Thursday, November 6, 2008

Clearing Out the Cobwebs

I know the pin-ups are usually Danielle's domain, but there's no way on Earth I can find anything to compete with Cheryl's eye candy yesterday...and anyway, I enjoy pretending I look like this while I'm dreaming up my next story. Gotta love the myth of the romance writer, with our feather boas and elaborately decorated boudoirs. Oh, and our libidinous cabana boys who all look something like Cheryl's hottie:-)

Anyway, the french maid is an appropriate symbol for my current state of mind at present. I've sent off my copyedits for Wild Highland Magic, which will be the third book in my Highland Werewolves series, I've pretty well wrapped up my promotional guest blogs for Dark Highland Fire, I've gotten some sleep, read and watched movies, bought unnecessary (and very fun) stuff, gotten settled in a new house in a new state, and am even making beds again. All of which can only mean one thing:

Yep, it's time to start writing again.

It has never ceased to amaze me, the strange combination of excitement and trepidation that accompany, even now, me into every new book. I haven't been finished with Wild Highland Magic for long at all, but somehow, it feels like years have passed. I know there are a few cobwebs that have accumulated up there in the machienery from my normal post-book pseudo-hiatus...nothing major, but they always make me nervous. After three books in two years, each clocking in at around some 98,000 words, you'd think I might have quit worrying that I'll sit down to write a new story and find that any and all writing ability has been sucked out of me, vampire style (and again, my depraved brain drifts back to yesterday's picture). But no, every time I worry. And fortunately, every time I start the writing factory back up, things seem to work a little more smoothly than the time before. I do, however, have a ritual for clearing out the dust and cobwebs in preparation for starting something new.

It's not much of a ritual, I suppose. But it's a little reminder that I'm about to start fresh once again. Oddly enough, I never plan the ritual, either. It just happens when it's getting to be about that time, when I've filled up on rest and recharged my batteries, creative and otherwise. I'll be out at the store, wandering (particularly if I've managed to escape without the children...I can zone in Target for hours), and some notebook or other will catch my eye. Last time it was bright pink and brown stripes that brought me to a halt in the aisle. This time it was a little notebook with an intricate silver and blue pattern on the cover. Something inside me exclaims, "That's it! That's the notebook for the new story!" I'll flip through the blank pages, wondering what I'll fill them with, inspired by the possibility. And inevitably, the notebook comes home with me.

For the last few weeks, that little notebook has begun to get as cluttered and messy as the ones that have gone before it. I've been doing research, and writing information and ideas out longhand helps me remember things more clearly. Always has. I'm not done with it, either, even though the last few days have produced most of my first chapter (insert fist pump here)...that little notebook will wind up full of character sketches and bits of scenes, ever-changing outlines and bits of dialogue I think up and then store to use for later. It will become, in short, the ugly-yet-essential companion piece to what will someday show up on a bookstore shelf. But I love it best when I pick it up for the first time, clean and fresh, just waiting for a story, my story, to fill up its pages. That's when I know that my inner french maid has finished tidying up the mental pizza boxes and empty beer cans left over from the ending of the last novel, and that everything is as ready as it's going to be for some new tenants to move in for a while.

And I know I'm ready, too...because I can't wait.

So now it's your turn: how do you prepare to start a new project? Is there a ritual for you, or do you just dive right in?



  1. I liked hearing about your ritual, especially the cluttered notebook. I have tried to think if I have a ritual, but I believe that most of the time, I'm halfway through a new story before I realize I've started it. So perhaps my ritual begins when I finally think, "You know, I should write some of this down!" Then all the characters and situations, that have been living their own lives in my head, get to whip me into shape. Love the French maid, too.

  2. I love your ritual! :D I'm always interested in learning how authors go from idea to writing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love your ritual too. I'm so jealous. For me, a scene pops up in my head and I have to write a book about it.

    How boring is that?

    Robin :)

  4. Kendra,
    Thanks for the insight into your process. I love your ritual and the French maid you bring in to clean up after the last one. I got to get me one of them since my brain is full of clutter!

