It’s said that writing is a solitary pursuit. Or is it?
The other day I was texting with a good friend who is also an author. She has known me for years. I told her about the cute long raincoat and matching hat I’d treated myself to, due to the increasingly regular torrents here in New England. The package had just arrived from Ireland, with less than a week of transit time (thanks, FedEx Air!). Oh, and I’d gotten a pair of green Hunter boots to go with them, perfect for tromping through mud and peat bogs.
Or maybe, after a quick hop across the Irish Sea, for traipsing the moors. Or that royal weekend at Balmoral.
“You are definitely manifesting your character,” my friend texted back.
What? Oh. Well, yes, my ms. has an Irish theme. But I’m not turning into my character or anything. Writers don’t go all Method, the way some actors do when they’re preparing for a role, right?
Play those incriminating clips in my head, Sam:
My editor for the Lizzie McGuire Mysteries tells me I am Lizzie McGuire (and not just because I have the very same fake-Tiffany heart necklace—it took a while for me to graduate from my middle-school mindset).
That authorized celebrity “autobiography” I wrote where the celebrity was too busy to answer questions, or even read the ms.? No hassle at all. Hey, it was fun being a celebrity for a while. Hope they liked the life I made up for them.
Lacing up my skates to get the feel of the ice again for a skating romance. (Ouch.)
Endless laps in my mom’s assisted-living community pool while plotting the Ladies Smythe & Westin. My sleuths and I toasted each clue with strawberry pina coladas.
Rat Pack playlist looping through my headphones as I penned a story about a Sinatra impersonator while consuming Italian takeout.
Nope, no personality cloning issues whatsoever.
As a former Psych and English major, I don’t think I need to delve too deeply into the idea of me turning into my fictional characters, or vice versa. But if we make it through the road trip to the end of the story together, it doesn’t really matter who drove, right?
There’s a problem, though: I currently have 3 different manuscripts in progress. That’s a lot of bickering characters in the backseat. Sometimes I have to pull over or turn the car around. Sometimes I just toss the map in disgust and go home.
I once worked with a very successful entrepreneur who needed help writing his book. Fascinated by his ability to work on many different projects at once, I asked him his secret. “Easy,” he said. “It’s like there’s a long hall with doors on each side. I walk down the hall and pick different doors to open. You know, to check on how things are going. Then I go to the next door. Or else I create new ones.”
Well, that sounds like a breeze, doesn’t it? I can’t remember if he mentioned that he had employees diligently executing his vision behind each door. But the compartmentalization idea is helpful, I think. Or it would be if I were capable of shutting any doors on my characters. Because sometimes they get flashes of inspiration or solve a pesky plot twist. And sometimes they flounce or sulk or slam the doors themselves.
It just so happens that today—November 1st—is the first day of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Yep, 30 days set aside for authors worldwide to devote themselves to furious writing abandon. Or, in my case, to deal with a motley crew of characters fighting each other for attention. I think we need chocolate. And extra coffee. Any maybe a silencer.
Readers, do you read more than one book at a time? And writers, anyone else with character issues, or is it just…us? Let us know in the comments section below!