As a writer, the spark of inspiration comes and goes. In its infancy, an idea is all potential, unmarred by doubt, criticism, or even logic. Untitled (the usual name for an idea) always seems like a potential best-seller.
Very few ideas make it from infancy to adulthood, though. Some of them shouldn’t. I have at least twenty bad ideas a day, minimum, and my kids more. Then, there are the good ideas that don’t make it. It’s hard to keep the spark of inspiration alive long enough to see a book through. Everyone has a different strategy. I try to draft quickly before the spark dies and I realize my idea really stinks. I seldom share my work in early stages. Sharing work in small chunks makes sense in some ways, but to me, protecting the spark is more important than filling plot holes early on.
It’s tempting to send a manuscript out too early. If you like what you wrote, there’s the “Look what I did!” feeling. Conversely, if you don’t like what you wrote, you might hope someone else can help fix it. But let’s face it, in its teen years, a manuscript has bad skin, awkward social skills, and definitely doesn’t listen. An honest critique partner, usually points this out. As the author, I know it’s probably a mess, but I can still see all the potential it has. For me, it’s best to just make a coffee and huddle over my keyboard enjoying the spark of inspiration while it lasts. When it finally burns out, I hand my flaming heap of a manuscript over to a few lucky individuals.
I’m sort of massacring this month’s theme: sparkle. I meant to go from spark to sparkle, but I don’t think I’m going to get there. Just close your eyes and imagine glitter for a moment. Moving on…
I currently have three manuscripts in different states of development. It’s been a rough go of it with these ones. I’ve been writing my butt off to meet deadlines in stolen moments every day. Feedback on my drafts has been mostly of the spark-extinguishing variety: “I hate your main character” or “I don’t think you know how to write a romance novel” (They caught me on that one. I don’t know how to write a romance novel, but who was I to say no to a contract!?)
After bad comments, it takes me a lot of chocolate, a few glasses of wine, and some Netflix binging to fan the spark of inspiration back to life. Writing through to the end after being clobbered can be painful. It requires a lot of fortitude and self-discipline. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it, especially with three actual kids, no babysitter, and faltering confidence (inevitable). Those moments pass, though. I’m optimistic that the books will turn out okay. If writing a book is anything like real parenting, I might look like I’ve been through hell, but the kids always look perfect. Hopefully, the same principle holds true in book writing.