there, done-that smile and say, “You just do it!” Sometimes they then ask about research, about finding an agent, or maybe some crazy questions about point of view. I then say, “Write 100 pages and get back with me. These questions you have are all about fear. Face it.”
The funny thing about writing is that you never become a pro. This novel I am tiptoeing around will be my fourth. You would think that by now, I’d just dive in with a sharpened pencil between my teeth and have at it. But you would only think that if you weren’t a writer. We all have to face the blank page.
My new year’s plan (not a resolution, but a plan) is to get something on paper. To move past the fear and the doubt. Yes, 2011 looks to be the busiest year of my life—tenure, new book out, etc—but I am putting this nameless, plotless, book first in my life. You all know I don’t believe in counting words, but I will count time spent in my chair. Maybe I don’t end up writing the book that seems so smart in my head. It’s possible that it just won’t “work.” And that’s fine. It doesn’t have to work. The only thing that has to work is me.
Now, over to you SheWriters, as 2011 begins, how are you going to further your writing this year?
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Photo: Bidrohi >H!ROK< /flickr