BTL Diaries: Sometimes You Gotta Walk Away

Note: You may have noticed the header and theme of this blog is different. I’m playing with a new logo. This is the prooving ground. Let me know what you think.

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Since last we spoke, I’ve worked on Better Than Love for one whole day. I tried for a second, then a third, and on the fourth day my muses stood up as angry mountains of angry and said WE ARE NOT DOING THIS.

I didn’t blog it for a lot of reasons, the chief being that was an awfully personal moment and very frustrating. It’s been a hard year for projects (for everyone I know) to start with, but then there was the whole gamble of blogging progress, plus the fact that I’ve been trying to write this sucker since 2010. I’ve done the walk away before, so I wasn’t buying the whole “oh, maybe not right now” thing. I sat long and hard, then said, well, if it doesn’t start working in a few more days, I’ll shelve it indefinitely, maybe permanently.

The muses stood up in their mountain-ness and said, “You’ll do that right fucking now.”

So I did. It made me sad, because I love Chenco, but the truth is, sometimes there are the stories we only tell ourselves. Sometimes the time is never right or the window is small and you’re busy brushing your teeth or something when it happens. All I knew is that every time I tried to work on BTL my brain dredged up A Model Man which has been stuck on Stuckety Fucking Stuck since April or worse, and that in fact is what I’ve been working on lately. So far so good, but I’m still fussing in the pre-stuck part, so we’ll see. That sucker feels like Special Delivery and the way it fucked me around for two years.

I’ve also been doing Other Things. I’ve had many many days that are just emails and promo posts and shuttling things for RRW and other biz stuffs, travel for something I’m not sure I’m supposed to announce yet, but I will when I get full permission. I’ve also been walking a friend through the valley of hell of a book, something I know well and hate, and it feels good to help. It’s also still early in the school year for Anna, plus I’m never out of things to learn about Heidi’s New Cooking Adventures. I even had a birthday party for myself, which was fun and rather me, even if they did keep dragging me out of the kitchen to be social. I think people thought it was odd that on my birthday I wanted to spend three days cooking tamales for my close friends and family. I did, though. That’s kind of how I roll.

Anyway, all this happened, and the whole time BTL sat shelved. As in, I had no intention of picking it up, possibly ever. I was ready to apologize to fans, to encourage them to go write fan fiction or use the Sam/Mitch/Randy/Ethan die-casts to write their own stories, even just in their own heads. It was all set that the SD series would simply be finished.

I forgot about Chenco, though, and how badly he wanted to be story.

In the end I think it was a good technique, because instead of me killing myself trying to make the muses function, Chenco is doing the heavy lifting, sorting out the things that keep snarling (“Hey, maybe I’m not Mitch’s brother, just some guy he adopts like a brother!”), keeping things interesting and tantalizing. The muses are not buying it, but they’re watching out of the corner of their eyes. I think if I keep saying, “We’re not doing this” and let Chenco dance, it might all work out.

I’m aware that I get a lot of readers, both of my books and my blog, who write, and what I’m saying next is to you. Sometimes you have to walk away. Sometimes the characters don’t stand back up and dance for your muses. Sometimes you work a long time on story and it’s nothing more than a hard, frustrating lesson. Sometimes you write story and it never sees the light of day, by your hand or by the publishing gods. I’m here to tell you, that’s a good thing, and you should never feel ashamed for putting something down. Oh, fans, yes, they’ll be disappointed. But you know what would disappoint them more? You never writing again, or writing but being always bitter and angry and frustrated and letting it show.

There’s no way to measure how many authors I’ve talked out of trees this year. I think all the transits of the stars and what not have made things hard, and the social pulse on the ground isn’t helping either. The zeitgeist isn’t friendly just now, nor is it accessible, not like it used to be. It’s been a hard year to make up story for a living for whatever reason, at least for a lot of people I know, and I’m one of them. This happens. This happens a lot. Sometimes it’s the way the wind blows, sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s inexplicable, but it happens.

I could slam through BTL and pump out something. I could override my muses and make the story work whether it or I want to work or not. It would suck, by the way, and at best it would be like a bad date, something that was maybe fun if you didn’t think too hard but mostly left you back home on your doorstep feeling empty and confused. And upset, because I’d have taken your money for that date, and you’d remember that. Story isn’t something you push, not when it’s saying slow down. If you’re a slow writer? Then you’re a slow writer. If your muses like to meander? Then that’s what they’re going to do, and yelling at them, I promise you, won’t help. Neither will making them go when they don’t want to.

