Monday, September 28, 2009

Lessons From My 18th Book

I typed The End on my 18th book this weekend. Wow. It seems like I should know more. Or be more confident. But I'm not. I feel about the same as I did when I typed The End on my tenth. Or eleventh. Sort of like I've woken up after a great night of dancing and drinking too much. I hurt all over, can't remember everything, but what I do remember makes me laugh. And cringe.

This book was a bit of a doozey - it's the third in a series about the Notorious O'Neill family. Gem theft, gambling, sex, politics and mommy issues. What could be better?

But here is what I've learned - the sum total of my writing knowledge gleaned from dragging myself to The End of 18 books.

Some books are gifts. They just happen. Characters leap full blooded off the page and do all sorts of exciting things. Don't question it, don't expect it again, just write the hell out of it.

Some books are curses. Nothing works. The plot you thought was so unique will bottom out, your characters will be two dimensional at best and all that conflict will fizzle away. It's not you - you're not suddenly a terrible writer. It's just the damn book. Curse books usually always come after a gift book. Because the writer gods are vicious and think it's funny.

NEVER EVER EVER take a long break from your book while in the middle of a scene. Because that scene will play over and over again in your head while on that break and when you sit down to write- it will seems so flat and dead. And endless. Because you've spent a month thinking about it. Awful. Worst thing I did to this poor book.

When it feels good - capitalize. Order pizza for dinner, send the kids away. Do what Kathleen O'Reilly does and check yourself into a hotel, because that feeling won't last.

When it feels bad - figure out why. The one thing that has gotten better over eighteen books is my willingness to listen to myself when I start to dig in my heels. Part of me knows something is not working.

After 18 books sound critiques are more important than ever. This I know - when I have failed myself and my book - my critique group will save me. It seems like we should earn perspective as we go, the ability to look at our work with fresh eyes and a clear head. But no. It gets worse. And fresh eyes and a clear head are the difference between a great book and an okay book.

After eighteen books, I don't want to write an okay book. My goals are more cemented than ever. I want my books to be great.

Now...what to do for 19 and 20?


Eileen said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Eighteen books? That's incredible. Especially since you're what? Like 16?

Kimber Chin said...

Molly, you wrote EXACTLY what I needed to hear today.

I'm just finishing up a gift book. This after writing a curse book last. I was trying to figure out why one was so easy and the other so challenging.

Are you saying there's no real rhyme or rhythm for it? Am I over-analyzing? Should I work on the curse book some more or should I just let it die?

Big congrats on the 18th book! Woo hoo!

Maureen McGowan said...

Holy crap! 18 books! I am such a slacker. I think you'd only written 3 of those when we met... so that makes 15 since.... and I wish I could say I'd written close to that many.

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