Hey, story: it’s not me. It’s you.

Last month, I decided I wanted to write something cheerful. Something with a holiday feel. I’d just finished the two manuscripts I spent the better part of the last year and a half on. It was the a week before Christmas, sparkle and cheer were everywhere, and I wanted to write a feelgood story. So I sat down and plotted. I birthed some characters, gave it a setting, came up with a general flow of events, and was ready to write. Easy, right?

Yeah, wrong. Totally wrong. I stared at the screen for six hours, and wrote three paragraphs. Three. So I put it aside for a few days.

And a few more days.

Yup, you’ve got it. More.

It turned into a month. I didn’t even realize how much I was dreading it until I started my three-day-weekend last Friday fully planning to make a massive dent in it. But then I saw how dingy my house was. I hadn’t done a full cleaning since November. And, I really did need to get all my expenses from last year in a spreadsheet for the accountant. Five hours later, I realized I’d gotten myself to a point where cleaning my toilets and doing my taxes was more appealing than writing.

Excellent move for someone who wants to be a writer when she grows up.

I began to think my words had run dry. Please, please tell me you’ve been there, too: the feeling that you’d sapped up all the talent you had in one or two stories, and you were just done. There was no reason that I shouldn’t have been able to write. I had time. I didn’t have any small people vying for my attention. I had characters and an outline. I had a plan to write something cheerful, light and sweet. There were no excuses for such a lack of productivity!

Then I read this post on Wonk-o-mance by Ruthie Knox, and it made me realize what I was doing wrong. (Seriously, go read that now, if you haven’t already.)

See, I wasn’t writing this happy holiday story for me. I was writing it because happy holiday stories with snowflake-adorned covers were everywhere. Because that’s what it felt like everyone else was writing. And reading. And if I’m not keeping up with what’s hot right now, if I’m not writing those perfect, love-is-all-around-us characters who find their happily ever afters just in time for New Year’s, then how will I gain a readership?

But I don’t work that way. I don’t think that way. I write characters who have been through hell and back, people who have been hurt but are still standing. Still fighting. People who have had the rugs ripped out from under them, yet are unrelenting in finding their path to healing. And well, yeah, that’s not exactly your cheerful holiday read.

It wasn’t me. It was the story.

So I dismantled it. I broke it down into pieces, reworked the entire plot, and rebuilt the characters into people who I could understand. In one single day of writing, I accomplished more than I had in the last month. The story I’m venturing on writing now might be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written, but I’ll be writing it because it’s for me, and for the people who’ll understand it the same way I do. It won’t ever be a cheerful, feelgood, holiday read, but I’m okay with that.

And as a little added bonus, my house is clean and my taxes are done. 😉

Happy January, everyone.




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