BTL Diaries: Sometimes You Gotta Walk Away
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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.