Each book I write has it’s own personality. I’m not talking about the theme or the plot or the way it is told. I’m talking about the physical process of writing it.
Some are like your friend that you like spending a lot of time with. You get along. You have fun. Sometimes you make a wrong turn when you’re on a road trip, but you always get to where you’re going.
Some are like that friend who you are always making plans with but more times than not they cancel before you get together. Your relationship takes a long time to solidify. Occasionally it never does.
And some are just beasts.
In fact, I would venture to guess that most authors would say the majority of books they work on fall into this last category. These are the books that you are fighting with constantly, that you’re trying to tame, or at the very least rein in enough to get down on paper.
For me, I’ve experienced all of them, and sometimes all three in the same manuscript.
My first published book, THE CLEANER, was the good friend you like to spend time with. Of course, being my first novel, I didn’t have a contract yet so had the luxury of time, so I could afford to meander wherever I felt like going.
Then came my second novel, THE DECEIVED. Of every book I have ever written, published or unpublished, this was the one that was my biggest beast. Largely this was due to the well known phenomenon of the “second book” syndrome. By second book, I don’t necessary mean the second book an author writes. I’m talking about the second book he or she creates once they have been published. This usually is the first book you write where you’ve got a contract. And a contract means your publisher has expectations…like it you’ll finish within a certain time frame. And we’re not talking about a date in the distant future affording you that luxury you had with your previous book(s). This is a deadline that’s barreling down on you. In additon you have the added pressure of not wanting to screw up. For me, this, this meant I must have rewritten the last 100 pages of that book three times. When I was finally done, I was SO relieved.
My third, SHADOW OF BETRAYAL, was a little bit of both the good friend and the beast. But because it went a lot smoother than book 2 went, I was basically happy.
The fourth book I wrote (again this is post publishing, I have three unpublished manuscripts on my computer somewhere) was a breeze for the most part. That book, THE SILENCED, will be out next March. The hardest part of that one was that I broke up with my girlfriend of the time in the middle of it. Not fun for either of us, I’m sure. Of course, in a way, that just made me focus more. But, even then, I don’t think I would ever call THE SILENCED a bear. In truth, it came really easy to me, and I’m very pleased with the final version.
Number five is a standalone called NO RETURN that’s actually all down, too. (It will be coming out in the future, publisher hasn’t set the date yet.) That was the quickest book I had written to that date (from zero words to a draft polished enough to submit to my publisher). It also seemed to flow right through my fingertips. A good friend again. Not a beast.
Number six I wrote at the beginning of this past summer. It’s a YA book that my agent is showing around right now. That was probably the most fun book I have ever had writing. I loved the experience, the characters, the story. A good friend, indeed.
So based on this, when I started my latest adult novel in September – the first in what I hope might be a new series – it was natural to think that with my recent track record this one would be a breeze. After all, the last three I had written had gone extremely smoothly. Why shouldn’t this one, too?
I wish I knew the answer, because it hasn’t.
It. Has. Been. A. Beast.
As of Monday, I have restarted this novel for the fifth time. The first time I probably got about 20 pages in before turning back. No biggie, that happens. Take 2, another 20, maybe 30, and I think I was able to salvage much of the first take. Take 3: 81 pages, mostly new material. Take 4: 103 pages, mostly new material. Take 5 (current version): as of this writing on Tuesday night, 41 pages, almost entirely new material.
That is one, big, fat, UGH! If I could have strung all that new material together I’d be well over 200 pages by this point!
Now, I am using a lot of the same setting. And the characters are all pretty much still there, though they have changed greatly (especially in my latest version). I’ve also used scenes that are similar in each. Unfortunately they are not similar enough to recycle what I had. I think I’m getting closer now, hoping, in fact, that Version 5 will be the base for a full draft. (Dear God, please let it be so.)
Am I frustrated? A bit, but not as much as you might think. I take the view that I can’t afford to ever get too frustrated. That would only cripple me from doing the task I need to perform. If a story’s not working, it just means I need to take a closer look at it, or it could even mean it’s not the story I should write. Either way, I gotta keep moving forward. To be overwhelmed by frustration (or anything for that matter) is not an option. (This goes for the editing phase, too.)
So I’ll get up tomorrow morning (I’m writing this on Tuesday night), and I’ll put my fingers on my keyboard and tap away until I’ve hopefully reached my goal for the day (went way above on Monday, went way under Tuesday.) And I hope when I reach that 80 to 100 page mark I don’t get the same “crap, this isn’t working” feeling I got on takes 1, 2, 3 and 4. I don’t think I will this time, but I didn’t think that on the previous versions, either.
It’ll all depend on whether I can rein in the beast or not.
So do your stories have personalities? How would you describe them?