Monday, March 4, 2013

Ready...Set...Write!

by Jennifer Harlow


Today I began work on my tenth (holy crap!) book, the third in the Midnight Magic series. Really I started work on this one years ago on many a sleepless night. The main characters, the basic story arcs they've been locked away in my brain for eons and now it's time to finally put pen to paper and bring my imaginary friends to life.

I've been staring at a blank page for an hour.

I know exactly how it begins. I have the scene playing in my brain but I just can't pick up the pen. I hate this day. It's the hardest day of the project. The start of countless hours, months of diligent work start TODAY. And it is hard work, damn hard. I was once asked why I wanted to be a writer. The pay's crap, there's no guarantee the work will be seen (this one's already been sold so it probably will), and on average it takes six months to get a complete manuscript, and that's before the trillion edits it'll need. The truth is, for me at least, I can't NOT write. I wish I was meant to be a doctor or psychologist or even a stay at home Mom, but since I was a child I've always known I was meant to be a writer. And selling six books before age thirty is a good guidepost that I was right.  And most days I love it. I love the inception, the research (and there's a lot for this one), the character sketches, even later the editing. I just don't like today.

Maybe it has to do with physics. Yes, I'll blame Sir Isaac Newton and his first law: "An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it." It all comes down to drive. I've always been a very driven person but as I get older I get...well...lazier. It gets harder and harder to pull myself away from cult classic movies and BBC America. I can do research and sketches while watching those but not when I really need to concentrate. I have to sit at my desk or the library 8+ hours a day for months with only music for company. But really, that's not it. Really, it's fear. 

A hundred horrible thoughts race through my mind as I'm sitting down on this day. What if I can't pull this off? What if my characters are unlikable? What if I can't pull of the voice? What if it's just total and utter crap? What if I'm not good enough to tell this story? I'm usually a damn confident person. Just not today. But I will solider on because this is important. (And I have a hard deadline.) I will pick up that pen, I will write that first word. Then the next, then the next 80,000 and when I see all my hard work sitting in a bookstore and when I receive lovely e-mails from people who enjoy my book, today will be nothing but a distant memory.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to defy Newton's law.

Oh, and MY NEW BOOK IS NOW OUT!!!!! My baby arrived into this world at 323 pages. Her name is What's A Witch To Do? and is the first in the Midnight Magic "Series." Here's the blurb:


Mona McGregor’s To Do List:

• Make 20 13 potions/spells/charms
• Put girls to bed
• Help with Debbie’s wedding
• Lose 30 pounds before bachelorette auction
• Deal with the bleeding werewolf on doorstep
• Find out who wants me dead
• Prepare for supernatural summit
• Have a nervous breakdown
• Slay a damn demon
• Fall in love


With her to-do lists growing longer each day, the last thing Mona McGregor—High Priestess and owner of the Midnight Magic shop in Goodnight, Virginia—needs is a bleeding werewolf at her front door. Between raising her two nieces and leading a large coven of witches, Mona barely has time for anything else. Not even Guy, the handsome doctor who’s taken an interest in her.

But now there’s Adam Blue, the sexy beta werewolf of the Eastern Pack who’s been badly hurt, warning Mona that someone wants her dead. Hell’s bells! A demon is stalking her, and Mona starts to suspect her coven members and even her own family could be responsible for it. With two attractive men and a determined demon after her, Mona teams up with Adam to find out who really wants her dead . . . and who really wants her.

I'm doing a massive blog tour with fifty stops. To read some interviews or new posts, including an interview with Mona and new short story that re-imagines The Wizard of Oz check out my website www.jenniferharlowbooks.com under Harlow Gazette. And for the soundtrack click "The Soundtracks."



32 comments:

Shannon Baker said...

Congratulations on your new release! Buck up with those new beginnings knowing almost every writer feels your pain!

Deborah Sharp said...

Midnight Magic series sounds like a winner. Best of luck, though we all know you make your own luck through damned hard work. PS, 6 books before age 30?? I didn't even have one before age 50 (but may yet have 6 before SIXTY.)

Jennifer Harlow said...

Shannon-Thanks.

