I’m supposed to be writing novel #2, but I’m looking out my office window counting the yellow leaves as they fall from my ash tree. I used to have trouble remembering what kind of tree it was, but then I thought up a little hint. If I ask my husband again what kind of tree that is, he’ll kick my “ash.” So, there you go. Leaves are rapidly falling, and I’ll rake later with my toddler and the baby in his stroller.I’m having trouble concentrating. Novel #1 has recently gone through its fourth edit. This latest revision came after a request by an uber agent, and I’m anxiously awaiting her thoughts on it. In the meantime, I’ve embarked on project techno-upgrade, which kick-started with an anniversary gift of high-speed Internet service (yes, I live with the most romantic man on earth, and yes, I realize it’s 2009, and even hobbits have high-speed). A rudimentary website has been launched (www.marcycampbell.com), and I’ve joined Twitter, but have yet to do much tweeting since the prompt to tell people what I’m doing now leaves me cold (does anyone want to know how many diapers I’ve changed today? Didn’t think so).
What I’m really thinking about is how important this time BEFORE the start of a new project really is. I know, through past experience, that even when I sit here and stare out the window or flip through books I love, or surf the web for the latest news, that I’m working. It’s just harder now that I’m a newish mom with very limited work hours. I feel like I must put the words on the page, must make measurable progress, every chance I have. I want to quantify, quantify, quantify.
I like to do pages of freewriting and see where they lead. I scour old journals and pull random sentences from books stacked on my desk. I’ve been trying to tease out a new plot from a previously begun, but never finished, novel. I think there might be something there, but so far, I’m not feeling the spark. Then, yesterday, in an old journal, I found just one line that read, “A mule is a hybrid between a horse and an ass.” And I was off, typing as fast as I could, and seeing a story come out of nowhere, characters emerging. Will this be novel #2? Maybe. The same thing happened with my first novel. I wanted to write one, but I didn’t know what I should write about. I have no shortage of ideas, but ideas that I want to follow for the length of a novel are in much shorter supply. Then, with just a line in a notebook, it began, and grew into something I’m very proud of.
Writing is play, at this idea generation stage, especially. You absolutely must allow yourself to put on the page whatever creeps into your head, to silence the inner critic. You just never know what you’ll come up with. It might be the seed for a new book. It might be just a fun exercise in character description. But, everything you write helps improve your skills as a writer.
Okay, I think I’ve convinced myself. Off to play…