Monday, June 11, 2012

Diary of a Writer: From Lips to Hips - Working Out An Idea

They were too irresistible. Publix cupcakes. So I ate one. After all, I was at a bridal shower, celebrating the upcoming nuptials of a good friend.

White cake with vanilla cream icing. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Yum is not a powerful enough word. 

It was the kind of cupcake you want to savor but after the first bit all you can do it take bite after bite. It's gone so fast you hardly feel full. You're tempted to quick, grab another cupcake and savor it too before the first cupcake calories take effect.

And I so enjoyed eating that cupcake. All five bites it took to wolf it down.

In less than sixty seconds.

I consumed, what, 250-300 calories? Just in a cupcake. And I'm trying to keep my calorie consumption around 1200 a day. Ooops.

When I came home, I decided it was time for a run. So off I go. On a hot, muggy Saturday evening around 5:00.

2 miles run. Plus a mile and a quarter walk, I was on the pavement for 50 minutes. (Hey, I'm s slow runner!)

Fifty minutes of heat and sweat to burn off that cupcake. One minute of pleasure, fifty minutes of grinding it out.

Got to wonder if it's worth it.

But writing is a lot like a really great Publix cupcake. An idea hits! It feels good. Feels right. Pieces of the story spark. You hear the heroine speak. See her move across a crowded room or through the high waving grass of a meadow.

Dialog floats across your mind. Perhaps you develop a high concept line. "Aliens from another world invade an Amish village and take them captive so they can work the land on their home planet." 

Oh, you can see this story just "writing itself." You can't wait to sit at the computer and start pounding it out. I mean, can you imagine? Aliens with no natural knowledge dealing with a people who have no technical knowledge. Move over Konrath, you're going to need room on the bestseller list! 

You sleep on it a day or two. Tell a few writer friends. Jot a few notes. Hash out a few characters. Map out the plot

Finally, emboldened you sit down to write. And what seemed like a smashing, amazing idea goes dead with the first line.

Wait, that sounded so good in my head but now that I see it on paper, it's stupid. There's two "was's" and "a could've been."

But, it's a rough draft. So you power on. But at the 2000 word mark, you're starting to have your doubts. 

Who's going to want a story about Amish and space aliens. Women who read Amish don't read sci fi! And sci fi readers don't care who the aliens capture as long as it's some other race! Oh, what a stupid idea.

But if you don't write it, you have nothing. After a day or two of posting more tweets than is natural for any writer, let alone any human, you give up on the story and wander the kitchen...

In search of a cupcake. In search of your next great idea.

Anyone can get a cupcake of a story idea. But it takes devotion to get that cupcake "off your hips." Sweat. Heat. The grind. You don't feel good. You feel tired and weary. Shaky even.

But if you give up, you'll never finish that story. If you give up, that one great idea will never even have a chance let alone a shot at any kind of success.

I never like my stories when I'm in the throws of writing. I can tell you tale after tale about Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle. Oh mercy. I hit Send to my editor with Love Starts with Elle after getting up at 4:00 a.m. to finished editing the last few page and crawled back in bed, balling my eyes out.

My career was over. I just knew it. 

Dining with Joy... wore me out. Took forever to find the rhythm of that story. But I'm so glad I stayed with it because all of those books have blessed me in one way or another. And blessed readers.

Books are mostly about a marathon race. You have to stick with it. Run every day. Push past the pain. Past the UNinspiration. It's eating broccoli instead of a cupcake.

But oh, you will be so glad you did when the book is finished and you type THE END.

So today, no matter where you are in your writing process, no matter where you are in your life journey, keep at it!

Maybe for you it's about another discipline, another dream you're chasing. Keep at it. Don't give up! 

Quitters never win. Winners never quit.


Alicia Hall said...

Thank again Rachel! You keep remind me to stick to it. I'm in this exact place with my novel. I had to rework to beginning after feeling really good about it, and now I'm sick of looking at it. But even though my protag eats cupcakes in one scene...I'm gonna spend my time working it off for her:) Blessings!

Rachel Hauck said...

Yeah, Alicia, you just have to keep writing. Believe it or not, getting to THE END actually helps you craft a better beginning!

Blessings on your writing!!


Gabrielle Meyer said...

I think I need to read this blog post every morning when I want to just hit delete on my keyboard and glue it to my freezer door when I go looking for that ice cream! Thank you for this encouragement. I just started this journey to publication in February, but it's been in the recesses of my mind for over ten years. I love hearing other authors voice their struggles and concerns because I can relate in so many ways.

Rachel Hauck said...

Gabrielle, welcome to the jungle! Yes, keep backside in chair and out of the freezer! LOL.

Happy writing. Check out ACFW and My Book Therapy for lots of writing help!


Gabrielle Meyer said...

I'm a member of both! I am planning on attending MBT's Storycrafter's Retreat in October - I live in Minnesota, close to the retreat center and I'm really excited to attend! Thanks for the advice and encouragement - I've heard so many good things about you from my blogging friends. :)

Kara I said...

Thanks for such an inspirational post.

I'm at the 20k mark on my latest work in progress and it's pretty awful. And all I can think of is if the last 70k words are half as bad as the first 20k then I'm sunk.

But if you had doublts about such a wonderful book as Love Starts With Elle, maybe they're not so bad after all :)