Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wriggling Puppies

I was cleaning the kids kitchen recent (and it's very odd that their kitchen seems to need nearly as much cleaning as our kitchen) and inspiration flashed down and hit me. 
It was something I should have realised way earlier, one of those things that those around me can see clearly but I was being stubbornly blind to. 
I'm a fantasy writer. No matter how much I'd like to be (and I really, really would) I'm not a romance writer. I think I always thought that romance writer conferences and things would be better. More chocolate and kick-ass shoes. 
But the stories that make my pen (or keyboard) come alive are always fantasies. They're not romances. They might have a romantic element, but I could take that out, and there would still be a strong story. Take the fantasy element out and the stories would fall to the floor with the great big splat of a dozen eggs breaking and getting yolk all over the floor. 
Now, generally, this would not be a realisation to make my heart leap. In fact, I'd be pretty down about it. And on one level I was sort of mournful. But on another level it was a yee-ha moment. 
Because it made me realise why a series I've been playing with for eight years (Yep. Eight) and whose main characters I love devotedly just was-not-working. However much tender-loving-care I put in, the stories just stayed dead. When I started the series I was completely and utterly besotted. On a roll I got about 30,000 words down for each of the five in a matter of weeks. 
And then they sort of piked. 
And stayed at the back at my computer, wailing, 'don't you love us anymore?'
And now I finally (a mere eight years later) know why. 
They didn't have that fantastic element that makes my heart sing. 
They weren't following 'my' story. 
So while I lurved my characters, lurved their relationships, the premise and the setting. They fizzled out. 
I was reading my new very-favouritest writing blog recently by Jennifer Crusie and she was writing about the importance of knowing who you are as a writer - what your story is. And how all writers basically write variations of the same story. 
I thought about it. And could totally see it. 
And looking back over my work and thinking over future work, basically my story is variations of 'Young girl stepping into another world -her subconscious- to find who she is and gain a sense of belonging.' 
In maybe a dozen novels, that's pretty much it. 
There's one exception, but that was almost a coming-of-age memoir, and the protagonist just runs to the sea, rather to another world. Which in my books is sort of the same thing. 
So now I know how to wake that series up and inject it with a bit of life. And the ideas are pinging in and piling up into something wondiferous.
And I'm on a roll again and all buzzed up. And the housework is just going to have to take care of itself (Maybe if I just put everything on the floor in big garbage bags every night...Sigh) 
My dead series is now a mass of wriggling puppies. 
So. So. So. Happy. 
Jenny Crusie will never know, but she's just given me the best present ever. Hours and hours and weeks and months of delight. 
I'm not sure my beloved will be quite as happy. The real world is not too real for me at the best of times. When a new book is in the offing it pales to almost non-existence. Of course this is the first real writing (as opposed to editing) I've done since the kids. They might (Ha) Make a difference. 
But I'm ecstatic.

*The wriggling puppies is from an 'about this book' section at the end of 'Rose Daughter' when Robin McKinley talks about how she knows which of her ideas is going to become a novel. She says the ones that make it are 'like wriggling puppies.' They have life. At least I think she does. I'll have to go back and re-read to make sure I've got the quote write. Ooops. Another thing to fit in instead of the washing...

1 comment:

  1. I totally get that! that's why the first swan chapter sang to me so much! And re housework - the kids will survive even if the floors aren't clean - and cobwebs on the ceiling are very fairytale