It’s been a year since I first began posting on the 10th of every month at Storytellers Unplugged. I’m usually not too good with remembering dates, but this one was easy, because my first post for SU fell on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009. Being a mom, that’s a hard day to forget, especially with three boys who, thanks to my husband, have well-honed gift-giving skills.
This year, Mother’s Day was May 9th, which meant that I didn’t have to post anything, and that I did have time to reflect on what I was going to write about for my May 10th post. I started thinking about how I’ve changed this past year, as well as what’s changed in my life. How have I grown, personally and professionally? It dawned on me that I was asking the same questions of myself that I would of a main character. And I’m not sure I really liked the answers.
Writing 101 tells us that the protagonist in a good story – a satisfying story – is one who grows over the course of the story. No growth – or very little – makes for a flat, pointless journey no reader wants to waste time on (but probably has, on occasion). True, I did have a new book come out last year, and it’s doing well enough that the publisher is releasing a paperback version this summer. But I don’t have another book coming out anytime soon, I haven’t submitted anything in ages, and I haven’t managed to finish any of my manuscripts. About the only writing I’ve done this past year is the occasional blog post, a query to an agent, and updates to my website. At the rate I’m going, I’m not exactly on the fast track to professional growth.
We all know that change is hard, which is probably why it’s often easier to read about a character wrestling with his emotional monsters than it is to face our own dragons. That’s why I decided to use a simple plot-summary formula to take a closer look at the changes – or lack of – in my writing life this past year. You’ve probably seen it, or something like it: “This is a story about (character’s name), who, more than anything in the world, wants (what character wants), but can’t, because (obstacles that are in the character’s way).”
So here’s my personalized version: “This is a story about Jeanie, who, more than anything in the world, wants to write full-time from her Michigan beach house, but can’t, because a), Jeanie presently lives in land-locked Missouri, b) Jeanie has two kids in college this fall, and c) Jeanie doesn’t put in enough “butt in chair” time.” Putting it down on paper made me realize that the lack of “butt in chair” time is the problem, but it’s also a solution. And it’s one I know works, because I just had some serious bonding time with my laptop at a writers’ retreat and ended up with enough of a rough draft for the sequel to my last book to show my editor. She wants to see the rest of it as soon as possible.
I want to make sure my editor gets that manuscript sooner rather than later. I am officially adopting “Michigan beach house” as my new writing mantra, and hope that by next May 10th, I’ll have grown leaps and bounds in my writing career. Thanks for reading!