The Discovery Phase, and Writing About Writing

The Discovery Phase

I’m working on something new. I wish it could come out of me lightning-fast. I want to show my agent a nice little tease of a beginning—just a few pages—and a synopsis and then see what he thinks, if this could be my next book, but I’m finding that with each new day I work on it, the story veers this way and that. The characters reveal new secrets. The world turns a corner I didn’t expect. New layers reveal themselves. New meanings emerge.

And so I’m not yet ready to communicate what this book could be because I don’t yet know myself. I’ve decided to give myself the time needed for discovery—to wade through this “discovery phase” of novel-writing and splash around for as long as I need to. Then, once the idea is more sharply pointed and defined, I can show my agent.

Until then, it’s kind of just a pile of deformed clay that I’m saying will one day turn into an elephant. For now, I am the only one who can see the elephant.

This is all well and good—because, oh, the discovery phase of trying on a new novel is fun and exciting and full of promise and possible lifelong love—but at the same time I do wish it could just be done already. I may or may not have been complaining about this the other night when E reminded me that I’d just finished a novel. The final draft of 17 & Gone was finished on July 16, and there were copyedits and edits on galleys through August, so really, in the scheme of things, I did just finish a whole book. Can’t it be okay that it takes a while to find my way into a new one? Can’t it be okay that I don’t know yet what my next book should be? That I’m questioning? That I’m working it through?

It has to be.

Writing About Writing

On another note, I saw at some point this week—it’s a blur—Michelle Witte, a wise publishing person who knows what she’s talking about, say on Twitter that she wished authors wouldn’t talk so much about writing on blogs and Twitter. Surely because it gets boring for the non-writers and doesn’t draw in our audience: the readers who just liked our books. I am paraphrasing from hazy memory, so apologies if I explain it wrong, Michelle. It’s just something I happened to notice and then I was admonishing myself for.

Michelle has some great points. But as soon as I read what she was saying, I got concerned.

Because, as readers of this blog know, I talk about writing a lot here. I talk about my own writing, I have other writers come on and talk about their writing, and in fact, in the paragraphs above, I just told you how the writing of my new project is going, didn’t I?

The thing for me is this: This is what I am—a writer. I don’t have much to talk about otherwise. My personal life is personal and kept that way for a reason. E prefers I don’t talk about him on this blog, and I absolutely respect that, even though sometimes I slip in a reference to how wonderful and helpful he is with my writing. And, often, I like to keep the subject matter of my books-in-progress close, so I won’t be blogging about any specifics about this new novel I’m exploring if and until it gets bought by my editor and becomes “real.” And outside of all that, my avid interest in television-viewing would make this blog more boring than anyone could ever dream.

I also enjoy blogging about my writing process—it gives me pleasure. That’s the beauty of it: There are times when writing about writing helps me find my way into the heart of what I mean to say. Sometimes writing about writing inspires me to write some more. I started this blog about six seven (wow) years ago to do just that. I wasn’t published then, so this blog wasn’t a sales tool. It was a personal journal about my writing. And I guess it still is.

I guess I could blog more about events I do and other things like that? But I think it’s disingenuous to read an author’s blog about only the good things. I mean, sure, there are probably some authors with awesome, sparkly book lives—I see them tweeting incessantly about it—so much excitement about new book deals and sales, and events where fans asked for autographs on their bare stomachs, and sandwiches being named after them at the corner deli… (If you are an author who has had a sandwich named after you, do tell me!) But those are faraway and fluffy realities for me. I guess I just like to know the behind-the-scenes writing part of all that. The struggles that went into the book that inspired the sandwich named after you, you know?

Then again, I’m a writer. That’s what I’m interested in. It’s not what most of the world is interested in.

Do you really want to know what I think of the new season of America’s Next Top Model or how many prison and drug documentaries I have watched in the last month? Do you want to know what I yelled out in the dark of my apartment while Netflixing last season’s True Blood (it was not kind)?

Or… would you like to know what I’ve been reading? I’m working on a new YA proposal, so I am having trouble reading YA right now. Instead I’ve been reading adult novels. Read recently and still thinking about these books: The Secret History by Donna Tartt; Savages by Don Winslow; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Last Life by Claire Messud (for the fifth time at least); Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. In midst of: Dora: A Head Case by Lidia Yuknavitch. May read next, though I admit I have an aversion to cheerleaders: Dare Me by Megan Abbott. And looking forward to: Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub.

Yes, I may write YA right now, but I read other things, too. I don’t believe in reviewing books as an author, so that’s why you don’t see me talking about my reading choices here.

What else should I blog about if not writing? I truly don’t know.

So I wonder of you: Does it bother you when authors blog only about writing? Do you want more from me? 


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