Thursday, May 1, 2014

Remember what you love

One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter is Courtney Summers (author of Some Girls Are, This Is Not a Test, and other fine books), whose Twitter handle is @courtney_s. It's not just because she has a headcrab that recommends books or because she's brilliant with the 140-character format. I once pulled this phrase out of one of her longer tweets because it really spoke to me:

"I'm not here to make sense"

I would like to have that on a magnet, or maybe a T-shirt. A T-shirt would be good, because perhaps it would lower expectations. It could serve as fair warning to those around me.

I read this recent tweet with interest:

true story I almost gave up on THIS IS NOT A TEST and then I played a lot of Left 4 Dead and remembered I loved zombies

I say "with interest" because I have given up on every single one of my published books at one point or another. While writing The Secret Year, I was simultaneously writing another book, and I sometimes left The Secret Year for dead for days or weeks at a time, convinced that the other book was really The One. (That other book has still never been published.) While editing Try Not to Breathe, one of my editorial letters temporarily flummoxed me to the point that I wondered if the whole book was going to end up collapsing. And it's probably better not to even speak of my revision process for Until It Hurts to Stop, since I gave up on that manuscript weekly. It became such a predictable part of my routine that it even got a little boring.
"Things to Do Today:
1. Eat breakfast.
2. Break up with manuscript; declare it over and done with.
3. Edit manuscript."

Like that.

I know I've heard from other writers that they, too, give up on manuscripts, and then find their way back into them. But what I like about Courtney Summers's April 28th tweet is that it lends itself so handily to a writing-office motto: "Remember you love zombies." I've never actually written about zombies myself, and I feel sort of neutral about them, but this motto stands for all the manuscripts I've abandoned and returned to. Something pulled me back to them.

As for giving up, I do it so regularly that it seems to be a natural, if strange and inefficient, part of my process for finishing a book. I just need to remember I love the zombies.


  1. I love the zombies. I love the zombies. I love the zombies. *striking my heart*

    This post was so... I can't tell you.

    Thank you letting me express gratitude in my inarticulate way.

    1. In every story is that kernel, the heart, the thing we love that made us start writing it.

  2. I DID quit a YA that I was hating, but the PB from Hell is the one that I keep thinking I'll quit, then coming back to, then thinking I'll quiet, then...The thing that keeps me coming back IS love, for the two characters. They keep saying, oh, just try again! Not holding my breath yet to see how the battle plays out. :)

    1. Yeah, there's a difference between the story that doesn't work, and the story that doesn't work YET. It takes a while to figure out which is which. Sometimes years.

  3. Ohhhh, so not alone. I break up with writing periodically, as well. I do it secretly and vow that I won't tell a soul and will just disappear from the writing world. Then I start writing again the next day. I also have a few novels I've "given up", as well. I have a feeling these zombie manuscripts are probably the best ones. :)

    1. Being willing to give up on a ms. is partly a necessary flexibility, a willingness to pursue our best work even when it means scrapping everything and starting over. And it's partly just fear, and partly not knowing yet where to go. But the stories just keep coming--thank goodness. :-)