Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Covid Writing


This week’s question is about how lockdown life has affected our writing. I wish I had an answer for that. 

It always seems like I’m struggling as a writer, so when I’ve been writing in the past year and can’t seem to get words down the way I want them to sound, I don’t know if it’s “same old, same old,” or due to being locked down. I do know that I wrote an entire Samuel Craddock book that I was finished with around August, and that this was the result:

     1) I didn’t like it. 

    2) My writer’s groups didn’t like it. 

    3) My agent didn’t like it. 

 When I say I didn’t like it, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like the characters or the story. Instead of trying to dismantle it and figure out what was wrong, and rewrite it, I decided to throw it out. There was one character I liked and wanted to explore, so I kept her, but other than that, gone! I’ve never done that before, and I don’t regret it.

 Was the terrible book the result of Covid angst, or was it just my turn to write a bad book? Who knows? But mid-August, I knew I had to write a better book, or say goodbye to Samuel Craddock. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, so I started writing a different book, and this one “took.” I turned it into my agent a couple of weeks ago, and we’re both happy. 

 Meanwhile, I finished another book I had been working on, this one a stand-alone, and I’m happy with it, too. We’ll see what my agent says. All in all, I guess this means that lockdown didn’t particularly hurt my output. 

 What it did hurt, though, was my patience. I find myself impatient to get a book out there. I’m used to publishing a book a year, and I didn’t like not having a book come out last year. I do have two short stories coming out this year, but they were written pre-Covid, and their publication was delayed because of lockdown. Since it takes me almost as much time to write two short stories as it does to write a novel, I suppose I should be happy with that. But I’m not. 

 I envy those writers who don’t seem to have missed a step. Those who continue to publish book after book. It makes me wonder if I’m a “real” story-teller. They seem to let nothing get in the way of the stories that pour out of them. To balance that, there are writers I know who are good story-tellers, who say they have been unable to write at all during this time. Cold comfort. 

 One thing I have been doing, though, is reading a lot more. Last year I read every one of the Edgar award nominees for Best Novel, Best Paperback Original, and Best Debut. I also read many of the Anthony Award nominees. I don’t know if it was a record year, or if I was simply able to concentrate more on the fiction, but the books were fantastic. I’m trying to do the same this year, plus trying to catch up on the breathtaking number of books in my to-be-read pile(s). 

 I think one of the things that feeds my ability to write is getting out and partaking of everyday life. Without it, I have to conjure up things that I experienced in the past, and look to my imagination. Not an entirely bad thing, but it feels less organic. I’m looking forward to a time when lockdown doesn’t keep me so inward. I can’t wait!

1 comment:

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Two Craddock novels and a standalone is really good, Terry! I also read a lot of fiction last year--maybe my all-time high number of novels.