So my husband arrives home from work last night and sees that I’m in a funk. Also, the laundry is done and I’m sweeping the floor and I won’t look him in the eye. Basically, if I had a dorsal fin, it’d be bent down. So James pours two glasses of wine and sits us down by the open windows for the download.
J: How’d it go today?
Me: Not good. Not good at all. I wish this were easy for me like it is for all the other writers and I could just spit out the words and get it right on the first draft. But I can’t. I’m not that good.
J: Uh-huh. And who’s it easy for?
Me: [pulls out the big gun] Stephen King. He just won the Edgar for Mr. Mercedes.
J: Honey, he’s an amazing writer, but he wouldn’t have fallen into a crazy, drug-and-alcohol fueled stupor if it were easy.
Me: [frowns] That’s true. But I don’t think I can do it this time. I’ve never written a book like [SB] before. I don’t even know if it’ll work. I haven’t seen anything else like it. Maybe I should be writing another cat-and-mouse, like Swerve. Maybe that’s what people will want.
J: Just write the story.
Me: I’m scared.
J: Good. You should write scared. It’s when people write cocky that it turns to crap.
Me: I’m already writing crap.
J: Take a sip of wine.
Me: [sips] I mean, know my world and I know my characters and I’ve done my research and I should be able to write thousands of words, but now it’s like I have too much information and it’s all jumbled up in my mind and I don’t know where any of it’s supposed to go.
J: Did you do your notecards?
Me: Just for the first act. I wanted to get to the words.
J: How many books have you written using the notecards?
Me: All of them. Ten.
J: Then why aren’t you doing it that way? That’s your process. That’s how you organize your thoughts. So go into the study do that! Spread them out all over the table! Remember that video you showed me last weekend?
Me: I love that video.
J: So do that!
Me: But the words!
J: Just spend the whole day with the cards. Spend as long as it takes to straighten it out and tell the story. Besides, you love that part of it, too.
Me: I know. I do. It’s my favorite part, daydreaming the story. But it’s too much fun. I need to get words.
J: [goes off on a home-building analogy; ie., you need blueprints/a strong foundation, etc., before hammering the first nail. Implicit: Dummy.]
Me: Okay. I’ll go back to my notecards tomorrow. But just for the record I feel like I should be getting actual words.
J: They’ll flow once your thoughts are in order. Just have fun, and remember why you’re so passionate about telling this particular story. Tape it up somewhere. Keep it to the forefront of your mind with every scene. Get excited about it again.
Me: Okay. The words all suck anyway. It’s going to be a terrible first draft no matter what.
J: That’s not true, honey … all your first drafts are totally self-publishable.
And that’s how a pep talk goes in my household.
Off to the cards.
(Notecards during the writing of SWERVE. For those of you who already know the story, that’s a map of the terrain before Vegas and LA taped to the wall behind the desk. Both the map and the notecards reminded me of where I was going.)