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Brittany: This Writer’s Life, Straight Out of a Horror Flick

You already know about my thing for vampires. But lately, I’ve been feeling more like Dr. Frankenstein.

You know that scene where the doctor’s monster comes to life and he says, “It’s alive!!!”? Well, that’s me.

I’ve created a monster, too.

I want to go on record again as saying that I had no intention whatsoever of starting another novel. I packed up my previously finished novel into a bin in the attic and decided I just wasn’t going to fool with writing and publishing right now. I was going to be a mommy, and mommy my heart out. It was much too hard to balance writing and motherhood, and darn it, I wasn’t playing anymore. I was packing up my toys and going home.

And then one day in the mini-van, while I was trying to block out the ever-present Wiggles, this character appeared in my head, and then this other character appeared, and suddenly this plot was unraveling, and I thought to myself, “Yeah, yeah…that’s nice. Now shut up.” But they wouldn’t shut up. So I thought, “Well, there’s no harm in writing the idea down…” So I wrote the idea down. And then I started thinking of scenes to write. And I said to myself, “The boys are napping. I have a few minutes. There’s no harm in writing them down…” And I wrote them down. Soon I had so many scenes written that I thought, “I really ought to put these in order.” I put them in order. Then I thought of stuff to write between the scenes. And things to research. And people to interview… And then yesterday, I finished my novel.

Imagine my surprise.

Now, when I say finished, I don’t mean finished. It’s a mess. It’s a monster made up of a skeleton (with lots of vertebra missing), loosely held together by some scraps of muscle and tissue, and, if they ever saw it, mobs of editors and publishers would run it right out of town with flames and pitchforks.

However, it does have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The characters (and their relationship) make sense. Their story is interesting. And, even better still, I’ve written the story I wanted to write.

This was not the case with my previous novel, or any other story I’ve written before.

I used to subscribe to the choose-you-own-adventure method of novel plotting, as well as the write-the-entire-story-chronologically-and-if-you-get-stuck-stare-at-a-blank-screen-and-blinking-cursor-indefinitely method of composition. And that got me nowhere.

I was like that idiot girl in the horror movie who stumbles blindly into the dark basement where the monster is lurking. Or, to continue my monster metaphor ad nauseum, it was like slowly unwrapping a mummy (a stinky undead dude with a bad attitude), but hoping that it was really Brad Pitt under a lot of gift-wrapping. It’s obvious now why writing was so frustrating for me.

I needed to get to know my monsters. (Or, as people who aren’t beating a metaphor to death would say, I needed to abandon any preconceived notions I had about writing and try something scary and unpredictable.)

What’s funny about this is that people who know me would say “scary and predictable” aren’t words in my vocabulary. I am probably the most risk-averse person I know. I am so type-A, that in new situations, I actually plot out several different scenarios so that I’m prepared to deal with every impending uncertainty at any given moment.

Just based on my personality, I should be the extensive-outlining type. I am the *last* person that non-linear anything should work for.

But in a few short months, I have written the framework of a novel that has real potential. And that framework supports my desire to be present for the boys and mother them but still write when I can.

It’s such a great feeling, it’s scary.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sarah #

    Yeah!! That’s what I like to read, well done to you.
    Sarah x

    March 9, 2010
  2. yay you! you go girl.

    March 9, 2010
  3. sometimes you have to tuck something away entirely in order for it to emerge full force. isn’t it funny how that works! way to go!

    March 9, 2010
  4. I was chuckling all the way through your post! I TOO am incredibly type A EXCEPT in my creative life. I feel like I am either in denial that I have a creative life or I will jinx it if I organize it OR A THIRD OPTION-I am rebelling against myself!

    March 12, 2010
  5. Brittany, this is amazing. How inspiring to see evidence that just ALLOWING it to happen — and enabling the process drop by drop, as necessary — really does turn into SOMETHING. Wow.

    March 12, 2010

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