Yesterday I finished up the next round of edits for HALLOWED, which means that we're getting very close to having the book ready to send to production. Whew. This book has been a doozy to write, let me tell you, but of course it's totally been worth all the long hours, tears, and contractions (there was a time in February where I was having major Braxton Hicks contractions while I was trying to finish that round of edits, and they stopped pretty much as soon as I sent the draft off to my editor. Clearly I was stressed. . .).
There's a reason why writers talk in hushed voices about the terror of writing the sophomore novel.
For me, writing the second book was an entirely different experience than writing the first one. With Unearthly I spent every day for six months at my computer (generally during my son's naptime), moving along at the average pace of 800 words a day. It grew slowly, and I started nearly every writing session by circling back over what I had already written, revising as I went.
With Hallowed I didn't have anywhere near that kind of leisure. I was pregnant. Teaching two classes at Pepperdine. Working on marketing and promotional stuff for Unearthly. And running after my four year old, who no longer took his nap. To top it off, my husband had to go out of town for almost a month during the summer! It's no surprise that, under these conditions, the writing didn't exactly flow out of me the way it did when I wrote Unearthly.
During that time I wrote the following email to my agent. The subject line was : One of those nights! Woohoo!
I thought I'd share it now:
So, last night. Very hot. No AC. Been feeling horrid all day (see: hot, no AC, terrible stomach with no desire to eat anything, which only leads the stomach to become more terrible) then actually veered the car over 2 lanes when I saw the $2 sign for biscuit and gravy at Denny's. Haven't eaten at a Denny's in possibly more than 10 years. Ate the $2 biscuits and gravy, which was fine, but very Denny's quality. Drove to grocery store, bought sausage and milk to make my own biscuits and gravy. Came home. Really freaking hot in the house. Too hot to cook. Tried to write. Will's in daycare, which means I really MUST write, otherwise it is wasted money. Tried for a couple of hours to write. Like pulling teeth. Miserable. Finally went to see Inception (which I liked btw) just to cool off. Went and bought two huge fans. Picked up Will. Spent evening putting together the fans. Still too hot to cook. We ate cereal for dinner. No real writing done all day. Feeling failure stifling me like the heat. Still lately my writing has been uninspired, work, not play. Been feeling panicky about it, like can I do this? In such a short space? Pregnant and cloudy-headed and sick all the time and exhausted by 2pm? Why will this book 2 come not to me?!!!! How can a little life form the size of a pencil eraser be playing such havoc on my body?!!! Why now? Clearly casting around for a metaphorical paper bag to breathe into.
So, in essence, horrid day.
Fast forward to 2am, one of the big fans blowing directly over my bed. Woke to a huge crash outside my open window. Completely terrified, clutching baseball bat by the bed, cursing stupid insensitive husband who thought it was a great idea to leave his pregnant wife home alone. Crashing outside continues. Turns out to be a possum? Raccoon? Some large creature eating the plums out of our plum tree. I can actually hear munching.
I wait to fall back to sleep. Munching creature. Fan that sounds like an airplane taking off.
tidal wave of book 2 inspiration. I turn on the light, grab notebook by the bed, and write what turns out to be about 15 handwritten pages of notes. It just comes pouring out, complete with dialogue in places. A totally improved arc for almost the entire book, all the way to a few scenes before the end. So, in essence, an outline of the book, scene by scene, sometimes coming in order, sometimes not, but understanding completely how it all weaves together: Clara, Christian, Maggie, Jeffrey, Angela, Tucker, Wendy, even a bit of Kay. Kept going back to bed and having to reach over and turn on the light again to write just one more thing. And one more thing. And one more thing. Then laid in bed for an hour just wanting to write it all out, get it ALL on paper as quickly as possible.
Marvelous night! O wondrous night!
This morning: thrashed of course. Exhausted feeling in my stomach. Need to take Will off to tee-ball.
But first I'm going to make us some biscuits and gravy.
Looking back, I honestly don't know how I made it through, except that I was determined to keep writing. And that's the lesson I get out of all of us. Sometimes it's not easy. But keep at it, keep jumping over your obstacles, and the magic will hit you when you least expect it.
Such is the mystery of writing.
Now I'm going to go play me some video games, for the one-whole-day I'm going to allow myself to simply waste my brain power before I start working on Book 3 (which I am totally excited to get to, btw!)
And, in you live near San Diego, come to my signing at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore at 2pm on Saturday. I'll be there with Timothy Power and Greg Van Eekhout kicking off the Summer Reading for Teens and Tweens.