I’ve Lost My Colors

My mother and I were talking on the phone last night. Apparently my father is so enamored with Let’s Dish that he’s taking it everywhere with him and telling everyone his daughter wrote it. Really sweet, huh? Just wait until he gets to that scene, and he’ll burn it in public. (If you’ve read it, you know what scene I mean. And it ain’t the one with the ice and squid.) Ahh well – he’s proud of me for a moment before I embarrass him into his grave.

Unfortunately, Another Time Around won’t be much better for his psyche. But Mom was surprised to hear that it was already out in e-book, and would be out this summer in trade paper (plug plug plug). So she asked me the inevitable question: How’s the new book coming?

Uh…it’s not. The “new book” she’s referring to is Happy Medium. I had the idea for HM two years ago, and had it all in my head. It was rife with tension, conflict, and I even had a resolution. The characters were dancing around in my head and telling me their stories. I had started putting it down and all was going swimmingly. Then I sold Let’s Dish and had to put it aside. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Just saying that HM had to go on the back burner.

I tried to go back to it after about a year, and had some trouble getting back into the heads of my characters. But I was starting to move again when disaster struck: my husband was diagnosed with leukemia. Obviously that took my head out of every story except my own. But as the dust settled, I tried again, intending to finish it during NaNo 2009.  But this time, I couldn’t get back into the story. I wrote a good bit, but it was reaching and my characters were so offended that I dropped them twice, they weren’t talking to me.

I explained this to my mother, telling her I was afraid it was time to leave HM for awhile and try something new. “It’s like when I have to leave one of my pictures,” she told me. You see, my mom does needlework, and she’s amazing at it. I’m looking at several of her counted cross stitch pictures as I sit in my living room writing this, and they are far an above anything I could do with a needle and thread. But sometimes Mom gets too busy to finish a picture and has to walk away for awhile.

“When I come back, I can’t remember what I was going to do with the colors. I forget what goes where and the life just goes out of it for me until I can get my colors figured out again.”

That struck me as true for me, too. I’ve lost my colors. Oh, I know who Alex is and I know who I was using as a place holder for Jeff (Jeff Goldblum, by the way), but they have no life right now. Their color is totally gone. Unfortunately, I don’t have a color chart to refer to to get me back on track. My notes from two years ago are sketchy, because once I have a story in my head, I tend to pound on it until it’s written. That didn’t happen this time, and Alex, Jeff and her crazy grandmothers may have permanently suffered.

So I need to find some new colors. Something that jumps out at me and is so brilliant I have to write it down.

Yeah – I got nothing.

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2 Comments

Filed under It's A Writing Life

2 responses to “I’ve Lost My Colors

  1. Wow, what a great analogy. Maybe it hit home because I stitch too (cross-stitch and pulled thread embroidery) and I have pieces that I’ve put down when sewing and manuscripts that I’ve shelved but I’ve never put the two ideas together before. You’re right, it’s hard to get into either of them. Although you know, with cross-stitch at least you have a pattern to pick up. With writing, unless you’re an extreme plotter, not so much. As you say, if it’s in your head and your characters stop talking to you, it’s really tough to get back into the game.

    I guess my best advice would be, sit down and read what you’ve written already. Start asking yourself the same questions you probably answered two years ago — what did Jeff want five minutes before the story began, what did he want fifteen minutes later? And what does he need. I have a feeling that if you can get your characters to open up again, you’ll feel a lot more ‘colorful’. And cut yourself some slack, and tell your characters too as well. You and your family went through hell and back in the last year. Your writing will come back but you have to recover …

  2. Thanks, Leah. They’ll talk to me again someday, once my brain settles down. We’re just about to start the next round of psychosis at our house, so I just need to sit back and ride the wave for awhile. Then life will calm down and I can get back in my characters’ heads. At least I hope so. 🙂