Like so many these days, I’m not sleeping like I used to. For the most part, it’s not pandemic worries that keep me awake at three in the morning. Instead, it’s what I’ll call “the new book syndrome”.
I’m working on number five in my Maine Oceanographer Mara Tusconi series. “The Shark, The Girl, And The Sea” (working title) will be published in May or June, and at this point I’m pretty much on schedule. So no pressing deadline is interrupting my dreams.
Instead, I am experiencing two distinct “writers’ ah-hah” moments. In the wee hours of the morning as my husband softly snores beside me, I am awake trying to untangle a snag in my story or, one some occasions, a downright monkey wrench. After quickly taking care of the first, I’ll be asleep not long after. The second, however, might keep me awake for hours.
Writers often face small, often momentary, snags in a story that need fixing. I’m talking about things like “the thirty year old dirty blonde in chapter one is inexplicably fifty and brunette in chapter eleven”. Such mistakes are usually readily remedied; the harder part is identifying them because they are so easy to miss.
Money wrench mistakes are a lot messier to repair. Imagine you are writing a fictional account of Britain during World War II and build your story around islands that you should have known were totally destroyed early on in the blitzkrieg. While you could back peddle, it would take time and might end up being a very different kind of narrative. You get the idea; there is no easy remedy to this one. The fix just takes time.
There are many reasons, of course, why writing is so darned hard. Perfectionists keep returning again and again to their work. Avoiders find every excuse to postpone what they must do. Someone fearful of failing may be afraid to even try.
All this means, writing colleagues, that every once in a while we need to hold up our published books or manuscripts in progress and simply be proud.
I’m in the process of reading through the first draft of a new book and the list of questions is long. Like you, I am often awake in the wee hours, asking myself questions about the characters and even composing long inserts I can only hope I’ll remember in the morning. It’s hard, but it’s also good that we learn to fix things instead of being too discouraged to go on. People often say that writing happens in the rewrite. I think it happens all the time, first draft and rewrite, asleep and awake, don’t you?