Deborah-I started at 19. I have no husband or kids to distract me. And I KNOW you'll have 6 by 60. ;)

Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations on your new release, Jennifer! And boy, do those self doubts while writing resonate with me. I was talking about that at the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference recently.

Sunny Frazier said...

I'm sending this out to the Posse because they have to know that these feelings and thoughts never go away. We experience it whether it's our first novel our our 30th.

Melodie Campbell said...

A brave and truthful post. I sit here, with over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 6 awards, and am absolutely freaking as I write novel no. 6. What if it isn't funny? What if I've already written the best stuff I can write?
Thanks for this post.

Theresa Varela said...

Congratulations on your new book and the many others that have already gone to press. I've seen 50and will soon have my first book published. After years of doing other things I finally listened to my writer self and moved forward. It's great to hear from a seasoned writer that while there may be bumps on the writing path we can still hold onto our seats and get those books out there!

Patricia Gligor said...

I can totally relate to your experience of starting a new book. By far, the most difficult part of writing one, for me, is starting it - even when I know how I want it to begin. Once I overcome my page one jitters, I get on a roll and the momentum builds.

James Callan said...

Well, Sunny got it right - again. This is a great post - particularly to writers. And we all have that fear. What if I spend 6, 9 months working on this and it turns out to be -- I'll be kind to myself -- not all that great? But in the end, that fear should just make us work harder to produce a book that we can say - Yeah. This is good.

John Brantingham said...

I think all of us writers can relate to this one. Starting can be so so hard, but the knowledge of how much fun it's going to be once it gets going, that's what keeps us going. You are my hero today! Keep writing.

Dac said...

Who among us hasn't had a crisis of confidence from time to time. A reviewer who says "I just don't like your protagonist." The signing at a book store where nobody comes in. A long walk helps to put things into perspective for me.

Staring at that blank screen - just start hiting the keys.

marta chausée said...

OMG, Jennifer-- the tyranny of the blank page. Who doesn't get the willies on Day One?

The thing that has helped me most is, for years, the discipline of doing 10 minute prompts with my writer friends. Now when I set a timer, I start writing- it's automatic. My then-beau called it "bookending"-- setting a certain amount of time aside and doing only what can be done in that time period.

I learned to never go beyond the DING! of the timer, but to give myself a reward-- a non-food reward if I was having a good day. A stretch, an amble through some fun online pages, a timed break to watch a taped, half-hour (22 minutes, actually) forensics lab mystery... stuff like that.

You've started young and you are true to your vision. I envy you.

Marta Chausée

Patrick Linder said...

I loved your reference to Newton and can totally identify. I tell people I am an "inertia writer": once I start it's easy to keep going; when I'm stopped, though, it's hard to overcome that blank page.

Thanks for sharing--it's always nice to hear from a veteran writer and especially so about problems that seem to hit writers no matter how many credits you have to your resume.

Good luck on the new novel!

Velda Brotherton said...

I sympathize, I really do, but as I wrote somewhere else, I reward myself when I finish a book with starting another. I look forward to that blank page and putting down those first words that begin a new adventure and interacting with new characters.
Congrats on your latest book. Sounds like a winner.

marja said...

Congratulations on the new book!

I don't have trouble starting a book, it's everything that comes AFTER the beginning. And self doubts? I've got loads of those. Terrific post, and thank you for sharing.
Marja McGraw

Rebecca Wolf-Nail said...

This is such a wonderful description of starting a new project! Congratulations on your latest release.

Carole Avila said...

I really wish I could say I can't relate to your "can't pick up the pen" problem. Some days my fingers hover over the keyboard and I run to solitaire on my desktop for escape. For me, my non-fiction book is a challenge but when I share my fears with other writer friends and they give me wonderful words of encouragement, they remind me of why I write --one of the most important constants in my life. May your Midnight Magic series enjoy continual success!
~Carole, The Posse

Rick Johnson said...

