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Dearest Novel

March 24, 2015

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski, SXCHopping on board the blog again, and look! It’s like riding a bicycle … just gotta get the rust out of my fingers.

Not that I’ve been neglecting my writing, but last month, thanks to a timely Holly Lisle tip in my email, I experienced a bit of a revelation about my habit of juggling multiple projects at once. It seems I am hurting my novel by carousing with every other project that catches my eye, while my revision sulks at home watching reruns. It got me thinking: Are my profligate ways turning my story bitter and resentful, and unwilling to reveal its heart to me?

What’s an author to do when she wants to make amends with her story? How about writing it a letter? Here’s a bit of what I wrote …

 

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski @ Stock.xchng

Dear Tempest’s Serenade,
It is with trepidation that I begin this letter, but it is only by admitting my transgressions that I can hope to move beyond them. Because, after you’d given me characters as real as the people in my life and an ending worthy of a much better writer than I’ll ever be, I find myself guilty of being a flagrant abuser of your faith in me.

I could defend myself by saying that I don’t deserve you, but that is the defense of the weak and small-minded. You came to me and trusted me to write you down. You gave more than you got, you flowed onto the page when I didn’t believe in myself, you trespassed my dreams, showing me the fears I must face and transcribe to give you the depth you needed to transport my eventual readers.

I remember when I thought you’d be the only one I’d ever love. I devoted myself to you in every free moment, carrying snippets of you in my pockets, leaving a trail of Post it notes in coffee shops and airplane seats. I remember our evening trysts, when I sat in the dark with you, my hands deep in story, my eyes gazing beyond my ordinary suburban life and into yours, fraught with passion and danger and higher purpose. I remember the glorious passage into completion of your first draft, the blizzard of virtual confetti bestowed upon my announcement of your birth, as you arrived kicking and screaming at the brightness of this world upon your awkward shapelessness.

Original MSIn revision you grew sweeter, and I began to see your beauty in unexpected places. I discovered where you were strong and where you needed guidance, and bid farewell to explorations into forlorn cul-de-sacs. I kissed you there, but we did not linger, as I coaxed you back into the main thoroughfare of traditional novel structure.

But I confess that my first dalliance from you came during this stressful time of revision. I had no idea I even had another story in me, and so I welcomed it with open arms and flying fingers. This story was so different from you; I could not help but be seduced by it. My courtship was hesitant at first, only a few hundred words a day here and there, but soon the story had its way with me, until I was writing thousands of words a day to know the ending. I pretended to be with you, but I know you saw those rings of sleeplessness around my eyes; I know you saw the tremble in my over-caffeinated fingers. Patiently you waited for me to return, only to lose me once more to the rabid beast called NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know what possessed me, my dearest, except a frantic desire to fill that precipitous word count graph. It was only a month’s affair, turbulent and feverish, but it consumed me utterly. That I forsook you, my first and most important project, only to stomp my excessive word count into the annals of plotlessness haunts me still.

There were others after that, many others. Should I recount them? Would it hurt you more if you knew them? Would it help to know that some of them were worthy? There have been other transgressions too– blogging, critiquing of writers in need, explorations of image manipulation. Have you watched in horror while I walk away to pursue activities that take me further and further away from you?

What must I do to regain your favor? Is there any way you can forgive me and welcome me into your pages once more? Can we negotiate some kind of mediation, where I would demonstrate my good intentions? Or is what we had gone forever?

I submit this missive to you, and await your response with a troubled mind. Please do not keep your distraught writer waiting.

With my most humble apologies,
Your Writer

 .

 

So that is what I wrote …

How about you? Have you ever written down your feelings about a project?

And, would it surprise you to know that my book actually responded? Want to know what it said? Stay tuned!Image courtesy of Clara Lam @ stock.xchng

Bicycle sign image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski, SXC, Pen image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski, notebook image courtesy of Clara Lam all @ Stock.xchng
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34 Comments
  1. March 24, 2015 10:40 pm

    I’ve never written down my feelings for a project, but it seems like it could be a useful thought exercise–especially if one has a project that’s been on the backburner for a while and is looking for a fun way to become reacquainted with it.

    Which reminds me…I have a first draft on a novel that’s been on the backburner for a really long time. I still want to work on shorter pieces to help develop some revision skills, but lately I’ve been trying to think of ways to keep in touch with the novel so it doesn’t totally languish.

