In some ways, it feels like yesterday. We had just moved into a new house but hadn't closed on our old one, so I was alone in an empty building I was becoming more and more familiar with, painting my new living room walls, when I got an email from Amazon that it was live. I smiled, posted it on Facebook, and then picked back up the paint roller. Whenever anybody tells me that being a writer is glamorous, I chuckle and think about that moment. I honestly don't think I'm a successful enough of a writer for anything to be glamorous yet. Maybe that day will come.
On the other hand, however, I'm frustrated with myself that it's been two years and yet I'm still working on my current project that's not finished yet. In many ways it's been an incredibly educational book to write for myself as an author. I've felt like I've had to relearn how to write. With both An Unusual Path and Phoenix Morrow, I had a very similar writing process for both. (Treadmill Tales was it's own beast, but it's a very different book.) I bounced all over the place, wrote the end, wrote the beginning, wrote the pieces in the middle all out of the out of order and then put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I fully expected my current book to be written much the same way. That was how it started.
As time has gone on, I've had to relearn how to write because that process wasn't working. My other books have been primarily written on the computer, with some paper and pencil notes made later in the editing process. This time around, the computer was driving me nuts, not because it wasn't working but because it wasn't working for the story. I finally took a day, I printed out all of the notes I had on the computer that I couldn't get to do anything, and put them all together in a notebook. That was something I had not done before that early in the process. However, I learned there were things I could do with paper and pencil I couldn't do on the computer. When I realized that pieces of my story felt out of order, I could take apart my notebook, lay all the pieces out on the table, and physically rearrange them. It actually was really helpful to literally visualize, across my dining room table, what my story looked like. However, I had to learn how to do that. It was something I had never done before, which made the process longer.
Learning is time consuming.
As I'm building these new characters, new story lines, new issues and lives, I realized I needed to figure out how one built onto the other. To do that, it became clear I needed to work through the story chronologically. Writing out of order as I have always done in the past wasn't going to work this time. I had to take my notebook, now full of all sorts of pencil and paper notes, and go through it chronologically in the story to put it back in the computer that gave me so much trouble. Once again, I have had to learn how to invest myself in a whole new process, and it's taking a while. Learning all of those skills, that I truly hope will create a book I can't wait for you all to read, again is time consuming. I hope these lessons are making me a better writer, but learning and growing in anything is messy. It takes a while. The worst part is that sometimes we all hate that those sorts of things take a while, but unfortunately there's nothing we can do about it. Rushing it will only make it awful, and at this point I've invested too much time for it to suck.
I cannot wait to get you guys this book, and maybe this two-year anniversary of Phoenix Morrow will light a fire under me. As much as I would love to rush this process, and trust me there's parts of me that wishes I could, I've got to let it run its course. That's the only way to be true to the story. Stories need to be told, and it takes as long as it takes to tell them.
Whatever you're doing today, don't be afraid to learn to do it differently. Don't be afraid to learn to do it better, and don't be afraid to allow that process to be messy. Mess is where the magic happens.
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