Here’s a three-minute overview of my past nine months of writing (or trying to write) fiction — specifically, a romance novel. First, start with the germ of an idea, and “pants” through several chapters. Realize there isn’t enough conflict, change some things, and start over with basically the same characters but different circumstances. Work on that in fits and starts through spring and summer, deepening the conflicts and doing more planning and plotting, but staying flexible enough to follow inspiration when it sidesteps the original ideas. As November approaches, resolve to do NaNoWriMo, starting fresh on what will eventually be book two of this series. Manage to battle back against the usual November depression, and stagger through the regular family/work/life responsibilities, and write over 25,000 words on this second book, while still watching a decent number of holiday movies on Hallmark Channel (for which I am usually a huge sucker), and preparing to participate in the local author fair by finishing the print copy of my poetry book and ordering 35 copies. Realize during NaNoWriMo that it’s almost impossible for me to write love scenes (i.e. sex scenes) without feeling like a goofball, and that I also can’t write them with any amount of speed. So, the need to write intimate, sexy scenes in my romance novel definitely lowered my final word count. Idea number three: write a much shorter piece, unrelated to the two novels, that’s meant to be erotica, to see if I can actually do it (har har) and get past the sense that I’m a total dweeb and have no business writing sexy stuff.
And that’s pretty much where I’m at. Why do I feel like I need to include sex scenes in the novels when I find them so difficult to write? Because it’s true that romance sells, and fairly clean romance can also sell really well, but I have a sense (and I have no idea if it’s true, I could be completely wrong) that readers of steamier fare are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author, if the book cover and description hook them, and if the price is low. So, I have two romance novels that are somewhere around halfway done (the final books should be between 50K and 60K words), and a shorter story that’s currently over 8,000 words. Sometimes, the scenes and dialogue come easily, and other times, I can barely get anything out. Today, I went back to the first book, and after skimming through the last section I had written, and allowing myself to be distracted by Spotify as I tried to find music to suit my writing mood, I managed to add 208 words to that first novel, before deciding to write a new blog post, taking stock of my writing status. (I was also interrupted by my older son, who asked for help with questions about The Scarlet Letter. He is in tenth grade, and I haven’t read The Scarlet Letter since I was in tenth grade, so I had to review the chapter in order to help him out because I only remember the basics about the main characters, and very few details about the plot. Anyway, interruption added to distraction.)
The other thing that’s got me sidetracked from writing, is that I desperately wish I were reading more. I bought three new romance novels last week at a used book store, then yesterday, I bought three from the Chandler Booktique at TSCPL, then checked out four more! I’m currently reading a library book, and there are two others (one novel, one story anthology) that I’ve already renewed once but haven’t started reading. (I’ve also received a handful of mostly-older Harlequins through Bookmooch. I’m desperately trying to get my hands on the small batch of romances I read as a teen that have stayed in my mind all these years.) I would love to take a day, or even a weekend, and really lose myself in these books. If I pick one up and read a few chapters, and find that I haven’t lost myself, then maybe I could just put that one aside as a DNF (did not finish) and move along to something that fills me with happy. (I also have a few LibraryThing Early Reviewers books to read, the third just arriving this past week. Two are nonfiction, and the newest one is a novel that’s NOT romance. And I’ve been reading romance and erotica almost exclusively, along with books about writing and self-publishing, because that’s been my focus all these months.)
Could I take one week to not think about writing, but just read as much as I can, get a few of the library books out of the way — either read and enjoyed, or started and rejected without guilt — and then hopefully jump back into working on that first romance novel with a fresh perspective, and without the distraction of all the library books I want to read? Can I just forgive myself for doing what I most want to do for a little while, if that thing is reading?
But then there’s that voice that says I need to keep writing, because I started this tiny publishing company dammit, and I need to actually get to the end of one of these projects — at least one, for crying out loud, because I can’t actually publish anything until it’s complete — then make a first pass at editing to clean up plot detours that ended up going a different way, and anything else that’s not coherent, so it’s good enough to send to an editor. I know I need to treat my business like a business, if I’m ever going to have a prayer of growing it.