So, I’m deep in the throes of writing my second book in the Fat City Mystery series, which is titled A KILLER WORKOUT.
I’m sure each writer is different, but during the writing process I’m prone to mood swings. I experience creative highs, followed by troughs of despair. Mid-cycle, there’s often a disturbing echo of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s Five Stages of Death.
Here’s an example of one of my cycles:
1. Shock, Denial: "The deadline cannot be this short. It took me two years to write Book One. I’m expected to write Book Two in ten months? That can’t be right—someone must have torn a page out of the calendar."
2. Exhilaration, Self-delusion: "I’m the Next Great American Novelist. Every word I tap into Prose Pro is worth its weight in diamonds. I’m a Writing Phenom! Bwah-ahh-ahh-hh!”
3. Bargaining, Depression (For me, this strikes at approximately page 200. And then repeats): “Just let me get to the next page without the plot bogging down or developing a fatal flaw. Please.”
4. More Depression, Anger: “I cannot believe I set up this secondary character like this. I’m gonna have to go all the way back to the beginning and tear sh*t up.”
5. Serenity, Dollop of Happiness (upon rereading what I wrote yesterday): “Hey. This is okay. This is even sort of…good. Hallelujah! On to the next page.”
To regulate both ends of my bipolar swings, I keep a stack of books about writing by my elbow. These books function for me kind of like literary Prozac. When I’m riding a high, they remind me how far I have to go to achieve perfection. When I’m in a funk over a flat line or paragraph, they’re full of useful tips and guidelines for making things better.
Here are the books on writing that are currently keeping me sane:
On Writing, by Stephen King
Natch. Stephen King is the master of writing popular fiction. I loved seeing the example of how he edited his own work. But even more than the writing advice, it’s Stephen King’s voice that I find soothing. Just knowing there’s a writer like him in the world gives me hope.
Don’t Murder Your Mystery, by Chris Roerden
The author walks you through the most frequent “manuscript killers,” and tells you how to fix them. There are great examples by authors of how to put all the advice into practice. Recently, I lent my copy of the book to a friend. After a week, I was in such a state of withdrawal that I demanded it back.
Bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
When I first started to dare let myself dream of becoming a novelist, Lamott’s book inspired me to try. When I stumble, I reread this book for a shot of hope.
What about you? Do you experience “cycles” while writing? How do you cope?