    My process is more like Christina's. My next book tends to show up in the middle of the WIP, tempting me with how fun and easy it would be to abandon the WIP to take on this always better (or so it seems) idea. Because of this temptation, I have a rule about finishing the WIP before I start anything new, which gives the next one lots of time to percolate before I dive in and get going.

    Add a full-time day job and no fewer than two books in the head at one time and you will see why I'm half nuts! Or is that three quarters nuts? Hmmm :-)

  5. PS--is the new book another in your series or something new?

  6. I take a big, breathless leap off the high dive. No notes, no outline(usually!) just an idea in my head for a guy to die for!
    Oh, and as far as the "writer" trappings go, I don't have any of them except the cabana boy, though he informs me that while he has been called many things, no one has EVER called him a cabana boy!!! LOL! Except me!

  7. There's an article in the current RWR talking about doubt. One author of 20+ books admitted she still must face down the fear that she won't be able to write a book THIS time.

    Your little ritual with the notebook sounds lovely--I wish I had something like that. But my process is much more like Marie's.

    The next characters begin appearing while I'm still finishing the current book. I find myself searching for material for them, when I ought to be working on the WIP.

    Also like Marie, by the time I'm ready to go to work, much of how the story starts and the GMC of the characters is established.

  8. Morning, ladies!

    Christina, I think that definitely counts as a ritual....I think each of us has a little mental trigger that says, "Hey, it's time!"

    Love romance passion (and hey, I love your tag!), thanks for stopping by! I'm glad my messy notebooks actually sound interesting:-) I took me a little while to realize that it had gotten to be a sort of initiation into each new book, the mystical Buying Of the Notebook. Poor notebooks, though...always so pretty when I start, always so trashed when I get done.

    Robin, that's not boring! I wish I could dive in like you, in fact. I'm just slooooow:-)

    Marie, I'm glad you like my maid. I could use a real life maid, too (as I survey the debris around here). My brain, sadly, will only unclutter just so much:-) I have the same problem as you, with the next characters showing up to taunt me in the middle of a WIP. It's all I can do to ignore them, but I have to...I have the same rule about finishing one thing before starting another. I'm easily distracted, so it's hard! Also, I think all writers are a little crazy, myself included. It's why we're so much fun!

    Oh, and the new WIP is something new. I love my werewolves, but it feels so good to jump into an entirely different world this time. Everything feels fresh, and it's really exciting!

    Cheryl, I knew you were gonna be a high diver! That's awesome. I'm not much of a plotter either...though I sometimes frustrate myself trying (God, I hate synopses before the book is done, and my early outlines are never even remotely accurate).

    I don't have a cabana boy, sadly (since a certain spouse who lives here has been very difficult to train). Maybe I'll start writing in a boa!

  9. Hi, Mary Margret!

    At this point, I've accepted the fact that the doubt is always going to be there. I think, however, that a certain amount of it is keeps me pushing myself to do better.

    I do have the characters rattling around in my head pre-notebook, but it's when I get those blank pages that I give myself permission to let them out. I'm better at fleshing things out with a pen, in the beginning.

    It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who is easily distracted by the lure of a brand new story!

  10. These sorts of topics really fascinate me. I suppose because I am still so new at the game, and because I came about it in such a bizarre way. I am curently working on my first totally separate book. Still dealing with the Darcy family, but an off-shoot I guess you could say. It has been very different to write what will be a stand-alone novel with clear beginning-middle-end. Not better, just different. So, I am still learning how to find my ritual, if I will ever have one! Thanks, Kendra, for the thought provoking post.

  11. I always start out with a plan of attack... really with any kind of project, but it usually goes by the wayside once I get started... but it's an organized chaos! I expect it to ensue.

    Yay pin ups!! I found a lovely wall calendar for 2009 that I'm going to put in my cubicle, haha.

  12. I do mega house cleaning before I begin a new project, because I know a lot will slide during my work. I keep a lot of notes in a notebook, I find these wonderful journals with cool covers, and I use a new one for the new book.

    Although I tend to think more of a shirtless hot guy cleaning my house than a French maid. :} "Uh, sweetheart, could you look inside the tub again? I think you missed a spot."


  13. I clear off my desk to start a new project. LOL It's the only time I clean it. :) Or when I can't find something and I'm sure it's buried somewhere on the desk.