As a Writer: Pretending No one is Looking
Once upon a time I blogged in Livejournal, and on a good day thirty people saw what I said. Most days I would put up a post and know my husband and a few close friends would see what I wrote. Even when I first got published, my readership was largely my LJ community, and there are days I miss that. I started blogging to get myself used to the idea of being exposed–definitely I’m one of those authors who wants to tell stories and make a living at it, but the whole social navigation thing, even when I’m good at it, wears me out. I found however that one of my favorite things about blogging and writing was talking through the process out loud, but unlike emailing a bf or talking to Dan, people either responded or didn’t in a way that was totally okay. Usually my favorite parts were when nobody said a word or the usual two people said, “You go get ’em!” I know I could go reboot the LJ or make a private new one, but it feels wrong, like I’d be deciding who got to see behind the curtain and who didn’t, plus there’d be pressure on how to filter…no. It’s all or nothing now.
Today, though, I’m going to pretend none of you are here. What I want to do is talk through my latest WIP, which I was all set to finish until it snagged this week, and when I pressed on it a little it opened like a lotus.
Probably you should ignore that “Hope University” novel, because I don’t think this is going to be a series like I ultimately thought. When I started it was supposed to be fun and short and light, a little something to keep me busy before GRL and give Saritza something to sell. Now it has morphed into something between Special Delivery and Dance With Me. Definitely it’s a longer novel, at least 80k is what I’m thinking. It would be fun for it to be over 100, but that kind of makes me tired. This is the problem with doing this to make money: there’s almost no incentive beyond “writing the best book that can be” in making the book longer. In fact, everything is geared to keep novels at 65k or less.
I could see this book, though, making me go long. The irony is it’s not a pushy book. It’s very soft, like the aforementioned lotus. It would totally let me shove it out at 60k, which was my original goal, and most of you would still enjoy it. I think it would feel slightly flat, like I rushed. But it would let me close off the doors, if I wanted. It would sell well enough, and it’d clear my plate to write something else which could behave much the same. Or I could knuckle down and do this thing up with bows and ribbons and really, really make it hum.
That’s the funny part. I’m not used to being given a choice. Usually there’s a hard furrow to find and follow, and if I get out of line the book shuts down. Usually it’s either big or it isn’t. I will never, ever forget trying to find the line in Special Delivery. Every time someone says it’s their favorite book I want to say, “Good, because it tried to kill me.” This book is a lot like SD in that it started as something simple but revealed itself to be something bigger. I wanted to write a cute little number about kids in college, and that’s still there, but this is definitely what I think of as a “big book.” It’s like the difference between Second Hand and Family Man, the books I co-wrote with Marie. We love both books, but SH was light and fun and not complicated, whereas FM has veins that run deep. I thought Love Lessons was going to be more like SH, but it’s not. What it might be most like is Dance With Me, not an erotically focused novel, but probably even though I think the sex scenes will be sweet, nobody else well.
Still can’t get over this idea that I could chose to make it simple, and let me tell you, the urge is there, and it’s very tempting. I could knock this off and have it out and in the circuit before I left for Albuquerque. I could maybe come home to a contract. I could have another book in the editing hopper. Or I could let the writing days come to a full stop and change the Scrivener due-date to “November 1” and that word count from 65k to 100.
I think the only reason it’s letting me think I have a choice is it knows there’s no way I would choose anything but to do it up right. I say this because when it built the story soundtrack (that’s always like reading a tarot deck for me) it pulled all manner of stuff from Special Delivery‘s soundtrack, so when I hear those songs I think of how it felt writing that story–not obsessing over it, just writing, the bits that were good and strong and hummed. So every time I think about trying to cut a corner, one of those songs come up, and I sigh and get ready to adjust the word count. To put a nail in my coffin I just added the majority of the soundtrack to Partition, which that combined with the instrumental tracks of Imogen Heap’s Ellipse send me straight into the cab of Mitch’s truck and Sam’s head. This story isn’t even close to that one in structure, but it’s definitely coming-of-age in the same way that one was, about boys finding themselves. It’s just that this time they’re both coming-of-age. And if I’m honing these two out of stock, Walter is Randy, not Mitch. Except really Walter is Walter, and Kelly is Kelly, not Sam.
Just now I went over to the document and changed the settings: officially 100k, officially November 1. Which will undoubtedly get pushed further back, unless I can somehow write the back half of a novel while also going to a big fat con I’m helping organize. Fine. I just bumped it to November 15.
It feels good. It feels like going back to August 2009 when Hero hadn’t yet sold and Special Delivery was still beating the shit out of me. Because back then I would never, ever have let myself cheat. I would never have taken a short run to completion. Back then I still believed only the best would do. So this is me pretending this is Livejournal and nobody cares, that this is still a book nobody’s seen or cared about. I have to do my best because if I don’t, the book might never see the light of day. I have to work like hell because that’s what writing is, and 100k is the length of books. 60k is a novella to me again. This is going to be a big book, and so I’ll take my time and do it right.
Feels pretty damn good, to be honest. Thanks, book, for letting me get here on my own. I think this says a lot about your character.