In the literary world, there is no cliche more timeworn and banal than the empty page. Countless movies and television shows have portrayed this inconspicuous menace in all its unvarnished glory. You’ve all seen it, I’m sure. The eight-and-a-half by eleven crisp sheet tucked neatly into a typewriter. It’s self-important barrenness, mocking the timid writer. Or more recently, the pale, vacuous computer screen. Vacant, besides the black, thin yet sinister cursor. The one blinking in wait. Tempting and taunting. Daring you to take a shot. Condemning you for balking. Judging and teasing. C’mon, it appears to be asking. Let’s see what you got?
Can you read your story without feeling the urge to rewrite every other sentence? If you can’t get through reading your story without reaching for the red pen, cringing, or throwing the pen against the wall, it might not be ready to publish.
Before publishing my first book, a historical novel called A Decent Woman, I’d read individual chapters of the manuscript…oh, at least a hundred times. I read the complete manuscript three times before and after incorporating my editor and proofreader’s changes, which were golden. I was blessed they understood me and where I was headed with my story.
One day, I was playing a friend a few of my original songs. He turned to me afterwards and said: “Those are some heavy lyrics.” It wasn’t that I had never noticed that my writing – both songs and prose – can veer to the dark side, but it did make me stop and think: why am I attracted to the darkness?
“Everyone is out to get me”
Every night I lock my room if someone tries to come in and attack me. Looking around in the dark for shadows, anything that could disturb my children’s rest. On my daily walks to work, the sense of being followed persists in my head even though I play music while walking to soothe my anxieties. Once I sit at my desk the fear that something bad will happen starts its vicious cycle; maybe my co-worker is talking behind my back; I feel threatened, insecure, and awkward.
I have come to the conclusion that unless a writer has super powers or a clone, she just can’t get it all done and write a second novel that’s worth a dime in the summer time. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. It IS done and the reality is I don’t know how writers manage to raise well-adjusted children, keep a spouse or romantic partner happy and still have the time to write, publish, and market a novel. And bounce back fast enough post-publication and sane enough to finish the second book in a few months. All during the summer months, mind you. What drives these prolific authors? These writers tend to pay their taxes on time, they run for PTA positions, hold full-time jobs, and run a cottage industry at home while they write. How the heck do they do it?