Congratulations on your wonderful success. Thanks for the blog. It cleared up many issues I have about myself. I read the comments of the many successful writers who have responded. I offer my sincere congratulations to them also. I no longer feel that I am aimlessly floating around in the ocean by myself. My biggest fear was that I had written two books which only myself would ever read, and that is the reason I have been dragging on book three. Now I know my feelings are natural. Thanks, also, to the members of the Posse who have kindly offered advice and encouragement.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Thanks for this most interesting post! Though I am sure all professional writers here can relate, at least to some degree, with the mental turmoil described, each of us will have our own unique version of the writing experience. Like Velda Brotherton, I look forward to starting a book, and am a firm believer in writing advice I received even before I began my first book,(the non-fiction DEAR EARTH: a Love Letter from Spring Hollow, published 1995 and still in print). The advice? WRITE EVERY DAY. Keep up the momentum. Though our teacher meant write something on our book or another work in progress toward publication, I suppose, in 2013, writing blogs and similar output can be thought of s part of our write every day work. Still, working on my next novel is certainly my favorite type of writing. How about others?

Radine from the Posse

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Ah, the pressure to begin a new book. I find it an exciting venture but a little scary when you sit down to write word one. However, if you've done your outline and some of your research, you should be feeling a little thrilled to actually begin writing. Once you get that first word/sentence/paragraph, then I'll bet it all start flowing and the tension will ease and you'll have fun writing it.

Lesley Diehl said...

You said it all. Writing is not unlike any other career. You remain filledwith self-doubt no matter how long you've been at it and what you've accomplished. I'm no longer in academe and yet I still have dreams about failing to show up for my class the entire semester, not knowing where it meets and being surprised when I find out I must give an exam to them today. It keeps us humble and hard at work, I guess.

jrlindermuth said...

I have to agree with Marja. No problem in starting a book. It's at the end when you're doing the rewrites. Or even after that when you're re-reading and thinking am I really going to send this thing out and let somebody else read it? Or when you're waiting to hear from that other reader.

Augie said...

Jennifer congrats on your new release. I'm glad Sunny Frazier sent us to your post. It's amazing how a blank screen can be as menacing as a blank piece of paper, but you endure onto the first word. You're talented and of course a storyteller. augie

Ilene Schneider said...

I have found that, as much as I enjoy receiving good reviews, they make it even more difficult to start the next book. It's frightening (and paralyzing) to have to live up to expectations.

Jennifer Harlow said...

Glad to know I'm not alone in my neuroses. Thanks to everyone who commented and Sunny for spreading the word on the post. :) xoxo

Shalanna said...

You mustn't think about living up to anyone's expectations. Listen as the Muse sings, no matter what she has in mind, and write the book YOU would like to read.

Sam X said...

I am writing my first novel and I'm excited, but I realize that not everyday is a writing day. It seems to me that once you make it, it doesn't get any easier either. I hope that I can make it, but I need to finish that book first!

Holli said...

Congrats on your new series. Starting anything can be scary, especially if it is something a little different. My issue is finishing. I blame it on the fact that I am a Sagittarius as opposed to the fact that I can be a procrastinator.

Kat Hinkson said...

Even on a good day, starting a new book is hard and scary. Add pressure from work (the bill paying thingy), family and myself and it seems an impossible task. But it is also exciting and challenging. I'm a glutton for punishment, I have a tendency to work two or more projects at a time. I'm starting two new projects at this time as well as editing a couple other projects.
Well, it that time, back to writing.
Kat

JasonHunt said...

Thanks for sharing -- and congratulations on the latest book! I haven't stared at a blank page for more than a few seconds since I was a kid and my dad said, "If a man was holding a gun to your head and telling you you'd better write, you'd sure as h*ll find something to write about!" The only problem with his advice is that now, instead of staring at a blank page for hours, I spent the same amount of time writing stuff that I ultimately have to throw out because it's so bad. :)

Jim Barrett said...

Thanks for your thoughts. All of us who write at one time or another have experience the "blank page syndrome." I generally overcome this by writing multiple projects at once. So if something just isn't working, I go to one of the other projects I'm working on. This may sound difficult - but it works for me.

D.R. Ransdell said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for the useful comments. I'd always heard how people can't not write too, and thought it was weird until it happened to me twice that I thought, phew, I'm finished with a manuscript, great, I deserve a rest, and almost immediately (within the next 48 hours) I realized how the sequel should start and, well, just started. Born to write!