It has been far too long since I’ve posted here. I have been spending my time following Emily Graham around as she tackles her latest adventure, Disbelief, coming later this Spring. As I’ve worked on this third book in the series, I realized that I ought to add something to my last post about how I write my stories. In that post, I said that I get an idea in my mind and then I just write what I see and hear as the story unfolds in front of me. I don’t outline, and really don’t plan things all that much. While that is true, I have discovered an extra step that my thinking has taken in that past that I guess I just haven’t paid conscious attention too. I discovered it this time because I didn’t do it and ended up spending a lot more time sitting and staring at a blank page. Let me explain what happened and what I found.
Once I found the idea for Emily’s third adventure I spent the time for the research and fermentation as usual and then wrote the first chapter. Things started flowing, but it just didn’t feel right, not the same as the first two books. I kept writing but spent a lot more time “thinking” and “planning”, which for me are great ways to avoid having to actually write. I didn’t try to outline things, but I created piles of papers with notes and ideas, locations, phrases, and other pieces that I thought might fit. This may sound like a good process, and maybe it is, but it wasn’t the process I had used in the first two books and that bothered me. While the first two books just kind of “appeared” for me to record, it felt like this third book was hiding from me. I began to wonder if I was getting that “writer’s block” I have never believed in, or if maybe I was just a two-book author and my time with Emily was over. Worse than that, as my wife read the chapters I wrote she said things like, “It’s good.” That may sound fine, but with the first two books, she would read chapters and then run back into the room demanding, “Ok, get to work and write more. I have to know where this is going!” I was missing something. I was miserable.
And then I found out why.
I woke up one morning last week and realized that I wasn’t afraid. I was calm and collected, which is not how I felt with the other books. For the first two books, I would go to bed and wake up in the morning wondering what was going to happen on that towboat or with some computer somewhere, because I knew there were a couple of crazy bad guys out there trying to kill us all. I realized that although Emily is once again fighting for us all, I just wasn’t afraid of this enemy. I wrote about the enemy but didn’t feel them out there. It occurred to me that I really didn’t know this enemy, didn’t really understand what was going on inside them and what they were going to do. More importantly, I didn’t understand what they were willing to do…how far they might really go. They were bad, evil, had to be stopped…all that, but they weren’t really out there in my world. They didn’t scare me like the others had.
One of the things I like about my stories is that, while they are fiction, they are based on things that could really happen in the world. They are things we don’t hear much about in the news, which I think is a HUGE mistake because they are very real threats, and actually not that hard to carry out. They are things that scare me. So I stopped writing for a few days and spent that time reading about some of the people out there in the real world who are somehow involved in the things Emily’s new enemy is involved in. I read about real people, some of them I think are absolutely fur-ball crazy (my term), yet are running around in groups that just might try to pull this stuff off. I read about the people who are responsible for protecting us from these crazies and about how confident they were they had everything under control and that nothing could ever happen. I started seeing crazies standing there with that “Oh yeah, just wait!” grin on their faces. After a few days with these people, I began to see Emily’s enemy. I began to understand where they lived, how they were raised, what they wanted and what they were willing to do to get it. I still did not “outline” anything, but when I sat back down to write it felt like that crazy enemy was now standing behind my chair somewhere, and that made the difference for me.
I think I’m about half-way through with the book, and while I still don’t know just what is really going to happen, I have this gut feeling that it ain’t gonna be good. It’s a real feeling because, for me, my characters are real. In this case, I really wish they weren’t.
Disbelief is coming April 1, 2019.