Listening to: Scary Kids Scaring Kids, "Degenerates"
When I first started my current project -- working titled Freya -- I was excited but wary. I really wasn't sure I could make it work. The original idea seemed like it couldn't go farther than novella territory, and I could only think of two possible ways it could all end, neither of which I liked at all (hint: both involved the death of a very important character). But I was so caught up in the narrator's voice, right from page 1, that I couldn't help myself. I had to see where it went. I had to follow her down her path for at least a while, because she was just that awesome.*
Then practicality (and uncertainty) kicked in, and I abandoned Freya for another project, one that had more potential but was infinitely scarier because it was several miles from my usual stuff. It still had some of the same elements, but was also far from my comfort zone. Also, it required a great deal of research, as well as a voice I wasn't sure I could handle yet.
Then, certain that I wasn't quite ready for that particular novel, I abandoned that for another idea. An awesome, fun, different idea. That's the one I'm doing for NaNo. And occasionally in there, I'd work on the sequel to to my last novel, or the first idea I came up with after I finished the last novel. That's right, folks--last winter/spring, I had no less than five things I wanted desperately to write.
But Freya's voice still called to me. I would occasionally, feeling like a little cheater, open up the document and read the first few pages, and next thing I knew I was adding to it. She's addictive, that one. And back and forth we went, until I started my job and realized I had to commit myself to just one novel--or go absolutely crazy.
I asked two people, both of whom knew the details of all three ideas, and they both said, without hesitation, "Freya."
Somewhere in all this, I'd taken Freya in a different direction, one that had far more potential. It wasn't easy--something about the project didn't lend itself to change very well. It took a lot of long showers to get there. But I was at least somewhat confident, once I found the right path, that it had some possibilities.
I never quite fell in love like I have with other novels, though. I was addicted, yes, and I enjoyed the writing, but something held me from falling headfirst into it all. That was a problem. I need that feeling, at least for the first 30k words. After that, it's a matter of, "Well, I've come this far, I pretty much have to finish." Because, you know, once you reach the middle, it's not as fun anymore--it's a long, hard slog to the finish line, tripping over your own feet the whole way.
Freya, somehow, always surprises me. She did it every time I stealthily opened up the document last spring, certain that her voice couldn't be as addictive as I'd thought. And she's done it again now.
Because, nearly 50k words in, I'm head-over-heels. I love this damn book.
What's the change? I don't know for sure. I added a character that I really like, and that helped. And the encouragement I've gotten from those two people who pushed me to focus on Freya has helped a great deal.** Also, I've shown the first page to my brother, who is decidedly not the YA paranormal romance type. He's more the Tom Robbins type, on the rare occasions that he even reads fiction these days. He forgot to stop at the end of page 1, continued on a few more pages, then kind of woke up and realized what he'd done. "I could definitely keep reading this," he said.
Yes, I thrive on outside approval. Hey, I'm a flawed human being. What can I say.
This writing thing never fails to surprise me. Every novel is different. Whereas my last one was like a teenage romance (in the writing experience, not the genre itself), all furious adoration and the hectic joy of first love, Freya has been more like an arranged marriage with a really great guy that I didn't know. I wasn't sure it was a good idea at first, and I tried to back away. But then people pushed me toward it, and I was drawn to the challenge, and the next thing I knew, I was committed. And it took me a while, but eventually I realized its potential. And got really, really excited.
So that's where I am, now. Seven months after I started the damn thing, I finally love it.
Took me long enough.
*This is not boasting. I take no credit for her. She is awesome all on her own, with no help from me. I did not create her--she sprang fully formed from my head, like Athena from Zeus. No, I'm not comparing myself to Zeus.
**One night not too long ago, I was writing while TH was reading Twilight (yes, I'm a mean wife who makes her husband read YA when he'd rather be reading Palahniuk or Myron Cope's autobiography). I asked him how it was going, and his gaze slid to my laptop. "What are you working on?" he asked. "Freya, of course," I answered. A look of longing crossed his face. "I want to read that. Hurry up and finish." Oh, my cold little writer's heart grew three times in size that night!
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving