I have lost track of the number of times I’ve quit writing over the last few years. I have a heck of a time motivating myself, which probably means I should hang up my word processor right this very second. I need an external cattle prod that promises mayhem in my life if I don’t finish up the work and do it right — and right now. So each time I quit, I vow abstinence. I will never write again.
But…I can’t keep away. Characters come out of the woodwork every time I try to quit. “Write me,” they say. “Write me to life.”
So I do. I wrote for a time about a knitter. She solved crimes in Ithaca NY, with the help of her knitting circle friends. The fact that there is a wonderful knit shop in downtown Ithaca helped with research — although I never told the owner why I was prowling her shop. I loved the excuse to go up there to visit my brother — and the fact that Ithaca is home to some terrific Independent bookstores in which I love to shop didn’t hurt either. This character had so much potential in fact that an agent took her on — only to find that Maggie Sefton‘s manuscript, Knit One, Kill Two, had found its way onto the very editor to whom the agent was pitching my book. Knit One, Perk Two (because the shop where my book was set doubled as a coffeeshop) arrived on the editor’s desk the day after hers had been bought. I was pretty bummed, so quit writing again.
I have a wonderful character with whom I’ve worked on and off for twenty years. Charlotte is a daredevil artist/spy who also works as a Nanny. I had a brush with an agent with her too, but when the agent found out that I had queried her with an unfinished manuscript, that relationship died right then and there. Again, like a fool, I let it get to me and packed up my gear and put it away.
If you’re thinking about now that I am a writing wimp, then you are correct. But I am a writing wimp who evidently loves to come back for more punishment. If this makes me a wimpy masochist then so be it.
And so it has gone over the past seven years. Characters call, I work with them a time, then I pack them away into their files as if they had no merit.
This summer, after about the fifty-fifth time I’d quit writing, I pulled out a notion I’d had for quite some time and never allowed myself to tackle — a work for children. I wrote three chapters, liked it pretty well, but the Nanny was pulling at me and she seemed more likely to sell — if I got her book completed. I was close to finished with Charlotte when I attended a family reunion in Tennessee. While there I took the time to visit with Deb Adams and Mary Saums. We spent a great deal of time catching up during that visit. One of the topics we discussed was what writing we were doing. I shared about the progress I’d made on the long-awaited second Nanny book (the first one was written about fifteen years ago and is holding down the bottom drawer of my desk — deservedly so) and this long-shot idea I had about a children’s equestrian book.
Lo and behold, but my Wicked Muse Deb did it to me again. She mentioned the idea to a new start-up press and they made me an offer. Now all I have to finish the book, get an agent to rep it, and Bob’s your uncle. It is amazing what a boost a little deadline action can give your ability to stay in the chair and work.