Clara and the Pain in Writing

Clara and I may share some issues.

Yesterday, the Husband asked me how far I’ve gotten in my third book, the sequel to CLARA. I replied, “Not very far.”

I’ve been trying to write CLARA’S RETURN ever since the first book was published. Nothing seemed to fit right. Finally, I just started throwing in plot twists until the story looked like the hedge maze from Labyrinth. I dropped the novel, leaving it unfinished to write WILLOWS OF FATE. Now I’ve returned to the half-finished novel. I even announced I was writing it just to keep from wussing out.

I once read a blog post about a blogger who wrote, even after a funeral. The post was all about tenacity and commitment. And while I admire that sort of fervor, I can’t help but to find myself doing the exact opposite.

The last month has been very difficult for me. More than a month, really. My father in law passed away suddenly last November (I found his body) and then it was simply one thing after another. Family drama, coupled with more illness and the holiday season. I couldn’t focus. I felt adrift, and in some ways still feel that way

I look at CLARA’S Return and wonder, what is this even about? What do I want my protagonist to discover? Is this about fulfillment of desire or is it about learning the truth and then learning to live with that truth? And how does the answer to those questions inform the story? Should I let it inform the story? What the hell is supposed to happen next?

Some might say this is the result of writing by the seat of the pants. And that may very well be true. However, when I start to meticulously plan, I grow anxious. I begin to worry if I can even pull it off. With my Lands of Sun and Stone Series, I’m having to plan, but I’m also trying to leave enough room so that, if there’s a sudden twist, I won’t be left high and dry. But CLARA’S RETURN feels different. I can’t explain how.

Perhaps it’s because Clara is such a close and personal character to me. I’ve had people criticize the story, that she’s unlikable and too angry. Well, that’s how I wrote her! I wrote her that way because there is an angry, unlikable part of myself. When I first conceived of the story as a teen, I wanted to give the world a big middle finger and walk away. There’s a part of me where that hasn’t changed and that part, for good or for ill, translated into Clara. That doesn’t mean I would do all the things she did in the first novel, but it means the writing of the story came from a place of emotional honesty.

I can’t find the emotional honesty for CLARA’S RETURN. I’m not sure how her story is supposed to end. And as I try to just write it, I’m too worried about the technique of what I’m doing to enjoy the ride. On top of all that is the emotional stress of the last month and a half. I’ve never been very good with stress. I never have handled it well, though I handle it better than I once did. Perhaps I need a vacation or am I just encouraging laziness? It can be very difficult to understand yourself, to be honest with yourself.

Maybe that’s another reason why CLARA’S RETURN is proving to be so difficult. Perhaps Clara’s journey and mine are still too tightly twined for me to see clearly enough to write honestly and with heart because I am afraid and worried just as much as she is.


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