Lessons from the Keyboard: Write the Right Thing

lessons-from-the-keyboard

A month and a half ago, I called my friend Sara in a bout of anxiety and depression as deep as the ocean. I’d been working on a manuscript for a magical romance novella since April, and I was absolutely stuck. I’m not talking about writer’s block. For me, writer’s block is pesky and disheartening, but always temporary. This was different. This was artistic paralysis. I dreaded every moment in front of my keyboard. Tears had been shed. And I hated my story, which didn’t make sense. It was a story involving a Victorian circus, a time traveler, and a fortune-teller, all things that rock my world. My characters sucked. I didn’t buy their burgeoning romance, and I was the one writing it. I was averaging 500 words a day, if I was lucky.

To add insult to injury, my assumed deadline for this project was a mere ten days away. But honestly, the thought of turning in my sad manuscript to my editor was almost as bad as the prospect of not turning in anything.

I expected a you-can-do-it pep talk from Sara. I thought she’d tell me that yes, this project was proving difficult, but all I needed to do was push through. She’d tell me she believed in me, that I was stronger than this. I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps, get my ass in a chair, and write.

Nope. She advised me to stop writing my novella immediately. Burn it, she said. Get it out of my system. Then came the epiphany. “It shouldn’t be this hard. You’re writing the wrong thing.”

And I was. It was the wrong story. It was dark and sad, and I needed something different.

Though the prospect was daunting, I started over. I wrote nearly five pages the first day. It came naturally. It felt lighter. My vocabulary and humor blossomed. I found myself looking forward to writing again.

One week ago, I sent a 90-some-page manuscript to my editor (before its actual due date, September 1), a manuscript I’m proud of, something I’m happy I wrote. And while it’s a first draft and I expect edits from my editor and I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea…I finished it, and it’s a story I love. It’s sexy and funny and cheesy at times and creepy, because, I mean, it’s me.

I learned a valuable lesson while working on this project. While I’ve never been a fan of the adage, “Write what you know,” with a little modification, I can get behind, “Write what you love.” While writing is difficult and it’s hard work, if you hate what you’re doing, it’s not worth your time. Take a step back, assess, and write the right thing.

Next year, the novella that almost wasn’t will be published by Pen and Kink Publishing as part of the Enchanted series. And I can’t wait for you to read it.

Here’s the official announcement for the Enchanted series (huge shout outs to my magical romance authors in crime—Sara Dobie Bauer, Anna Kyle, and Wendy Sparrow—and our rockin’ editor Cori Vidae!).

And here’s a little more about my first contribution to Enchanted: Magic Spark:

When Natalie Willoughby discovers a pair of antique, diamond-encrusted shoes beneath the floorboards of the Forbidden Fox nightclub, she’s preternaturally drawn to them. Once they’re on her feet, Natalie’s burlesque alter ego, Jazz Corsette, is imbued with otherworldly sensuality and confidence, traits that lead her into the arms of adoring crowds and shy, down-to-earth Wes Peterson. But when whispers of the past threaten her relationships with Wes and her sisters in sequins, she’s torn. After all, once you’ve walked in someone else’s fabulous shoes, how can you go back to being yourself?

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