    Great to see a new post from you 🙂

    • March 26, 2015 10:05 pm

      It was great to see you come out of hibernation as well! Getting back into a project that has taken a back seat for a while can be really fun. 🙂

  2. March 24, 2015 11:07 pm

    Interesting. I have never considered writing a letter to my story. I have, however, stood in a shower and asked characters “What next?” Actually, more like pleaded.

    I can identify with your problem of working on a second story while the first one sat around deserted — it is sad. The old story, the one that was more loyal than the family dog, that gave you everything you could ever ask for — is lying on the desk, the only activity the pages experience is when they are gently blown over by wind from a cracked open window.

    After publishing the first book in my current series, I jumped on the second book. As you know Kirsten, these books are LONG, one reason I question my sanity. Regardless, I dove into this second book, and somewhere between the 25% and 50% mark, I started playing with another (much shorter) book. The current series is something I always wanted to write. A huge epic story with tons of characters and multiple story lines. Something that required a lot of thought, planning, and organization. In other words, discipline. This other book, the one that seduced me while I pondered where the second book was going, was simpler, fewer characters, one story line, and much easier to write. Like you, it was a few hundred words a day here and a day there when I took a break from the big book. It wasn’t long before a few hundred turned into a thousand and there were days I didn’t write in the big book at all. During this time “Life Interruptist” made it difficult to write at all — for months on end. It was easier, more comfortable, to work on the “easy” book.

    I only have a couple of chapters left to finish the short book, yet still under 80% on the big novel. I have not written it a letter for ignoring it, for allowing myself to be beguiled by the shiny new story, but I do intend to make amends. I am not sure how, but when I do, I will try to be as brave as you have been, and post it on my blog.

    I praise you for sharing your “story infidelity”. It isn’t quite a Jim Baker or Jimmy Swaggart situation, but from a writer’s perspective, it can be nearly as damaging to our psyche. Bravo lady!

    • March 26, 2015 10:10 pm

      Thank you, Peter. 🙂 It’s so freeing to finally admit that I’ve been cheating, and discover part of the reason I’m not moving forward as quickly as I’d like.
      I’ll look forward to reading your letter– if you’re brave enough to share it!

  3. reprobatetypewriter permalink
    March 25, 2015 4:11 am

    I’ve been curious about this letter! I’ve never actually tried writing a letter to a project, but there are definitely one or two of them who deserve it.

    • March 26, 2015 10:12 pm

      Welcome to A Scenic Route, reprobate typewriter!
      It’s a fun exercise, and you never know what you’ll find until you try it. 🙂

  4. March 25, 2015 6:51 am

    I’m completely there with you. It’s great and necessary going through novel revision, drawing out all the extra nuances and chopping back the overgrowth, but … you’re not creating are you? and sometimes there’s a need to write something rather than revise it. to show that you’ve still got that edge, that excitement. I guess it’s all a bit close to those who love the thrill of the chase but can’t knuckle down to the serious long haul of a relationship.
    I’ve not written a letter to my novel either – maybe you’re the first person in history to do so? Perhaps I should try it? hmm… Maybe I’ll wait and see what answer you got first!

    • March 26, 2015 10:14 pm

      Hi Angela, 🙂
      I got a really fun answer–and working on just this story turned up some really cool new twists.

  5. March 25, 2015 8:47 am

    Can’t wait to hear how your novel responded. Your letter is awesome, and a little sad. Oh how I can relate, too. I’ve been starting projects and not finishing them ever since Nanowrimo ended. That adorable muse of yours just might be getting you into trouble 🙂 Glad to see you blogging again!

    • March 26, 2015 10:16 pm

      Thanks, Shell Flower!
      My adorable Muse is currently hanging out at an undisclosed location, which is probably why I took matters into my own hands with this letter! 😉
      The answer to the letter is coming soon. 🙂

  6. March 25, 2015 10:02 am

    You are amazing, Kirsten. Humanizing yourself and your story lines in such compelling and real ways. Your story would be a fool to reject you now.

    • March 26, 2015 10:17 pm

      You would think, right?
      Thanks, Sammy D. 🙂

  7. melissamaygrove permalink
    March 25, 2015 5:19 pm

    There’s a delicate balance between leaving a MS sit so that you can be objective and abandoni– Look! Squirrel! LOL I love the letter. Good for you. 😉

    • Loni Townsend permalink
      March 26, 2015 9:43 am

      Squirrel!

