Sharon Ervin and I have known each other for a long time. We co-authored a book together (my first) called CHIK~LIT FOR FOXY HENS. This collection of novellas written by four Oklahoma authors was a fun task for all of us.
For me writing isn’t an occupation, it’s a love/hate relationship—an ongoing struggle to get the stories out of my head and onto the blank screen I’m facing. One even might compare this process to giving birth.
Characters Fight to Live
While writing my cozy mystery, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE, the characters became so real to me that I had to make them into a series. I just couldn’t bear saying goodbye. And the next book, I foolishly figured, will be easier. I already have the main characters, I’ll just kill a person or two, (preferably someone I don’t like very much in real life…my ex-husband, perhaps?), supply a villain and a few other suspects, and then sprinkle in some red herrings. What could be easier? This new novel will be more like an exercise in discipline and less like stabbing myself in the heart with a dull knife. (The method I used to create THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE.) I titled this new work SKELETON IN THE CLOSET and began with high hopes.
Another Illusion Down the Drain
Alas, an easy flow of prose was not to be mine. Innocent as a babe (which is kind of pitiful, when you think of it), I sat at my desk, fingers on keys, and my mind a complete blank. I couldn’t even come up with an opening line that I liked. I tried a few, then left one because I needed something on paper.
Okay, I decided, no need to worry about the opening just yet. I’ll come back to this later and skip to the second scene to write some dialogue and a bit of action. And for that one day my method worked. The ‘Muse’ sat on my shoulder and whispered words into my ear.
“I LOVE WRITING,” I proclaimed to my messy and cluttered office.
Things Have a Way of Turning Out So Badly
The second morning I awoke full of enthusiasm, had coffee, oatmeal and blueberries (breakfast of choice dictated by my cardiologist) and went to work. Following my usual habit, I read a few pages of yesterday’s copy to get me started. Oh crap, I thought! Every word that had been written the day was garbage, good enough only to line the cat’s litter box. My heart sank. Suddenly it seemed as though I was walking through wet concrete—up to my neck—and shod in cast-iron boots.
“I HATE WRITING!” I shouted across the room at my dictionaries.
Luckily I’d walked this path before, so instead of hitting the delete key, I switched to preparing a lesson for a novel writing class I was teaching that evening at Tulsa Community College.
I always begin each class with a pep talk emphasizing the importance of writing every day. Regardless. The age-old formula I always tell my new students begins in this way: Pour a pot of glue on your chair and sit down—then write. There will never be a good time to write. Do it anyway. If you worked at Wal-Mart as a greeter, you’d leave dishes in the sink, a clutter in your living room and an unmade bed if that was what it took to be at work on time. Do the same for your writing career.
I took a deep breath, switched to the document file for SKELETON IN THE CLOSET, and began typing…one word after another.
Two weeks later I couldn’t tell where one day’s work stopped and another day’s work started. It all sounded the same.
“I LOVE WRITING!” I proclaim to all the readers in cyberland.
And the beat goes on.
I was an addict by age seven and it was all my school-teacher mother’s fault. The gift she brought me from the State Teacher’s Meeting looked innocent enough, a Bobbsey Twin mystery, THE SECRET AT THE SEASHORE, but one taste of that book and I was forever enslaved. As soon as I devoured one story, I had to have another. I finished the “Bobbsey Twins series” and almost panicked. Then an older girl whispered to me about something even stronger—something called Nancy Drew. For awhile I found relief in these teen stories, but soon they weren’t strong enough. An addict will find her fix somehow and I stumbled onto THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and I started mainlining Agatha Christie. I was a goner. Nothing would stop the craving except another book and then another book. So I wonder…are there any other souls in cyberland who would like to join my therapy group? I’ll start. “My name is Jackie, and I’m a Cozy Addict…”
(Sharon is guest blogging today with Mystery Author Pat Browning at: http://pbrowning.blogspot.com