I get lots of questions from readers, but some of them are perfect for my Q & A segment. This one on “stick-to-it-iveness” really struck home for me.
Hi Mrs. Havig. I was thinking recently about the times when I’ve explored the idea of writing a book or a story. But it seems that I never have the push to keep writing and I just become bored of my ideas. I wanted to ask you what your motivation is to continue to write [where do you get your stick-to-it-iveness, in other words] all of your fantastic novels? And are there any times that you just take a step back and stop writing for a while? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question! 🙂
Answer on stick-to-it-iveness in writing:
I don’t think my answer will be very encouraging, Megan. You see, I can’t say I get “bored” per se, but I need variety to keep the juices flowing well. If you’re truly bored, I recommend looking at them and seeing if it’s just you needing space or if your current direction IS boring. Because if you’re bored, so will your readers be.
That said, I doubt it’s as boring as you think. Someone said, “Variety is the spice of life.” Well, if that’s true of general life, then it’s definitely true of writing! People often wonder how I can work on two or three–or six–books at a time. This is how. Because if I don’t, my writing suffers. I need time for ideas to percolate.
It used to be that I’d get an idea and start writing it. No matter what book I was working on, I’d stop. Open a new document. Write a hundred words. A thousand. A chapter–three. I’d write until I had a solid idea of where I wanted that story to go–sometimes halfway through the silly book! It’s how I published so much so quickly when I first started really publishing a few years ago. I’d been doing that for ten years!!!!
But things changed.
Now I write down a general idea–not the actual story, but notes that come to mind. And I leave them there. Then when I need a break from something and don’t want to work on what I already have, I just go flip through them until one excites me. It’s how I start my year off ready to work on new books. I look at what I’ve conceived over the past 15 years and go, “THAT ONE!” Usually, they’ve been sitting in that folder…. languishing there. But not in my mind. My mind has been percolating them ever so slowly. And by the time I pull them out, they’re ready for life.
Madeline did that, you know. Years ago, I found those pictures. I knew what I wanted to do with her, but I didn’t actually DO anything. So, I waited. Thought about them now and then. Wrote down notes. Some of those were things like, “She has a reason for wearing the bowler in the picture–Russell perhaps?” others were more like, “She needs to flounder at first. Just because she notices something doesn’t mean she instinctively and automatically knows what to do with it–or even that she trusts it yet.”
Aggie was another book the percolated for quite a while.
Yes, I said “book.” Singular. See, originally, the Aggie books were all just one volume–of about sixty-thousand words. 60K. It started where the current Aggie does and ended with her and Tina planning a wedding over messenger. I pulled it out after a year or two of sitting there and really looked at it. It seemed choppy–more of a laundry list of events than a story.
So I started writing what eventually became Ready or Not. Instead, I took scenes already there and fleshed them out. I filled in gaps. And when I hit 120K words I panicked. I was JUST at the part where the house was done. Now what? Cut some out? I did. Then I had to wrap up a bit. Back up to 120K. ARGH. So, I split the book in two. Book one: Aggie inherits and tries to establish a life for themselves. Then in Book two: men vie for Aggie’s heart for different reasons. That worked… At 130K, I had already deleted a bunch (thanks to my amazing editor, Barbara). I had a dilemma. One I ended by adding a third book and taking some stuff out of the end of the second. All was well.
Book three percolated a bit and then practically wrote itself. I knew what I wanted and where to send it. It wasn’t as long as the first two, but it told the story I wanted to tell. I was done.
But my readers weren’t; they wanted more. They wanted to know what marriage was like for them–would they have children together? How would the kids feel about new children? How did homeschooling go?
A fourth book was planned back in 2012.
Here it is, 2016 and it’s finally done. It percolated for over three years! I had so many things I wanted to cover, and I had to limit them. It was going to be a Christmas novel. I changed that. It was going to be just about the kids–I decided to make that a separate book. I came up with another one–about Vannie at 18. It’ll be coming, too. But it’s about her. This one–this is about Aggie and clan. I’m so excited to share it. But if I hadn’t put it aside, written other books (like all of HearthLand, Carol and the Belles, Tarnished Silver, Not a Word–so many others), this book wouldn’t be the book it is today. I love this book. It is full of things my heart has been aching to explore. And now I’ve done it.
So, dear Megan, write your stories. When you get bored. Put it aside. Work on something else. Talk about it with a friend, talk about it to yourself when you’re driving down the road or walking to class. Record yourself. Get enthusiastic again. Then write some more–THAT is stick-to-it-iveness. I think you’ll be pleased with the results. If you are still bored, ask yourself, “What could go wrong here? Should it? If you can’t make it go wrong, can you make the reader THINK it will? When all else fails, zip me a scene. If you can stand the honesty I promise to give you, I’ll do what I can to help you get enthusiastic about it again.
NOTE! Megan, zip me an email with your preferred email address. You won a $5 Amazon Gift Certificate!