writing life

When Life Affects Art

I have reached the phase of revisions in which I’m really doubting myself, and I don’t know if there’s something lacking in the story or if I’ve just spent so much time agonizing over every word that it’s lost the magic for me. This may be when I need to let someone else look at it. I do think there are some things that need to be amped up, but I’m not sure how.

I think part of my problem is that I wrote a lot of this book, particularly the end, while I was in a mode where I needed low-stress reads, so it gets very low-stress at times, and low-stress is hard to sell.

That’s one of the tricky things about writing. Even if you don’t realize you’re doing it, your real life seeps into what you’re writing. I had to scrap large parts of Damsel Under Stress and completely rewrite the ending because one of my close friends died while I was midway through the book. She’d been a kind of critique partner, someone I sent chapters to as I wrote them. You can thank her for Owen playing such a large role in the Enchanted, Inc. series because in the first draft of the first book she loved him, and that encouraged me to give him a larger role. It was hard continuing with that book after her death. I was in a kind of fog. I didn’t even realize how gloomy that book was until my agent gave me her feedback, and after I’d had time away from it and had emerged from the fog, I re-read the book again and couldn’t believe what I wrote.

With the book I’m working on now, I wrote this draft of the ending while going through a lot of medical stuff, in the phase where there had been some tests, and those results had led to the need for other tests, but I was waiting on appointments, so there was a lot of uncertainty. My TV viewing was mostly along the lines of “let’s visit these lovely gardens” or “let’s walk around to sites related to famous novels” just because I needed to keep my blood pressure and adrenaline levels down. That made it hard to write a really gripping climax in which my characters were in danger and had to save the day.

It’s also hard to write a romance novel when your boyfriend has dumped you and you’re going through a bitter “I don’t believe in love anymore” phase.

Maybe there are some writers who can immerse themselves into their worlds so much that their own lives are never reflected in their books, but I find that if I shut off my own life, the book comes across as cold and lifeless. The trick seems to be to be able to see in the work where life has made an impact and fix it in edits. That requires a lot of self awareness, or else a good critique partner who can call you on it.

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