Oxymoron of the Week: A Good Problem
Usage: Wow, that's a good problem to have!
How can a problem be a good thing? By its very nature, problems are just that, issues that create roadbloacks, which in turn need to be overcome. This week, I've been facing my own oxymoron, one of those "good problems." I'm getting started on my new book in earnest. I'm writing full-time, which is the good part (thanks, Brett, for that reminder). So, here goes with the problem side of the equation.
How do you write a book?
Because I need to confess... I've had a few moments over the past week that make me think I've forgotten.
This might sound insane to you readers, but the writers out there know what I'm talking about.
Starting a new book is a bit like climbing out onto an icy ledge in the Himalayas with a 10,000 foot drop-off. The view is beyond description, but there's the terror of plunging to your death to contend with.
I know I'm not alone when I say I have a hard time getting started on a new book. This is the fourth "new" book I've begun, and I've had this issue with each one. I forget how to do it. I stutter, and stall, write a few pages and walk away, find a hundred other things that need to be addressed immediately, all the while telling myself, just get this one last thing done, and it's full-steam ahead in the morning. It's when I've said that for fourteen days in a row when I recognize that I've got the yips.
In golf, the yips are most prevalent in putting. Even the most experienced golfer has bouts of the yips -- most commonly described as an involuntary movement of the wrist at the last moment in your stroke which makes the put pull or lag. It's frustrating as hell. It also has pure psychological underpinnings, which sometimes manifest themselves physically. The more stress, the worse your yips.
And just a like a good golfer seeks help for their issues, a good writer sits down and does a mental check, trying to ascertain what's happening. This isn't writer's block, mind you. Writer's block is much more organic, much deeper. What I'm experiencing is this silly, frustrating feeling that I don't know how to write a book.
Obviously I do. I've written several now. So what's wrong with me?
I've been posing this question to those closest to me this week, with twofold hopes. One -- reassurance, the yes, you can do it pep talks. Two -- maybe someone could tell me how to fix my yips. I've received tons of the former, and none of the latter. So I interviewed myself, starting at the beginning. It took a few days of massive navel-gazing (also known as Facebook Syndrome) to realize the "how" behind my writing.
I dreamed the plot of the first book. The second was based on three separate scenes, full-blown mental vignettes, that popped into my head and stuck there. Strangely enough, one was simply a look between Taylor and Baldwin. I knew I needed that scene, it was vital, and strong, and important to their development. So I wrote the entire book around it. Then came the two others vignettes, and I built around those.
Okay. Now I'm getting somewhere. The third book, based in part on a real-life murder, also had these elemental building blocks, a few key scenes that gave me the tools to build the story around them. I saw them in my mind's eyes, heard the dialogue, felt the surroundings, and went from there.
With this epiphany, I was able to start thinking about this new book in a different way. It already has a plot, already has a character line-up. The conflict and the resolution are set, the middle is still a bit amorphous, but the basic gist of the story exists. Driving home yesterday, I had one of those vignettes come to me, a scene of dialogue that I realized was coming from this new book. After my self-actualization yesterday evening, I sat down and put it on paper. As I did, a few other scenes popped in.
So now I know how I write a book. I have two or three scenes banging around in my head, they gel and morph, and I write the story around them. This feels like a mess to me, when I look at it on paper. For a structured person, I'm certainly not when it comes to the actual writing of the book. But the relief I felt when I realized the "How" was palpable. I've just got one or two things to clear off my plate, and tomorrow it's full-steam ahead. I've conquered my yips.
So let me know I'm not alone. Writers, tell me your "How." And to our readers, what gets you sidetracked from your goals?
Wine of the Week: Cascina Pellerino Langhe Nebbiolo
A Quick, Happy P.S.
Good thing I've gotten the yips under control. Yes, the rumors are true, the announcement has been made. I'm thrilled to let you know that I've just signed a new deal with my incredible editor Linda McFall at Mira for three more Taylor Jackson books. Many thanks to everyone who had a hand in this, especially my wonderful agent, Scott Miller. So to celebrate, I think everyone should head to the store and buy a copy of BURN ZONE, from one of Taylor's favorite authors, James O. Born. BURN ZONE released yesterday, and is the second in the Alex Duarte series. Trust me, it's well worth your time. Oh, and Jim is one of my favorites too, so if Taylor's endorsement isn't enough, please accept mine as well.