    • March 26, 2015 10:19 pm

      Yes, Melissa, I’ve had a terrible bout of ‘Squirrel’ in the past few months! I’m hoping I can turn that around. Might be cabin fever! 😉

  8. March 26, 2015 7:16 am

    Has your story forgiven you? Hope so after that heartfelt letter.

    • March 26, 2015 10:19 pm

      It has, Alex, but it is very demanding these days!

  9. Loni Townsend permalink
    March 26, 2015 9:49 am

    That was a lovely letter. I don’t know that I’ve ever done that for a project. Most often, my projects know me, know who I am, and know that if I ever leave them (which I am always bound to do), I will likely return if there’s something strong between us. They’ve been very understanding so far, though some show more jealousy than others.

    • March 26, 2015 10:20 pm

      You know what they say: If you love something/someone, set it free? It seems that way with stories. If it’s love, they’ll always come back. 🙂

  10. March 26, 2015 8:41 pm

    Glad to read you again, Kirsten. As always, you are lyrical and lovely.
    My novel has been neglected lately and, sometimes, the voices of of its characters speak to me…not out loud, of course:) They are wondering where I am, but they understand life takes over and imagination has to wait in the background for the fog of the real world to lift.
    Thankfully, it’s lifting now and ideas are flooding in. My point is, if Tempest’s Serenade loves you and I’m sure it does, your muse 🙂 will take you where your need to go.

    • March 26, 2015 10:22 pm

      I think I needed to make the first overture though, and let it know of my intentions (or, of course, explore my own intentions and fears …) I’m glad I did, because our love is stronger than ever. 🙂

  11. March 27, 2015 4:21 am

    Missed your blog! This post totally resonated with me too. Except I didn’t flirt with other stories, just got caught us in the magic, beauty and busyness of life (and everything in between). SO scary getting back into it. There was a moment when I thought the heart of the story won’t ever show its self again because I left it for so long. All good now. Phew. But took some gruelling brain power to unlock it!

    • March 28, 2015 1:18 pm

      I’m so glad to see you back writing, Anushka! Your story is gorgeous, and I hope it thrives now that you’re reunited. 🙂

  12. dksalerni permalink
    March 27, 2015 4:59 pm

    I trust that your manuscript accepted this apology with an open heart and once more trusted you into its embrace!

    I have written an open letter to my characters once and also engaged in a snarky dialogue with them. I have never written to the story as a whole. Loved your letter!

    • March 28, 2015 1:20 pm

      I’m glad you like it, Dianne. 🙂
      My story did take me back, and now we are going stronger than ever!

  13. March 29, 2015 2:09 pm

    I haven’t. I should give this a try sometime! It looks like it might be a good way to get past writer’s block.

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

    • March 29, 2015 6:05 pm

      It really helped me Stephanie, which is one reason I shared this. 🙂 Plus, it was fun!

  14. Arlene permalink
    March 31, 2015 5:39 pm
  15. April 4, 2015 8:21 pm

    Hey Kirsten,

    I know many people, myself included, have taken a step back from blogging and other things to focus on the “real” writing, but I’ve never read anyone writing a letter to their main writing squeeze 🙂

    That was a really fun read – and I can’t wait to hear what the book said 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful, relaxing Easter Sunday.

    • May 6, 2015 9:48 pm

      Thanks, Mark 🙂
      This break from blogging is lasting much longer than I thought! I’m getting a lot accomplished though, and it’s going to be amazing when it’s done.

  16. May 6, 2015 6:02 pm

    I’ve never written my feelings down about a project as if I was writing it a letter. I love that you do that. Maybe I should try because I haven’t written much of anything lately. I can’t wait to hear what came out of your letter 🙂

    • May 6, 2015 9:51 pm

      I’ve never written down my feelings in a letter either, until now!
      And the response came quite promptly, but I’ve been horrible about keeping my readers up to date.
      I’m hoping to make some changes to turn that around. 🙂

  17. Andrew Gruber permalink
    February 7, 2016 2:29 am

    Where have you gone, Kirsten? Your fans(myself included) miss you. I’m sure your muse is lost without you. I anxiously await a chance to sample Tempest’s Serenade.

  18. Andrew Gruber permalink
    February 9, 2016 10:04 pm

    Kirsten, I sure hope my last comment didn’t come accross as sarcastic. Soory if it did. I was aiming for witty. Anyway, I know you have been very busy for a while with everything. I hope you are still writing and I enjoy reading your blog.

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