My law professor father used to like to say, “There are only two times I’m miserable—when I’m writing and when I’m not writing.”
And I have to agree.
Because when you’re in the middle of a book, you’re nervous about getting it right and angsting that you should be working on it whenever you’re not. But when you’re not in the middle of a book, you feel as if there’s something deeply missing from your life.
what am I missing just up the road?
The time I’m most miserable writing-wise, however, is when I’m embarking on a brand new book—starting from scratch. For there’s nothing more daunting and frightening than a blank sheet of paper (or computer screen, if you will). Especially if you have absolutely no idea what the story should be, yet have a deadline looming.
think, Leslie, think!
Plotting. That’s my bête noire. It’s what keeps me up at night, what makes me pour that second (or third) glass of wine. And that, alas, is what starting from scratch is all about for a die-hard plotter such as myself.
So when it came time to plot out the story for my new manuscript—the first book in a new series set on the Big Island of Hawai‘i—I pulled out a pen and yellow legal pad and brainstormed ideas as I sipped from my Pinot Noir.
thinking about Hawai‘i is pretty nice, actually…
And with brainstorming, anything goes. My protagonist will fight off a shark while pursuing the murderer? Sure! (I can cut out the shark in a later edit, if need be…) She’ll be asked to run a five-star hotel when the owner is killed by a falling coconut? Sure! (I can cut out the hotel in a later edit, if need be…)
dead bodies and hotels are a natural fit!
But no matter how wacky the ideas (or good—maybe that shark thing could actually work…), they always lead to more ideas, and then more. And eventually, a storyline begins to emerge, like tendrils of a tropical vine that starts slowly, but then, before you know it, has climbed all the way up the tree.
And then, finally, I start to relax. Yes. I can do this.
Readers: Do you find that you need a project to be working on in order to feel at peace with the world? Is is daunting when you first start out?