Wednesday, May 25, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 59

First of all, I don’t want any of y’all asking me how many pages I’ve written in the last two days. Because the answer’s not good. So behave yourselves out there, okay?

To distract you, I shall jump right into our NES.

So there I sat at the meeting with my editor, Karen, and the Zondervan marketing director, Sue. We were in Zondervan’s reserved suite area on the CBA convention floor. Mid July. I was thinking I should ask a question. I really didn’t want to ask it, but I just had this nagging feeling. So I plunged in.

“Do you two remember that my contract calls for me to write Dearing Family #1 next, then go back and write Hidden Faces #4? At the time the contract was signed, we were thinking about overlapping the series. But now I’m wondering if that’s a good idea, looking at the momentum we’re gaining with Hidden Faces . . .”

Sue and Karen both gave me surprised looks. “Really? Didn’t remember that,” one of ’em said. “At any rate, it’s a bad idea. You need to write Hidden Faces #4 first.” The other one heartily agreed.

Great. I had to go and open my mouth.

And I’d just come from our annual family reunion in Kentucky. My extended family had all squeezed in around the table one night, throwing out ideas for the wacky characters and their shenanigans in Dearing Family. We'd had a great time. They couldn't wait for me to write that series. Now I had to put the first book off.


“So.” Sue looked at me brightly. “Got any ideas for that fourth Hidden Faces book?”

You mean the one I wasn't even supposed to write yet? “Not a clue.”

“Oh, well, no worries. You’ll think of something.”

Easy for her to say.

I really didn’t have a clue. That is, I knew Annie needed to do a facial reconstruction from a skull—the challenge I’d expected her to face in the third book, but had put aside. Okay so a skull is found. What else?

We’ve been at this long enough, BGs. Time for a little ranting on my part.

Truth is, I wish stories came easier to me. They should pour like melted butter, hot syrup.

They pour more like dried cement.

I try to force it. I sit at my desk and stare out the window, talking to myself. You think the story comes? Heck, no. It just hides all the more. I kick cabinets, I get up and walk around and rail at the heavens. Does no good.

So I’m left thinking about a story over the long haul. I’m jogging . . . and a thought comes. I’m driving . . . another little piece. I’m in the hot tub . . . something else. Unfortunately, this takes days. Weeks. Months even. Which I don’t have. So I go back to trying to force it.

Sigh. In heaven, I shall not lack for a plot.

So sometime around August of 2004 (I needed to start writing in September), a thought came to me. Many readers had asked me when I’d write another Chelsea Adams book. I thought—what if I bring Chelsea into this story, combine the two series into one climactic ending?

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Except that I still needed a plot.

September came. I tried to come up with the story. It wasn’t coming. The ACFW conference rolled around. As usual, I would be the emcee. Plus I'd do some teaching and had scheduled meetings with many writers. So I thought—okay, I’ll start writing after the conference.

Except that after the conference our Zondervan novelist tour started. I, Terry Blackstock, Bill Myers, and James Scott Bell would be running around—mostly on the east coast—signing at these megastores. (Some witty person, I think it was Bill Myers, dubbed the tour “Bill, Bell, and the Babes.”) We needed to do the signings on Saturdays, when they’d be better attended. So instead of hitting the 7 cities all at once, we’d go every weekend, from about Thursday to Sun. So for, I don’t know, 5-6 weeks in a row, I had only about three days in my office. Thursday I’d fly back east somewhere, on Friday we’d do some media event, on Saturday the signing, then I’d fly back home on Sunday.

I am a very focused person. I have to really concentrate on a book to get anywhere with it. This schedule did not work for me. I got oh, about zilch accomplished on the plot.

Meanwhile marketing director Sue started joining us on the weekend tours. She was with us for about three weeks in a row. What do you suppose she had to nerve to tell me? “I need the title of your next book for marketing.”

Title? I didn’t even have a story yet.

“I have no clue,” I said.

This clueless stuff was gonna have to stop. And fast.

Read Part 60


C.J. Darlington said...

Man, I'm feeling for you! Plot doesn't usually come easy for me either. I hear of author who have thirty books in their heads just waiting to be written, and I can't believe it. Think they're lying? :-)

Stuart said...

I think I'm the opposite of you. Plots tend to come pretty easily to me. But turning those plots from 'big idea' into actual words on a page with characters & settings & all the stuff that happens between the big ideas is pretty tough for me.

And if it helps any I've been stuck on page 273 of my book for the last week or so. Maybe we should make a rule that we don't get to ask how much you've written without telling how much we've written. ;D

Ron Estrada said...

I'm glad to hear you struggle with plot. Story ideas are one thing, plot is another. My problem is I don't make it easy on myself. My current WIP is in Texas and involves and assistant DA. I drove through Texas once (longest 3 weeks of my life, badaboom) and I know nothing about the legal system there. Thank goodness for the internet. Still, one hour a day doesn't leave much time for research and writing.

Thanks for sharing your struggles, BC. I'm slightly less depressed knowing a succesful author has the same problems.

Evelyn said...

I'm with Ron. I have all kinds of story ideas floating around in my head, but turning them into an actual working plot is a real struggle. Anyone else have trouble with titles?

Becky said...

So, how many pages of Paige did you write yesterday? Whoa, are you actually THROWING things at me??? I am so shocked! Hahah.

Actually, I marvel at how you are able to teach, write, market--along with all the personal-life stuff. Don't know how you keep all the balls in the air.

mrsd said...

Just wanted you to know I'm reading, even if I don't comment everyday. :) Your journey through writing is fascinating.


Lynette Sowell said...

You said: "Truth is, I wish stories came easier to me. They should pour like melted butter, hot syrup. They pour more like dried cement."

Oh, I getcha. I'm great for getting the big premise, but carrying the story through to the end...gulp!

But then you can't force a good beef stew. It's best eaten a couple days old. :) I wonder if we rush our stories too much sometime, or we don't make the effort to dig as deeply as we can. Of course with a contracted book, you have no choice!