Recently, I studied a book dedicated to writing Christian romance, written by a prolific author who is wildly successful, publishing roughly ten books per year and maintaining a demanding speaking career. Given her creds, I thought the book would be entertaining as well as informative. I got it half right. I found out later that she’d written her how-to the same year she suffered the sudden loss of a family member.
Let me tell ya, that can suck the life right out of your creativity. I know. I suffered through the same thing last year when my stepson died. The tone of what should’ve been a romantic comedy, The Cat Lady’s Secret, changed, became more serious, a little darker. Surprisingly, it still works, but it’s not the book it was intended to be. It is now a women’s fiction novel about a woman triumphing over the devastating effects of an event that occurred in her not-too-distant past.
This year, I wrote the opening two chapters of another romantic comedy, Southern Challenge. Then I got diagnosed with breast cancer, and once that was resolved, got smacked with a Crohn’s flare-up. I admit. I’m having a little bit of trouble coming up with giggles and sweet love scenes. Writing at all has been a struggle, but I did join ACFW’s NovelTrack, an encouraging Nano-type tool intended to get authors back to their keyboards to increase their word counts. However, I need to remember that shoving words into a manuscript for the sake of increasing the count isn’t always productive. I had to cut what I’d written by half–the rest was useless research dump with nary a snicker or spark-filled moment required in romance.
Early Tuesday morning–far too early–another of my works-in-progress came to mind, Corporate Ladder. This one, a dark tale about the quicksand effect of sin, seems a far better choice for the mood I’m in. Seriousness is now overriding levity, and I’m finding it more to my liking.
In the face of intense adversity, it’s amazing an author can write at all, but I wonder: Does the opposite hold true? Do dark drama writers find sparks of light in their works about the time Mr. Special finally proposes? Does an endearing sentimentality pop out of the mouth of a serial killer when the creator’s first child is born? Does a grandchild’s laughter find its way into a deadly chase scene?
By nature, I’m a light-hearted woman, not intended to delve into darkness for long, but with discipline and a sharp editor’s knife, I can keep the levity to the minimum necessary to allow the reader the occasional break. Still, I have yet to learn how to infuse comedy into my work when I myself feel so surrounded by darkness.
So the questions arise: Does your mood affect your writing? How do you maintain a tone in your work that is different from the tone of your life?
What are your tricks of the trade?
To my dear friends who are keeping up with me, thank you so much for your prayers! I finally feel like I’m emerging from the sickness-fog. The fatigue seems to be washing away, though I have my work cut out for me when it comes to regaining my strength. Somehow, my once reasonably-toned muscles got replaced by a gelatinous mess of quivering goo. Ugh. Heaven help me, I see exercise in my future. You know how I hate to exercise!