Had a couple of breakthroughs over the weekend.
One is measurable: I've jumped the last hurdle with the 15 page synopsis I've been working on for five weeks. Does that sound like a long time to be working on 15 pages? Well, it's not as straightforward as that. I'd already written a short synopsis for my agent Sara to send around with the sample pages. The ending had been sketched out for the regular 3-page synopsis, and I planned to fill in the blanks as I worked on the book. I knew the basic structure would stay the same, so it was a safe gamble.
Suddenly I had to fill in those blanks-- blanks that I had not only neglected, but avoided like the plague. And to tell you the truth, I needed those blanks to be filled in to continue working on the book. Thank God for this exercise which forced me to finally make those decisions. I feel free.
The other breakthrough is immeasurable: I learned something about how I work as a writer. I want to be an utterly confident and steady producer, the kind of person who works best during Nanowrimo, but apparently that's not how I work. My usual MO is to write until I come to a problem I can't immediately figure out. I'll keep figuring until I'm in a corner, there's no answer. I'm done, I can't do anymore, I suck. Finally, I'm so upset I throw it down and stop thinking about it. When I get back to it, I'm more relaxed and the answer just...comes to me.
This has been happening my whole writing career, but I never thought to work with it. Pretty dumb, huh? I guess I just work better in fits and starts. So this last problem I had, I allowed myself a lot of breathing room, and it worked. I knew what I wanted to happen in the ending, but I had never figured out the motivation. Yesterday this huge question of motivation was solved, with a tool I'd already written into the story.
Here's an interesting post by Rachelle Gardner ( in which she says,
I work with a lot of first-time authors, because that's part of what I love to do. But something I'm learning is that we may be doing you a disservice if we contract you when you've only written one book. Yes, writing that book was a huge accomplishment. And if your very first book garnered positive attention from editors and/or agents, that's even more of an accomplishment. It's terrific!
But it's not enough. The hard truth is that it takes a lot more than one book to really know "how to be a writer." So if you get contracted after that one book, over which you slaved for years, and then you're under the gun to produce another book on a deadline, what's going to happen? You are going to have a very, very difficult time.
When I read this several days ago, I tweeted the link immediately because it hit me so hard. I think that's what's been going on with me. I've been writing for a long time, but always on my own time. I didn't know a person had to figure out "how to be a writer." Although I don't have a deadline, per se, people are ready to leap into action when this book is finished. The self-imposed pressure was surprisingly crippling. I've had people get very upset with me because of this. "You have an agent, you ingrate. If I had an agent, I'd be set." Well, sorry to burst the pre-agent bubble, but having an agent isn't rainbows and roses. It's a business. It's work. It doesn't solve all your problems and, as in my case, can magnify some.
My expectations are about 50 times higher for myself than they are for you. I build boxes around myself and then stay there, so for me the key is to relax and allow other possibilities into my consciousness. There's so much advice we hear all the time: to write every single day, no matter what; to write our way through rough patches in our stories; to set goals and stick with them. For someone like me, with a corncob up her butt already, this advice is to be avoided at all cost. I wish there were more advice to relax. Please pass this advice along.
So, yeah, I'm pretty excited now that I finally figured out how to be a writer in my own way. Have you figured it out yet? How has it opened up your writing?