Labor Pains

Ladies, you remember what it’s like being pregnant.  Once you’ve accepted the idea and warmed to it, you prepare in many ways.  It’s a long haul, but we’re built for it—and in every way imaginable:  physically, mentally, emotionally.  Like I said, though, it’s a long haul, and it is certainly not easy.

Writing a book is often like that.

It starts out as an idea (sperm, meet egg).  It might take that idea a little while to germinate, but it does.  It rolls around in your head, bouncing off walls up there, causing synapses to fire.  It divides and multiplies, that little zygote, and at some point in this process, the idea gets big enough to “take hold,” and that is the point where I start writing.

I am going to digress for a moment, because I feel the need to explain something.  I don’t write like a lot of other writers do.  I don’t spend weeks (or days or months) writing a plot or an outline.  That kind of writing doesn’t work for me.  I’ve tried it.  I deviate off course anyway.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I know where a story is going—it’s loosely developed in my head (and when I say loose, sometimes it’s VERY loose), and I usually know key points, pivotal points in the story that make it a story.  Beyond that, though, I like to simply have the situation and the characters, and I let them tell me what to do.  If you’ve never heard of this kind of writing before, it’s called pantsing.  Sounds funny, right?  That’s because you have plotters (who, of course, write with a plot) and then you have pantsers.  We’re the folks who “fly by the seat of our pants.”  And look out, because it’s a helluva ride.  It keeps ME excited as a writer, because sometimes my characters will surprise me and do something I hadn’t planned.  I find plots too confining because they don’t allow for that.  To give you some ideas of how that’s happened to me, I’ll give you two examples, and then I really must get back to the main idea of this post.  In Bullet, Clay/Jet was simply going to be a short blip on the radar for Val.  As you discovered, he was not.  He became a major player.  Yay, Clay!  In the Nicki Sosebee series, when I first wrote Jesse, he was going to be the same kind of character—just another boy toy Nicki was going to use to make Sean jealous, but then Jesse surprised the hell out of me, and look what he did!!!

Okay, back to the main idea.  Sorry to go off course.  So, the “baby” idea is germinating and we’re off.  This stage is the first trimester.  Oh, we’re in love with the idea, but it’s bumpy.  There’s some morning sickness—it’s tough getting the story down sometimes.  If it’s a series (right now, I’m writing Fully Automatic, the fourth book in the Bullet series), you have to check previous stories, because even though it’s in your head, you know we’re all human, and it’s easy to misremember something—especially if you had to do some heavy revision before the final version.  You have to check continuity.  You also have to “get back into” the feel of the series and you have to get back into the heads of characters.  The problem with Fully Automatic is that the first book Bullet was written in first person, so I was “in” Val’s head looking out.  I only had to worry about what she observed and felt and perceived.  I didn’t have to worry about explaining everyone else (although I knew what was going on).  Writing the other books was a different story—I then had to “get into” other characters’ heads.  Ethan’s was particularly difficult, but Brad’s is no picnic either.  Don’t get me wrong—I love the guy, but this is the first book I’ve written entirely from the male’s perspective, and that’s making the first trimester a little rough.  I think I’m almost through the morning sickness, and I’m hauling out my maternity clothes.

So now we begin the second trimester, the best time to be pregnant.  Our bodies have finally adjusted and usually the morning sickness has eased off. We’re getting used to the idea of getting a little bigger and we’re starting to look forward to seeing our baby.  That’s a great time during the writing process.  You’ve built a great base for the story and it’s flowing.  The finish line is way too far ahead to start pushing too hard, but you’ve got a great pace and there’s not a lot of struggle.  You’re starting to think about the end a little, but it’s not heavy in your mind.  Things feel great, and you’re just enjoying the story—where it’s going, how the characters are interacting, how something you did early on is playing into things in the story now.  You’re enjoying the magic.

But, before you know it, you move into the third trimester.  Oh, it’s okay at first, but after a while, the enormity of it feels overbearing at times.  You start to question yourself—why, oh, why did I think having another baby (writing this book) was such a great idea?  I’m so fat (it’s too big and it all sucks)!  It’s so hard rolling out of bed (this ending isn’t coming together like I imagined—it’s not smooth at all).  Nothing fits (what the hell was I thinking when I put these characters in this situation?).  I’m miserable!

(Just FYI—Fully Automatic is finishing up the first trimester.)

But the day comes…you are going into labor, and we all know how that goes.  In the world of writing a book, this is the painful part for writers too—here is where we revise the sh*t out of our books—we might have to delete scenes or add more information to make something work better.  We might have to go through the manuscript to make parts clearer.  We might ship our stories off to beta readers for feedback.  We’ll edit and proofread judiciously as well.  At some point, though, we have to push that baby out.

The nurses (or reviewers) examine your baby, and they announce to the room the special and wonderful qualities about your baby, but they might deliver some bad news too.  There’s nothing you can do at that point except smile and continue to love your baby.  If the baby was born with dark hair and the nurse points it out, well, what else can you do but agree?  Yep, the baby has black hair (sorry, though, because I didn’t know you preferred blondes).  If she gets nasty about it, you might feel yourself  bristling a little, but all you can do is take your baby and hold it in your arms and be glad it’s too young to know what the nurse just said about it.

If you have a blog tour, that’s like the christening.  Everyone comes out to celebrate the birth of your baby.  It’s such a wonderful time—joyous and momentous.

And then, after all the fun is over, you settle back in with your family.

But if you’re like I am, it doesn’t take long for you to hop in the sack again…and sperm, meet egg.

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6 Responses to Labor Pains

  1. Nancy Jones says:

    I think I just discovered the reason that you’re my favorite author, because you’re a “pantser”! That’s why your books seem so heartfelt, because you let them lead you instead of you leading them. I feakin’ love you and your indie awesomeness! =) (And I’m still waiting patiently for the full scene of Jesse singing INXS…..lol)

  2. You are so right about it having to germinate. I am just barely out of the Prologue and don’t know which direction to take yet, but I am sure it will come to me. So hard when life interferes. Working the way I do (3-11:30) four days one week then five the next with every other weekend. My Son is fighting for custody of his seven year old Daughter which is the light of my life. His Sister, Brothe-in-Law, and I as well as him and his Daughter all live together. We are all helping with the Lawyer and the fight. We are at the end of a four year journey and hope as well as Alicia that we win. I feel like I’m in the first trimester now. I hope after the Holidays it will take form and just come to me. Thank You for your blogs. They have helped me not to give up.

    • Jade says:

      Thanks, Pauline. Just keep fighting the good fight, and it sounds like you have quite a battle on your hands. The thing about writing? Just keep chipping away at it. You’ll get there. Unfortunately, “real life” takes precedence, but it can often fuel your literary world. Best of luck!

  3. Lisa G says:

    Pantsers! I love that term. Love this post, and I love your writing!