By Laura Spinella
My bad! I owe my fellow gang members an apology! I missed my scheduled post today, something I never do. At four this morning I sat straight up in bed and said, “Oh no, today is Friday!” My husband rolled over, muttering, “Terrific. Tomorrow you can start working on the months in the year.” I have plenty of flaws but punctuality is generally not one of them. While I don’t have an excuse there is a good reason for my tardiness.
A few months ago, I began working on a new book project. This is the part of writing that makes me wish I’d gone to pharmacy school. I HATE beginnings. This is not to be confused with the whole first draft mode, which while aggravating can be an engaging process. I loathe vague ideas that may, or may not, grow legs and strangers who wander into my head and sunroom looking for a home. It’s not that I’m uncharitable; it’s just that I don’t like to waste time. And make no mistake about it. That’s what book beginnings feel like, a colossal waste of time. I think about other books I’ve written, stories with a reasonable beginning, middle and end, the characters who are complete. I convince myself that, somehow, none of that was conceived in this fashion. I know I’m wrong, but I think it anyway, exacerbating the beginning process.
This time I felt I was ahead of the game. I had firm plot in mind, a workable premise about where I wanted the story to go. I even had a mental deadline. The goal was to get about a hundred pages, or thirty-thousand words, in before THE IT FACTOR edits arrived. I’d hand the new project off to my agent to peruse while I tackled necessary book edits. You know, like a real writer. Well, you also know what they say about the best laid plans. It didn’t go badly. This time the beginning went horribly. The characters looked like one-dimensional Colorforms on a cardboard backdrop, the story about as interesting as a second grader’s What I Did Last Summer, essay. As warm weather faded and fall colors turned up outside the sunroom windows, that’s the way things went. For a while I thought it was a seasonal metaphor about the path of a short-lived writing career: bright leaf green to colorful golden russet to decayed and rotted, hauled away in a Hefty bag.
Now this is where it would be nice if I had a cathartic experience to share, one that opened my eyes to what this new work was missing. The thing that happened to me that made my characters spring to life, the story finally gel. I have nothing like that. However, two weeks ago, I discovered that I do have a real work in progress. Like the books before, (though like childbirth clearly I block out the process) suddenly there it was a believable beginning. While I’ll forever dread the frustrating start and stop effort, and a smarter writer would surely find a better way, I suspect this is how I will always muddle my way through beginnings. At the start of this tardy blog, I said I didn’t have an excuse, but I do have a reason. I’ve been so lost in writing that I honestly lost track of the week. That’s when you know it’s going good. You lose track of time, pass off hotdogs as dinner, neglect to make beds, ignore hygiene, show up late for the afternoon job, and forget to write your blog. Interestingly, it all balances out. When the writing is good, the rest of your life spirals right out of control.
Laura Spinella is the author of the award winning BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, THE IT FACTOR: Aidan Royce is the South's own Springsteen; a guy who has it all, haunted by the future that cost him everything. Visit her at www.laurapsinella.net