When the year started, I was fresh off finishing the final rounds of edits for A Touch Menacing, the last book in my trilogy. To me, that whole time period looks like one giant black scribble mark in my brain. After writing on the same characters for almost 5 years, and then having to let them go (some in horrible ways) I was emotionally worn out. I knew I needed a break. Hell, I’d needed one for awhile. But I didn’t feel like I deserved one. See, I was never one of those people who could work on multiple projects. I wrote A Touch Mortal, sold it, and then worked on edits until a couple months before it was published. Only when I reached the copy edit stage did I jump into A Touch Morbid. The same went for Menacing. So in between edits were weeks where I didn’t do any writing. I feared not being able to find my way back into the voice and world if I started something different. I watched, envious, as friends talked about their new projects and “for fun” books that ended up selling. This was an entirely foreign concept to me. Sometime between selling the first book and finishing the third, I’d stopped seeing writing as fun. I’d started to see it as a constant word goal I never quite reached. “After I finish this, I’ll write something different,” I promised myself. “Something for me. Something fun.” But it never happened. This year, for the first time in almost four years, I found myself with no deadline. No pressure. And I completely froze up.
All work and no play make Leah something something…
There are a million reasons I could give you. I could say it was lack of discipline, or lack of ideas, but those aren’t true. I’d actually pitched my agent a few at the BEA 2012, and never quite gotten around to starting them. I could say I was busy. Maybe even that I was simply catching up on tv shows (hello, Sherlock!). The simple truth though, is that I fell out of love with writing. I wasn’t rushing home to get a scene down. No one stared at me at the grocery store when they caught me running dialogue to myself in the ice cream section, because I wasn’t running dialogue in the ice cream section. My characters weren’t popping into my head, because I didn’t have any characters that made me think about them. The spark was gone. Writing and I, it seemed, were over.
I thought about what that would mean. Could I be happy without writing? At that time, the answer was yes. My contract with Greenwillow and HarperCollins ended after the third book. Writing a new one meant going on submission again,which was daunting. It meant maybe finding another publisher. Maybe not finding one. Did I really want to go through that again? There isn’t really much else I’m good at aside from writing. I considered going back to school, but wasn’t sure what for. My agent, Ro, asked me how everything was going. I told her I needed a break. She told me to take as much time as I needed.
And so I stopped writing. I babysat my nieces, and hung out and went to (lots) of concerts. Then, one day, a scene popped into my head. One that screamed to be written. I wrote it. And then I let it sit. A week or so later, another scene popped into my head and I called a friend. I read her the first scene. “Write that book,” she said. “Now.” I asked my roomie, Scott Tracey about it. “WRITE IT.” he demanded. So I putzed along on it. I can’t say it came out in a rush. It fizzled and sparked and smoked in my brain and on the page. This year, I thought, I’m going to teach myself to work on multiple projects. That’s my goal. So I started something new. That, too, took off. When it stalled, I flipped to my first project. Then started another. Then another. Some were only scenes. Others went further. I worked on what cried out most to be written when I sat down. I started to like writing again. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I had another book in me. In September, I added up my word counts for each codenamed project, expecting an abysmal number. This is what I found…
Now, that may not seem like a lot to some writers, and it’s especially not a lot for NINE months of writing, but to someone who considered giving up, that is a glorious amount. Staggering. I was back in the game. So this, 2013, became the year I taught myself to work on multiple projects. Here are my final word counts.
One of those books, codenamed Doorstop, is finished. It’s currently sitting for a couple months until I have enough distance to give it a proper edit. Another, AVBA, aka the project that got me writing again, crossed over the 60k mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it at around 75k. I can’t tell you what it’s about, but GOD do I want to. Guys, I love this book. I think you will love this book. It’s uses a well known character I’ve had a crush on since childhood along with that special twisty quality I like to add to my stories. I spend my idle time dreaming up creepy promo ideas and ways to strengthen the plot and one liners to work in. It’s the book I want to send first to my agent, because it’s a book I’m already proud of, even though it’s not yet finished. And it feels so good.
Most of the 182,510 words (which breaks down to 500 words a day) I wrote this year will never be published. For instance, it’s going to be years before I’m a strong enough writer (if ever) to tell the story I want to become Sour Notes. Terrors is a fantasy novel, something I’ve never tried before and I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain for a whole book. Accidental Kristen is just that–an accidental Kristen scene that takes place long after A Touch Menacing ends, and will never be a novel. At most, it might be a short story I’ll email to people who want to read it. But the point is, I had fun writing these words. They stretched me and made me work and think. They gave me the chance to say, I’m back. I’m writing again. And if luck has it, in a few months I’ll be on submission again, an idea I’m actually pretty excited about.
Next year, my goal is to finish two novels. One of those will be AVBA and the other, I’m not sure of yet. We’ll have to see what the next 365 days hold! How about you? Did you have writing goals for the year? Did you reach them? What are your goals for 2014?