The starting-work-on-a-new book time. I don't like to dramatize writing. Yes, it is work. The amount of focus required to produce a decent mystery novel is pretty intense. And, weirdly, the longer you've been writing, the more difficult it is.
That saying about pride going before a fall? I was aching with the impact of my landing as I stood in the bar area of the Caledonian Inn, trying not to watch Trevor and his new boyfriend meeting and greeting our fellow tour members that first night in Scotland.
Well. Sort of. I mean the technical parts of writing--how to construct a plot, how to write believable conflict, how to create real-seeming characters--all that kind of thing, how to stack the building blocks of fiction, is obviously, after *cough*-many years no longer a giant question mark. What is a giant question mark, remains forever a giant question mark, is coming up with a fresh take, a fresh angle, figuring out how to use the old words in new ways.
Because...that's part of the test for all writers who last any length of time. Eventually you use up all those first ideas, those initial ideas you were burning to write for so many years. Eventually you've used all the good words a million times. I mean, there are only so many ways to say it -- whatever "it" might be -- and some words and phrases are just more effective than others. Yes, you could say it a different way. But can you say it a better way?
I've held all kinds of jobs, and though writing has its challenges, it's sure as hell not as difficult as teaching. Even my rule as an evil corporate overlord was tougher in some ways than writing for a living--despite the fact that I always knew I was going to walk away from being an evil overlord the minute I saw a crack in the wall. But a successful writing career is still a demanding profession/sentence. The pay is irregular, there are no health or retirement benefits, no safety net at all really, because the industry is always, always in flux.
I honestly don't think that's what makes writing so tough though. I think a large part of the reason I dread the start of a new project (and I do) is because it's almost like willingly sinking yourself into a manic state--BRING ME THE HALLUCINOGENS!! Or like a medium submitting herself to a dangerous trance. However cerebral and rational the writing of a new project feels at the start, it always reaches that point of complete immersion, where the imaginary world becomes more real than the real world...and every disruption is enough to send me into fury, like the Wicked Witch of the West shrieking for her flying monkeys.
Oh, those first few painful pages...
Vance leaned over to whisper in Trevor’s ear and for a second I couldn’t remember what Rose was talking about. Oh, right. This ten-day tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands specially tailored to fans of famed mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Every stop and every stay was planned around settings in the Rayburn books. The high point of the tour were the four days to be spent at Vanessa’s own castle on the island of Samhradh Beag.
Even after all this time the first, say, third of a new book leaves me feeling like...how does this work? Is this how I do it? It's like reinventing the wheel Every. Single. Time. There is nothing so flat as the first words of a new story landing on a blank page.
I might as well be writing The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs a hundred times. That's pretty much how it feels. In fact, those are probably the opening words to my autobiography.
The start of every new book is an act of faith on the part of the author. However it feels--and it always feels like what am I doing here?!--eventually the story takes over and it's all you can do to keep up with it.
So this is where we are. MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD destined for Carina Press and a first week in December release. Watch for it! And by "watch for it," I mean don't fall across the tracks because this train has no brakes...