Angela Knight is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mageverse series. Her twelfth book, Master of Smoke, will be out January 4. Check out her website for more information at www.angelasknights.com
Today, Angela will give away 2 copies of Hot for the Holidays. Comment for a chance to win!
New writers ask themselves a lot of difficult and painful questions. Am I writing fast enough? Why is this so damned hard? What about all these other people who are more successful? What are they doing that I’m failing to do? Will I ever get published? Will I make the best seller list? Will I stay on the best seller list? Is there a trick to this writing thing that will make it feel less like pulling every sentence out of my bleeding ass?
Here’s a news flash: all writers ask themselves the very same questions, including bestselling novelists. All of us are neurotic. That should go without saying. Of course we’re drama queens: otherwise we wouldn’t be good at writing drama.
I must admit I’ve asked myself the same painful questions as any newbie. In search of answers, I have read every book I can get my hands on about the writing process, looking for some way to make it easier, faster. Less, in short, like spelunking up my own intestines.
I hate to say it, kiddies, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to make it easier, faster, or less frustrating.
There are times you soar on wings of words, riding updrafts of metaphors, cruising through clouds of silken simile. Nobody else’s words can make me soar higher than my own. Writing is definitely my drug of choice.
It’s the pursuit of that high – and the very nice paycheck it brings me – that has kept me going through the rest of the time. The times when my muse turns on her dainty heel and stalks off in a huff to ignore me like an inopportune suitor with a bouquet of wilting roses. The times when the book is due, and I must work through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and my own damned birthday. (Like now.)
And the times when, like now, I have no clue what comes next, and I have to figure it out or miss my deadline, infuriate my editor, and blow the pub date I desperately want to make.
Publication is not for pussies.
But all this has taught me a few things. The creative process is different for every writer. Some people write by the seat of their pants, while others must know the plot before they can write. Some drive through the process on sheer work ethic, even if it means writing shit. Some of us simply can’t do that. The more we try to force it, the more stubborn the words become.
I have decided that water boarding one’s own muse is counterproductive. She’s down in the basement of my subconscious, working on my book. I can almost feel her, busily constructing God knows what, while my conscious self paces the floor and mutters curses.
If I try to drag her out and make her cough up something before she’s ready, I’ll only get in her way. I have to be patient with her, despite my deadline, my agent, and my editor.
Writer’s block is just as much a part of the creative process as sitting down at your computer and pounding out words. There are two halves of the brain – the part that uses words, and the part that creates images and emotions. That creative part doesn’t have access to language, so it can’t tell me to shut the fuck up and leave it alone.
Writer’s block is actually that part of the brain at work, on a level I can’t consciously access. The creative brain eventually communicates the answer to the writing brain, like someone sending a message attached to a balloon. It’s a process so old, the ancient Greeks saw it as a goddess muse murmuring in their ears.
That’s why I’ll be bitching to my husband or taking a drive or waking up from a sound sleep, and suddenly the solution to my plotting problem will simply appear, full-blown, in a flash of blinding insight. And then I write the rest of the book.
Every single book I’ve ever written has included at least one bout of writer’s block. Often there are two: one right after the beginning, when I have to figure out the middle, and another at the end, when I have to write the climax.
I’m having a block right now over the middle of Master of Shadows. A few months ago, I had another one during Master of Smoke, when I realized I hated my original heroine and had to reconstruct her. That block stopped me cold for two weeks, but I loved the result. My heroine, Eva Roman, is now one of my favorite characters, with her quirky sense of humor that made her a delight to write. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about her adventures as much as I did writing them.
So at the moment I’m working on a book video, reading everything Patricia Briggs has ever written – I love that woman, I really do – and writing this blog. My husband pokes me periodically to ask why I’m not writing, but I just shrug. Tinkerbell, my muse, will cough up the rest of the book when she gets done with it. I just have to wait her out.
Torturing myself about the delay is pointless. And it’s just as pointless for you, Dear Reading Writer. If your mother is sick and you can’t concentrate on your writing, if you have a houseful of holiday guests, if your kid needs help with his homework – well, deal with those things. The writing will still be there when you’re finished. You have to take care of your life and accept your process, or you’ll only get in your own way. Be gentle with yourself. If you’re nice to your muse, she’ll be nice right back.
Nice Tinkerbell. Pretty Tinkerbell. Clever, clever Tinkerbell. Look, I picked some lovely roses for you. Come out and play?