Reflections on a hard writing winter–

This winter was tough. I had new responsibilities at my job, my kids are both teenagers now (gulp), my son changed schools, my mom was seriously ill for a while, and the sale of my publishing company to another company brought a lot of uncertainty.

Then there was the fact that my characters were not behaving. I followed where I thought I was being led and ended up having to throw out six months of work. Certainly, they were not a particularly productive six months, but it’s awfully tough to be looking at a manuscript in April that is essentially the same manuscript you were looking at in September.

And when I did start over, I found myself, for the first time, writing a draft with only the vaguest sense of what the end point was. In my earlier manuscripts, I always knew the final scene,  the climax, the final resolution. It’s like climbing a mountain and looking up now and then at the peak, telling yourself, “Soon I will be there, staring out at a gorgeous vista, looking back over the arduous trail, and feeling the wind on my face.” But in this one, I couldn’t see the peak. I knew the nature of the resolution, but I didn’t know what the climax was or any of the particulars of the resolution. It was disconcerting–even as I recognized that I was learning a new writing lesson as I did it. And it took some faith because I had to climb this mountain in a fog, believing the peak was there and that I would get there and it would be worth it, but never really being sure.

This summer has been, at times, different. Since chucking out all my work in April, I’ve been clear that starting over was the right thing, but it has still been a real slog. There were times, LOTS of them, when I thought that there was no way to the peak of this mountain. Finally, in desperation, I called a friend and told her the story. She’s read drafts for me before, loves sci-fi/fantasy and is a history teacher/PhD so she brings an interesting perspective to the whole “world-building” aspect of fantasy. She gave me enough hope and confidence to keep going. And the fog began to clear.

Suddenly, I had an ending. The peak was still far away, but  I could see it and I knew the ascent was possible.

I’m not there yet. (Don’t tell my editor!) But I will make it. If there was only a little more summer left….


~ by ellenjensenabbott on August 15, 2012.

5 Responses to “Reflections on a hard writing winter–”

  1. Ellen, I had no idea you were going through so much torment (well, other than the part about your publishing company…). Wish I could have talked to you then. YAY for you for writing your way through the fog and finding the peak. That was a great metaphor.

    Hope to see you at PAYA.

    • Thanks for the good wishes, Joanne! I wasn’t really talking much to anyone at the time–just trying to hang on! This year will be better, right?

  2. You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I find this
    matter to be really one thing which I believe I’d never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward in your next post, I’ll try to get the hold of it!

  3. I write also, and have experienced this; the story leading the writer rather than the other way around. I write mostly poetry, but have recently branched out and find there are problems with doing this. I thank your friend for helping sort you out and set your path alight (as Abisina’s was by the necklace) I look forward to your continuing story, and wish you and your family the best.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Miri! I’m wondering what your “problems” are? Is it hard to make the adjustment from poetry to prose? A shorter form to a longer form? I think “branching out” is always tough–you’re leaving your comfort zone for something unknown–but I think it will also pay off–both in the new material you write and in your continued work on poetry. Keep it up!!

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