Friday 2 January 2015

Emotional strip-mining

I think it was William Faulkner who said that writer are like spiders - both make their living from their guts.

I'm just about 100% convinced that writers use their emotions to create something. It's a magical process, in every sense of the word. I've been doing some research into Western (ritual) magick and witchcraft and the principles are eerily similar to writing books. (Yes, all that research will come to fruition in 2017, when I'll do some urban fantasy.)

The "Bird Book" finished on 26th December, and then I got ill for three days, and now I'm returning to Suckerpunch, which I temporarily abandoned in May 2014. I'm not quite sure what happened there, I think I just got mired in doubt and self-confidence issues - also, March to May was an awful, anxious period in my life. In June, I was writing something with Lori when she came over - so I kind of just drifted away.

Instead of finishing that and a couple others I'd planned, I went back to the Bird Book, and I got some momentum going on that one, and then I largely stuck with it, as I was worried that I abandon it again, I'd lose it forever. July I got a job and lasted just over two months, during which I was too depressed and exhausted to write a single word. September I used to get back on my feet emotionally. October, November, December, I finished the Bird Book, basically locking everything else out - it was pretty much "do or die". There was also a four-week break/working break in there as I went to Seattle to visit Lori.

I'm not yet back to normal post-Bird Book. Writing it, picking it back up, fretting over it, from the research to the unforeseen tangents it went down, and then the length made it quite the experience emotionally. It does feel like I poured my guts out into that one. I'm quite glad that the very first feedback seems to indicate that the question it asks is compelling and compellingly answered. It's a question I've been working through for nearly four years - the question that can't help but come up when we're looking at WWII - What would I have done? It's very hard to pass judgement on our forebears... if we've never been "tested" in the same way.

Anyway. It's four years of emotional energy. A huge build-up, and a massive release. I'm still feeling emotionally "flat" and am trying to recover emotionally - yes, doing everything to fill the well, so I'm reading and cleaning my work space and eating good food. I've also rewarded myself with some things I've wanted for a while. It's a general re-set and clean-up.

After writing at that level of intensity, going book to books that are less intense, take less out of me is strange. It's like going from Olympic-level bob-sledding to a sleigh ride with the kids. Technically  similar - using compacted snow/ice to move - but I'm not even sure those two kinds of working are anywhere near the same galaxy. It seems almost too easy, too simple. Like it's not serious - maybe it's too much fun, compared to bleeding all over the page. In any case, the contrast boggles my mind.

I'll be back in the game very shortly. I've re-read the 18K I had of Suckerpunch, and while those chapters need a serious clean-up and some cutting/trimming, they're pretty solid and I was surprised that I paused where I did. The press conference seemed like a good scene - no idea why I broke off in the middle.

Well. If I assume that Suckerpunch will have 60-80K in total, it can be done in January, maybe beginning of February. By that time the BirdBook should come back from edits, and I have a strong start into 2015. All I have to do at this point is write the words and build up that energy again for the next very difficult book (which will like be Franco's novel). 


  1. I remember finishing Piracy1 in the middle of last year and sending it off for edits and just... staring off at the world because I didn't know how to reconnect with it after such an emotional wringing.

    The book itself wasn't hard or life-changing- but the level of emotion employed completely sucked me dry.

    Almost six months later I'm finally ready to dive back in for Piracy2 (I finished my outline just today) and I know this emotional disconnect is coming. Soon.

    All this to say I'm glad I'm not alone! I see folks on the kindle boards and elsewhere cranking out short after short aiming for 'a release every month' or 'two new stories a month' for the whole year and I'm sitting back here with my one emotional masterpiece and a handful of shorts to give me a break.

    Drink much tea and be well. I look forward to seeing your newest works hit the market.

  2. You're not alone, Aleks. I haven't put out a book in a *year,* and I'd planned on getting three done in 2014. But 2014 threw me for a loop, hitting me with a series of health issues that put me into limbo -- after months trying to find a diagnosis, I learned that I needed surgery, but who/when/where? Getting answers, finding the right doctors (I needed two surgeries), and arranging all the logistics sucked up a lot of my mental energy. I also started a new business to supplement my income from writing, and what little energy I had left went into the business. I eventually stopped writing the book I was working on. It's the finale to a series and rather complicated, and I started second-guessing everything I was doing, got bogged down in the plot, and basically lost my writerly mojo. Being in limbo over the surgery didn't help either. And then there were complications during and after the surgery that stalled me for quite a while and further depleted my energy. But, thank goodness, I have readers asking me over and over for that book. I finally got enough energy back to dig it out, re-read it, and start forward progress. It's still a bit halting, but I see my way clear to the end of the book. I know it will be good -- eventually. Now I just need to get the words on paper. This year is going to be better. It'll be my third as a published author, and damn it, I'm getting at least two books out this year, come hell or high water. I hate not having a book humming along, spinning out a puzzle for me to solve, a story for me to shape. I feel utterly out of sorts!