How many authors or aspiring authors have a pile of unfinished manuscripts stacked in a drawer or on their computers? How many of them were so sure each one of these would be their best work yet, only to lose interest after a few thousand words?
I’m in danger of becoming one of those. A serial discarder. A quitter.
Experts say it’s hard to get back to writing fiction when you’ve been away from it for some time. In my experience, I find that the opposite is also true. I spent so many years writing the same book and now that it’s finally published and I’m ready to move on to my next one, I find that it’s more difficult than I had anticipated. I’ve been hit with the infamous writer’s block. My problem, though, isn’t not being able to write; it’s not liking what I write, which probably amounts to the same thing, some might say.
In planning my second book, I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want Misty Dreams to become the first of a series. I didn’t want Richard and Clare to be secondary characters in someone else’s story. I wanted them to be unique and memorable, their happily-ever-after immortalized in that one book. My next one, I decided, was going to be another standalone. I stood firm on that conviction.
The new novel I set out to write had all the fixings for another heart-wrenching love story: strong, believable characters, emotional tension, a sensitive subject matter, the works. I was completely invested in it. That is, until I hit the 4,000-words mark and realized I wasn’t feeling it. Though I loved my new characters, I wasn’t connecting with them as I had connected with my previous ones. It wasn’t St. Isabel Island. It wasn’t my happy place. I had spent so much time there in my head I couldn’t distance myself from it. Perhaps I was meant to write another St. Isabel Island book, after all. Someone else’s story, not necessarily featuring past characters.
Armed with renewed purpose, I worked on a new plot outline. What better heroine than Clare’s childhood friend, the one who had moved to New York with her family? I even created the best soul mate for her, a dashing young widower with a small son. It would be an emotionally driven second-chance romance with enough drama to hold the reader engaged all the way to the obligatory happy ending. My fingers were flying off the keys; I was on a roll.
Until…bam! I hit the brakes again. This story wasn’t going anywhere either, and the characters fell flat. I set it aside, hoping that in a few days inspiration would hit again.
“Just keep writing,” a good friend wisely suggested when I confided in her. “It doesn’t have to be another novel. It can be a short story or even a prequel.”
Her words sparked in me a much-needed confidence boost. A prequel! Immediately the idea set the wheels in my head spinning. Why hadn’t I thought of that? When I was editing my first novel, I had to cut out a good chunk of the backstory to reduce it to a marketable size, an extremely painful but necessary process. Bringing back my beloved characters’ past might just do the trick. It would give me closure.
So I’m back at the keyboard, yet again finding my creative muse. Whether a prequel is the answer to my predicament is yet to be seen, but at least I’m writing. One thing I’ve learned about writer’s block is that it helps to talk about it with people who understand and appreciate the craft. Most experienced writers will tell you to continue writing, to not lose your momentum, that the more you write, the more you improve and build confidence. It inspires new ideas. It doesn’t matter how many unfinished manuscripts you pile up. The important thing is to write and feed your creative urge. It doesn’t have to be great. First drafts never are.