Creating story is such a fragile, miraculous effort, and we need to acknowledge that. We spin whole worlds out of gossamer threads, worlds great and strong enough for millions to walk through and feel they are at home. Unlike the movies and TV, we do this all by ourselves–polish and such comes from editing, yes, but the bricklaying, or rather that thread-spinning that becomes bricks and trees and earth and city sidewalks and shopping malls and everywhere our characters go–that’s all us. We’re the directors and actors and writers and by and large the producers too. We do most of the editing. We add special effects. We create the worlds as lonely gods, and yeah. It’s hard.

So I’m not writing BTL right now, but I’m no longer saying absolutely I’m never picking it up. I’m back to, when people ask when SD3 will be out, saying, “Not sure, still working.” I’m back to knowing fans are disappointed, wanting their next foray into a friendly world. But I”m making other worlds, ones my muses are ready to do, and I’m sticking to the truths I know, that if I write a book when it’s not ready, it’s going to be bad. Yes, other people can write sequels faster. Yes, other people don’t have as hard a time. That’s okay. Other people aren’t me, and I’m not them, and allergies and extra pounds and all, I like–no, love–who I am.

As for Better Than Love? Randy is a betting man, and he hasn’t laid anything down yet, but he’s got his eye on Chenco, and he keeps smiling and touching his lip thoughtfully. I have a feeling before long he’ll be in there helping Chenco woo the muses. So no promises, but–well, you know how Randy gets. I doubt you’ll wait forever.

18 Comments on “BTL Diaries: Sometimes You Gotta Walk Away

  1. *hugs you* I adore how you lay it right out there, Heidi, and as a fan, I appreciate SO MUCH that you respect your fans enough to give them the honest truth about stuff. You need to tell the story that your muses need you to tell. I love the SD universe to bits. Randy is one of my most favourite heroes EVER. Do I want more? HELL YES! But not at the expense of much-loved characters and a much-loved author. 🙂

  2. Thank you for validating something I’ve been telling myself for a while. I’m a slow writer. Deadlines paralyze my muse like nothing else, and give me hives. I’m 6 books into a 12 book co-written series with no inspiration in sight. I’ve got a loudly clamored for heavy duty BDSM novel that neither I nor my co-author are ready to even think about. We won’t even mention the 3 solo projects I’ve been stalled on for a year or more! And I’m kinda-sorta okay with all this from a personal perspective, but the idea of disappointing a reader by NOT writing a story s/he’s waiting for is acutely painful. The only thing worse is the idea of putting 100+ pages of dreck out there.

  3. Oh, and YES, this has been a beyond shitty year for almost every author I know. It’s like the stars aligned against us, or the creativity gods decided “Ooh, this m/m writing thing is going too smoothly…we must fuck with it!”

    • There’s a part of me that’s relieved it’s not just me. The bigger part, though, is flat out pissed at the world because my author friends are having such a hard time. And sequels? God, the sequels are KILLING me! Most of my worlds were created during happy, giddy, Yay-I’m-Published time, and just the thought of them now makes me want to break stuff!

  4. First off-I really like the logo.

    I’m really sorry you are having trouble with BLT, that sucks. That said, I want you to know how much your honesty means. I write a bit, and it’s probably one of the most difficult things I do. Knowing that authors I admire so much and look up to also have those hard days, well….it gives hope to all of us who struggle with the written word.

    • Thanks for the compliments, and I’m glad it meant something to you. That was part of the reason I did this post, knowing others were out there feeling they were the only ones. So not true.

  5. Pingback: five things: vampires, doormats, unfinished projects, etc. « Kate McMurray

  6. I actually stopped reading M/M about eight months ago because having established my favourite authors and type of story (intelligent, fun and witty, with emotional depth, but something unique in the portrayal – not “romantic”, so to speak), I got a bit bogged down in trying to find others I liked as well and thought a time out would be good. It kind of tickles me that I happened to pop back in to see if BTL had been released so close on the heels of this post! I’m sorry you’ve had such a struggle this year, personally I haven’t had a thought worth making into a story in over a year, so you’re several steps ahead there 😉 But since I immediately lose the ability to write a single word the minute people are aware I’m working on a project, I think you’ve done extremely well. There’s no doubting that BTL is highly anticipated, and that alone would kill the most stubborn of my own muses. I can only say that, knowing the quality of your writing, if you get some stress-free play time with these characters, you can’t help but hit gold. There are few characters that jump off the page so wholly formed as Randy, Ethan, Mitch and Sunshine, and whether it ever makes the light of a published page or not, I think they would be joyful characters to play with. One day they’ll probably take off in a completely unexpected direction and shock you, if they’re anything like my own disobedient creations 😛 But as you said, flogging it never makes it jump. Best of luck with everything 🙂

  7. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
    you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence
    on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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