By Andrew E. Kaufman
This is a weird phase in my novel-writing career. I now have two books under my belt. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. Feels like I’m on my way to being semi-prolific.
But it also feels a little strange. I’ve gone from putting the final polish on one book, to once again, staring at a blank page. Kind of like going from a beautifully sculpted statue to a formless lump of wet clay. I have some idea of what I want it to look like, but not a clue yet how to go about getting it there.
One step forward, two steps back? Well, yeah, sort of.
Since it’s only my third novel, I don't think I'm at the point where I find this part of the process exciting. Don't know if I ever will. Many do—they see the endless possibilities before them, new worlds yet to be imagined. They reach into their vast Bag of Ideas filled with stories waiting to be told, then with a flourish, pull one out. Not me. I don’t even have an idea bag; all I have is lots of anxiety.
I do my best in a structured environment, so finding my story, plotting the elements, then knitting them into a finely woven tale is always my biggest challenge. I spend a lot of time at this stage staring at walls with a blank expression on my face and equally blank thoughts running through my mind. I cuss a lot, play lots of word games on my computer, chew my fingernails, and cuss some more.
Then there are the false starts: times when I think I have it, only to realize that I don’t. I pitch the once-promising, now-disappointing manuscripts into recycle bin, start all over again. Cuss some more. This can happen anywhere from six to eight times.
In the beginning, I used to fret a lot, wondering if I could do this, and even worse, why I do this. But with experience comes a degree of confidence. Now I sit back and trust the process, knowing that things will eventually fall into place if I let them. I’ve learned to squash the nay-saying demons within, the ones who try and tell me that the first two novels were just flukes, that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, that I will fail.
The good news, I suppose, is that I’m not alone. Other authors tell me this is normal, that they too go through the same experience. There’s comfort in that, knowing I’m not alone, but also, there’s a degree of sadness, too; it makes me realize that after I finish this one, the process will rear its ugly head once again.
But for now, I've managed to triumph, once again. Over the weekend I found my story, and once again I’m on my way, busy at work on my third novel. The lump of clay is taking shape.