I never considered that I had enough readership in Jamaica to really make a big deal. It’s a country that wags its fingers at anything “unchristian” and goes ape when someone mentions homosexuality (it’s illegal here) as I’m secular and a supporter of gay rights. While I’m not fully convinced that I am wrong about my assumption, I am a bit more open to the possibility.
Take my recent trip to the supermarket. I was doing something with one of the managers when she commented about x and I mentioned royalties, which sparked a bit of a discussion.
“Oh, yeah, you write.Do you write trashy romances?”
God, I love that question. It’s trashy when you write about it but “doing it” is a whole different range of adjectives.
Anyway, I mention that my books have sex in them but not as the main plot.I don’t write erotica and have no desire to.
Then came a barrage of questions including name and books. I tell her about Unchained Hearts and she says “Wait, I think I’ve heard about it!” She loves interracial stories, liked the cover, oh yeah.
Now, while she whips out her smartphone, time slowed for a minute. When someone says they’ve heard about you or your book, and that person is neither family nor friend, that moment is enough validation for you to tell that self-loathing writer inside to just shut the hell up.
I enjoy telling stories, feeling the characters out as best as I can, writing, but I don’t expect anyone to be looking or to know who I am or the names of my books offhand. I’m not “there” yet.
We chatted for a long time and she promised to read my book.She said she would be critical. I told her that’s fine because I stand by whatever I write so she can do that.
“And just so you know,” I added, “I don’t suck.”
She laughed and called me modest.
Turns out she actually read it and and bombarded me with questions, which I answer or dodge with “you’ll have to read book 2” 😁
She agreed that I didn’t suck as an author and another of her coworkers came up, chatted and asked “How do you write a book?”
Really? No clue.
I have often looked at my edited manuscripts later and wondered how the hell did I write that book. If I sat back and thought about the exact mechanics of putting one word after another, of stringing them together so that the conveyed at least the most basic idea of what I wanted to say, I would never write!
That’s a level of hyperanalysis that is too paralytic for me. Whatever talent I have would die under the strain and I spent too long not writing the fiction stories I wanted to write to let that happen.
I gave her my answer of having an outline and sketching out the idea, which is 100% true. I do flesh out stories on paper and sometimes it falls nicely onto the page, like taking the deepest cleansing breath ever. But most of the time, I’m fighting with it, scrapping it, starting again, negotiating, taking up arms again, wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I can’t get this idea straight.
Do those outlines make it to become the actual story? I’d say about 40% do. Most of the time, I just want to write it out and let the characters guide me from A to B for each section. I get surprises with the decisions they make and that’s part of the fun, which makes me happy. Then you have those stories, like Eyubea Girls, where the main character is not being completely forthcoming.I can feel that dull niggle in the back of my head that makes me look at the outline I wrote that is now so hollow and worthless.
When I start to write it anyway, she’s like “Ha! Outline? Torch that sucker like the trash it is” and down the rabbit hole I go. I’m both intrigued by the journey and scared that I’ll meet a monster that won’t make any sense to me much less the reader. I’m one of those writers who is confident that any story I write will be fleshed out to my satisfaction because, dammit, I didn’t come this far to be a punk!
Obviously, I didn’t tell her all this because that would be stupid and neurotic but this is the reality.
I have so many stories coming to me that I don’t have time to parse my process. I’m too busy going through it. This past year when I was forced to be offline for 2 months (it’s a long story that involved a dead tablet and no money to buy one) I wrote 3 rough drafts of stories that had been waiting in the wings.
While that time was nervewracking, as I do have an online business I am building that needs my constant attention, I went back to basics and found a bit of my mojo again. Paper and pen don’t crash or die unexpectedly.
I took care of some farm stuff, house chores and sat down to see what flowed. And that’s what it did. Writing long hand is how I started. I didn’t have the benefit of a laptop or search engine for research. It was me, my imagination and some utensils. Being forced to pare down helped me work out my ideas, confusion, and somewhere in the middle of that mess is that kernel of sense that I can work with.
This isn’t clean, nice, pretty or any of that. It’s messy and ridiculous and nuts but it’s mine. I own it and I’m good with it. Now, it may become refined in time as I scrape off the rust that accumulated due to life taking over. I don’t know. All I know is I have stories to tell, books to read and while some readers may disagree, as is their right, I will double down on the one thing I can say about myself as a writer with pure conviction:
I. Don’t. Suck