Monday, February 27, 2012

The Blank Page

I’m not the kind of writer who can work on different manuscripts at the same time.

My husband can. Maybe it’s because Rich wrote his first novels in the middle of the night while his young boys were sleeping.(Though I still can’t imagine how anyone could’ve written something as good as Wrestling Sturbridge in the middle of the night, without sleeping during the day to make up for it).

But Rich is very adept at allotting certain hours of the day (or night) to specific writing projects. Then he’ll close the book on one, have a cup of tea or go for a run, and start in on another-- his mind happily suspending thought on the previous work while he delves in on another.

I’m good with deadlines. Working for decades as a journalist has taught me that. But I’d always focused on one story at a time, seeing it to completion. Perhaps I’d collect information for another story or two that I’d pitch in the future, but the thrust of my work was for my assignment that week or day. While I was a reporter with ESPN, I’d spend several days prepping, which meant reading the latest news on a game or player, and making countless calls to get exclusive information for game-time. Once the actual game was over, the routine repeated itself.

Now that my focus is fiction writing, I’ve discovered that I have a lingering mind-- a story grips me and I can’t stop thinking about it. I form files on my characters which continue to swell, jotting down everything from what they look like to how they feel. And since I love research, whether in libraries or through interviews, I immerse myself in that, until the characters speak to me. (As a writer, there’s nothing more exciting than when you start hearing your characters’ voices inside your head).

But I haven’t found a way to tell them to be quiet; that I’m busy working on another story which has nothing to do with them.

I know this because I attempted to work on a couple of novels simultaneously. Knowing that it usually takes me a year to write one, I thought I could split the week up between two novels and hopefully, end up with two manuscripts 12 months later. Instead, a month in and I’d had two stories that sounded a lot like each other. Plus, if truth be told, I’d really been spending more time on one novel over the other anyhow.

“Why don’t you and Rich write something together?” A friend suggested to me. “Wouldn’t that be more enjoyable and even better than writing all on your own?”


The following week an editor asked Rich if he would be interested in writing a non-fiction sports book for middle-graders. “I’ll write it with you,” I chimed in, as we talked about the project that evening at our local coffee shop.

That made him smile.

So now we’re working on a book together. Non-fiction—a natural for me-- and two projects. Can I make it work? It's two different genres, with only one being a novel. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? I hope so.

I’ll keep you posted.

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