After scores of major and minor revisions spurred by editor, agent, beta reader, and brutal inner voice feedback, my second novel is shining like a newly minted penny on an L.A. sidewalk. It is its best suspenseful self, query-ready and already getting positive early feedback. I am happy to report I enjoyed this delicious relief for nearly a full 48 hours.
Then it happened. The idea for #3 hit me. Hard. So hard I couldn't set it aside and return to it in a couple weeks.
It's not a bad problem to have, I suppose. When I first started writing novels, my biggest hurdle was deciding what, and whose, story I wanted to tell. It was like being at one of those restaurants where there's so many entrée options, they don't even bother with names. I'll have number 483, please. Now, despite a backlog of ever growing story ideas, my intuition about what must be written right now is finely attuned.
It's just, I would have liked one week--one week--to let my brain linger free of plots and characters and scenes. One week where I'm not compulsively narrating my every action. She gets herself a drink from the faucet, letting her fingers linger under the tap as she waits for the water to run cold...
I didn't mean to choose the premise for #3 so soon. In fact, I deliberately avoided letting my mind explore the possibilities. I wanted to let my latest accomplishment--a second novel! done!--soak in a bit, maybe even let it get a bit soggy even. Because I know what happens once the hole is dug and the foundation gets poured. The walls start framing themselves into tidy scenes, then the electrical and HVAC guys show up with subplots that make the whole shebang start functioning. Before I know it, I'm standing in a watertight house picking out paint and ordering furniture. There is no in between. Because when I write, I figuratively eat, drink, and sleep my book. I lie awake for hours in bed, too excited to sleep, because I need to mend a plot hole or I can hear my characters whispering great snippets of dialogue in my ear that must get translated onto a page. The kids go to bed and I tell my husband I'll join him for a movie on the couch in thirty minutes, when I'm done writing, but then I'm startled when five minutes later he knocks on the door to tell me it's been three hours and he's going to bed.
The backlog of stories I want to write and other writer's books I want to read gives me straight up anxiety, writer friends. Every day there's a new seedling of a story idea or a concept or a character that I must one day get on paper. And though it feels as satisfying as a scratched itch to finish a manuscript and know you've got something good, it's provisional. Because until the day my work is in print, those "final" Word docs are fair game for my itchy fingers, for everything from subtle tweaks to major revisions should something new and brilliant occur to me as I'm doing the seven-hundredth reread, just in case there's a better adjective than crapulous (there isn't) or room for another disturbing twist (there is, there always is). Even after I have a product so polished I'm afraid of getting fingerprints on it, I still pick and poke. I'm plagued by the belief that if I can just get one or two or six weeks away from everything else in a remote cabin somewhere, I can knock out enough words to attain achieve inner peace. But of course that's ridiculous. This will never be done. I've known that since I finished my first novel; I sensed instantly it would be this way forever, from here on out.
So farewell peace, you old high school friend I see every two years. Those 48 hours were really great. It was good see you. We'll have to be better about checking in, yes? Are you on Instagram?