Friday, June 24, 2011

Turning a New Leaf

Are there times when you're not sure what to write next?  Maybe you have so many ideas it's hard to pick just one.  Or maybe your mind can't focus on writing a new work, even though an inner compulsion is telling you it's time to start one.

I've found myself in both of these places before, and honestly find myself at this point right now.  While I want to write a new book, at this point the amount of mental dedication it takes is just enough to stress me out.  This stress has compressed the voices of new characters into a mumbled cacophony.

So, why does this happen?  In my opinion, the mind can only handle so much.  With that being said, between life responsibilities and the dedication to other aspects of our writing whether this be editing, querying (for some), or marketing, there's only so much mental capacity.

Anyway, I'm trying to pull from a time I felt "stumped" by a character who wasn't fully cooperating.  I had the concept for the novel, and an idea as to how I wanted it to work out.  I had the character's name, and...silence.  I didn't understand this because I had never experienced this prior to then.  I kept "talking" to my main character asking him for more details to fill out the story.  It didn't matter.  My mental image of the character had him with crossed arms, and a shaking head.  I was "talking" to dead space.  My mind couldn't focus no matter how much I willed it to.

My husband suggested I let the story sit for a few days, and focus on other things.  He had confidence that it would all work out.  And you know what?  He was right.  I finished this novel for NaNowri Month in 2010.  It was my first thriller, and it came in as my longest novel to date.

So, how did things turn around?  Don't laugh....but I give partial credit to a leaf.

Yes, you read that right.  Normally, my husband and I commute to work together.  When I dropped him off, I got out of the car and saw a small maple leaf.  Something about it - it was just perfect - told me to pick it up.  It must have been one of those stop and smell the roses moments.  I took it with me to work, and set it on my desk to admire it throughout the day.

It was during this day, I just randomly vented to the main character Why aren't you talking to me?  He answered, I'm not who you think I am.  It was during this "interaction", I realized the reason he had been silent was because I kept telling him what his role was going to be in the novel.  I had him pinned as an innocent.  He whispered to me, I'm the killer.  Once he told me that, the story came together.

Now, the reason I give partial credit to a leaf is because when my focus was on its beauty, it wasn't on my book.  It allowed my mind to stop thinking, and start being creative.

What can you take away from this?  Don't give up on a novel when it seems the voices have gone silent.  Try to give them space, and let them come to you.  Sometimes our minds need a break.  And first and foremost, don't force characters into a mold you've created.  What makes them great is letting them flourish, and have a life of their own.  After all, aren't they what help make our books unique?