Writing novels is like breaking in a pillow.
You pick out a story, fresh and new, from the rows of similar stories piled high on your mental shelf. Some start out harder, others squishy, and some seem stuffed with rocks.
Price might play a factor. Bargain-basement stories cost only mental pocket change, while the ultra-special ones stuffed with soft-feathered dreams cost quite a bit more, in spirit and in time.
You could change pillows after a night or two of sleeping (and some folks do), most of us commit to at least a year and sometimes more. Just like a novel.
When you bring the new pillow home, you put it in a special case and rest it on the bed. You plump it and smile, anticipating the moment when you can justify a rest. (A hint: don’t bother waiting. It’s always nap time somewhere.)
New stories also beckon: “Spend time with me. Let’s leave the world behind for a while.”
But the promise of new feather pillows doesn’t always bring sweet dreams the first night out. Your head and the body are used to the old one. The new pillow feels foreign–nice, but strange, and sleep refuses to come.
Every writer knows the pain of a newly-minted story. It’s joyful, yes, but writing is difficult work. Adjusting to new worlds, characters, story-lines, and conflicts takes some time. It’s tempting to shuck off the new and return to the old, familiar story–even when we know that one is finished and out on the bookstore shelf.
Change is unpleasant, even when you choose it.
But stories soften up with time and use, like pillows do, until they feel as cozy and welcoming as the ones that went before. The “new” becomes the “old,” and most of the time we can’t even tell when the change occurred.
Books and pillows are on my mind because I’m changing both. My old, beloved pillow finally reached the stage of flatness when even the cat refuses to call it “useful” anymore. My debut novel, Claws of the Cat, is on bookstore shelves.* I love the book and I’m finally comfortable wearing the author skin. But, at the same time, I’ve just learned that the second Shinobi Mystery, Blade of the Samurai, is “cleared for takeoff” and heading into production. Copy edits are coming soon.
Fortunately, I’ve grown to love the second book as much as I loved the first one. Possibly more. But it did take time, and work–and it made me realize that it’s not only pillows and people which need our patience.
Our stories need it too.
*For those in the Sacramento area, please join me Wednesday night (August 28) at 7pm at the Barnes & Noble in Birdcage Center (Sunrise Boulevard, across the street from the Sunrise Mall) for a signing and reading from Claws of the Cat! I hope to see you there!