Novel · Reflection · Reviews

A New Process

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Another month has come and gone, and lockdown is starting to feel normal. I’m so privileged I’m still furloughed with pay, and so far we’re doing ok in our little hobbit hole. My partner is still working from home, so I’m trying to keep busy as best as I can. I joined a writing club/cabin after entering #RevPit, and it’s become a wonderful community of writers all working together and helping one another on our publishing journey. We did a two-week stretch of daily writing sprints, and it was the most productive two weeks I’ve had in a long, long time, and I’m so grateful. My goal at the start of 2020 was to try and finish the first draft of my third novel by the end of May (or 80k by May, as I was calling it), and I’m almost there.

I should be used to it by now, but I still get side-lined when my depression rears up and knocks me flat, usually right after I’ve been super productive. I know it will pass, and I just need to think of the better days, but when you’re down in the valley of shit, wondering if anything actually matters, it can be tough. It’s also exhausting when you feel a spiral coming and you break out every coping mechanism you can think of to avoid it. But sometimes it still comes, despite your best attempts. . .

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I don’t think I’ll make my goal of 80k by the end of May, and the novel will likely end up being longer than that anyway, but I’m proud that I came close. I’m proud of what this book is becoming, and how it reflects who I am now. I’m also enjoying looking at how my process is different for this book, and how it compares to my previous two books. My first novel HONORS was written following a flash of inspiration when I was living in Scotland, and I would write it to procrastinate on my doctoral dissertation. I started it in autumn 2013, and it helped me navigate my grief after my dad’s death the previous year. It was mostly pantsed, to use the very technical term, and I remember getting ideas for scenes in bursts of excitement, and getting completely lost in it, and ‘in the zone’. I finished it on Christmas Eve in 2014 when I was back home for the holidays, and I remember typing THE END on it, running downstairs to tell my mom and brother, and my mom told me for the first time that my dad had always wanted to write a novel.

My second novel, THE DEVIL’S BELT, was mostly hand-written in a little notebook that fit in my uniform pocket, and I’d write during quiet moments at work. It still needs a lot of work, in fact it needs to be mostly re-written, and I’m still doing some research for it, but I’m also really proud of it because I finished it last year when I had just left my abusive ex-husband, and was living on my own in a tiny rented room, and the last word fit on the last line of the last page of the notebook. That book was the first time I made a detailed outline beforehand, because it had 4 POVs experiencing an actual historical event. I still was able to get lost in the flow state a few times though, and that book is close to my heart since it takes place in my home state of Connecticut, and is inspired by a Revolutionary War battle I first learned about from my dad.

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This new one I’m working on, which I’ll call my Venice book for now, has floated in my head for a few years. After a light bulb moment while visiting a free exhibition at the New York City Public Library in 2017, the two main characters slowly emerged in my mind, and I knew Venice itself would be a character, but I didn’t have a plot. Or an exact historical event to plan around. This threw me at first, and I struggled to get myself to start. I had a vague idea of the aesthetic, the feel, the mood, but what the heck was going to happen? What were these characters going to actually bring about?

Well I just got some feedback from one of my best friends on the first few chapters. She read an early draft of HONORS way back in the day (and is starting her first novel now!), and she articulated things about the characters and voice and tone that meant so much, and were such a relief, because it means I’m on the right track. The things with which I was hoping to imbue the novel are coming through, and the two main characters are driving the story, in their own ways.

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Photo: Venetian Heritage (Instagram)

I’m in the middle of another little writing slump right now, which is funny since I made it through the usually soggy middle somewhat unscathed (thank you two-week writing group sprints!), but now I feel paralyzed as I’m nearing the end, and I want to make sure I stick the landing.

I’m so lucky that I got to spend so much time in Venice for my PhD research, so I’m trying to conjure up memories of living there. I’m trying to evoke the smells and sounds and tastes that I remember, but that someone in 1651 would recognize as well. I’m trying to put myself into the characters’ shoes once more, and escape into their world, and I’m so grateful I can.

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Writing is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment, and I’m hoping to not only finish this first draft, and revise it, and send it to my CPs and beta readers, but to also continue developing some new ideas I’ve had, and to return to THE DEVIL’S BELT and fix it. I believe in that book, but hooo boy does it need work.

The weather has been so perfectly sunny lately, and I’ve loved literally stopping to smell the roses and take photos of the flowers when we go for walks around our neighborhood. I’m trying to get back into a home workout routine, and to read more. I’ve not been reading that much, as my concentration has been all over the place, and I’ve been feeling like a hot mess, especially when my anxiety/depression (aka the rabid weasel thunderdome in my mind) takes over. I found this recently on Instagram, and it really spoke to me. I guess I can embrace the mess, a little bit, with this mindset.

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I did finish Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, which was just incredible. I loved the quick pace of it, the world-building, the intense emotion. I’ve got the sequel on my kindle, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ve just started Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and asfjdalhrf her writing style is just. . .basically I want to be her when I grow up. There’s a wryness to the voice, and a rawness to the descriptions that’s so earthy, but otherworldly at the same time? I still think about her short story Do Not Look Back, My Lion, and wish I could write something so heartfelt and visceral. I’m so excited for her new one coming out this fall, The Once and Future Witches, as well as V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (which I’ve already pre-ordered!!).

I haven’t been listening to much new music lately, since I mostly turn to my playlist for my Venice book when I’m writing, but I am really loving these new songs:

I’m so lucky I have the space and resources to do all of this when so many are enduring so much pain right now. That I can dream of these other worlds and people, and try to capture new perspectives in my writing. I want to do more to help people here, now, in this broken world, and once things start to resettle into whatever the new future will look like (I’m anticipating constant lockdowns every time there’s a new outbreak. . .), I want to start looking for a new job where I can make more of a difference. I don’t know what the next few days, weeks, months, will bring, no one does, but I’m just hoping I can make some kind of difference in my day-job, and maybe, if I’m lucky, connect with readers in my writing too.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you’re well, wherever you are.

With love,

M

 

PS – I wanted to share this lovely thought from instagram as well, as I want to remember it, and in case it helps anyone else.

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