(Relaxing by the fire in New Hampshire)
It’s time again for another Waking From Innocent Dreams author update. In my last email, I wrote about making progress on Act 2B. If you missed that update, you can find it in the newsletter archives on my website.
Well, November has been a bit of a strange month for me. Between the US presidential election and wrestling with burnout, I’ve felt a little off my game. However, I still managed to get some great work done on two important sections, the “Ordeal” and “Bad Guys Close In,” more on that in a bit.
As a writer, one important skill I’ve had to develop over the years is the ability to tune out distractions. They come in all forms, internally and externally. I do my best writing when I can shut out the world and lose myself in work. Occasionally, despite my best efforts, external events can overwhelm my ability to tune them out. The recent US presidential election was one such event. Due to the historic nature of the election and what was at stake, I went into the week expecting to be a bit distracted.
What I did not expect, however, was the emotional reaction I had to the results, which took a few days to process and recover from. It’s honestly hard to put into words what a Biden win meant to me, given some of the unimaginable cruelty we’ve witnessed from the current administration. While the events of the past four years have bothered me, I don’t think I realized just how much they had been effecting me emotionally. I’m still working on collecting and writing down my thoughts about the election, but CNN personality, Van Jones, gave voice to many of my feelings in his tearful reaction to the results.
Ok, enough about politics. The only reason I bring up the subject is because it was one of the factors that made getting into a good writing routine challenging this month. Besides the external distractions, I’ve also been wrestling with the feeling of burnout. I’ve been writing non-stop since May and have been working on this draft of the book for a little over a year.
When I finished working with my editor Rachelle Ramirez last summer, I knew I would have to edit nearly every chapter in the book, a tall order for sure. What I did not realize at the time was how much of a complete rewrite it would be.
Although many aspects of the book are the same as earlier drafts, I’ve had to rework sections, add scenes, and elevate the writing in other parts. In the end, I think the story is so much better because of the changes, but it’s been a long and exhausting process. Even though I’d love to plow through and keep going, I think the best thing to do is step away for a bit. I plan to take the week off to recharge before making one final push to end the year.
Despite the distractions, I made progress on two critical parts of the story, “the ordeal” and “bad guys close in.” These sections have been tricky to write and took longer than I expected to finish because they deal with darker aspects of the family dynamic. I’m not always showing characters at their best. Since those characters are based on family members who I care about deeply, I spent a considerable amount of time making sure I depicted their experiences faithfully. I’m not trying to defend or justify their actions, but I want my readers to be able to empathize with them and understand why they might have done what they did.
Another success I had over the past month was writing one of my favorite character moments of the entire book. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’m super excited by how I could portray a character that has been difficult to write for, and satisfy an important story convention along the way. It’s this type of problem-solving that lifts me up, and as Aaron Sorkin says, makes me feel like I can fly.
Since it’s the holiday season, I thought I would recommend a movie that has become one of my favorites to watch during this time of the year. It is called The Man Who Invented Christmas (Trailer, iTunes, Amazon), and it’s a fun biographical drama that follows Charles Dickens as he conceives and writes his famous story A Christmas Carol.
What I love the most about this movie is the way it accurately portraits almost every aspect of the writing process, from the interruptions, self-doubt, and frustration to the moments of inspiration and the satisfaction of telling a great story. If you are looking for a fun movie to watch this holiday season, I can’t recommend this film highly enough.
Overall I feel really good about where the story is headed, and I’m excited to get back to work after a short break. I’m hoping to finish Act 2B soon, and then get started on the final act of the book. I’ll see you next month when I will share a recap of the past year.