Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Will to Write

Happy New Year, bah humbug! Well, not really. :) But I do find January depressing in many ways. It’s the Monday of the year (unfair to Mondays, which I rather like during the part of the year when I’m off work on Mondays). The Christmas season ends, with the house looking a bit bleak when the tree and other decorations are suddenly removed. There are no holidays in this month. (New Year’s Day is effectively part of the Christmas season, and Martin Luther King Day doesn’t count for us because that’s a work day for General Assembly employees.) Legislative session starts, the busy 90-day stretch at our day job, and the last half of January and the first week of February constitute the most grueling period. And this happens during the worst weather of the year—late nights, weekend work, waiting for the parking shuttle in the face-freezing cold, and a chance of dangerously icy streets.

Although I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, the first day of the year being an arbitrary date anyway (the Romans considered the new year to start in March, for instance, not a bad idea since that’s the threshold of spring), I do have some modest goals. First, I need to finish a short Lovecraftian erotic romance I plan to submit to one of Ellora’s Cave’s “theme” months, the theme being music in this case. In the long term, I’ve resolved to write a vampire story for submission to Silhouette Nocturne Bites (maximum 15,000 words). I haven’t had any luck with Bites yet, but Silhouette did publish a vampire romance novel of mine several years ago, so there is hope, right? Because the novella seems to be my natural length, I’ve been focusing more on stories of that size rather than novels lately, now that electronic publishing has provided us with lots of novelette and novella markets. A great improvement over what Stephen King called the novella in his notes to DIFFERENT SEASONS—the “banana republic” of publishing.

I’ve recently recognized the source of an occasional impediment to my writing, however, not exactly a block, but a drag on productivity. A comment in the latest issue of the RWR, Romance Writers of America’s organizational magazine, brought this point to mind. An author said that she finds writing a welcome escape from the stress of real life; when problems weigh on her mind, she enjoys turning to her fiction, an area where she has complete control. I realized that my reaction to real-life problems and crises tends to be the opposite. When something goes wrong, the problems of my characters suddenly feel flat and uninvolving by contrast. Oddly, this reaction doesn’t in the least discourage me from writing something fun and frivolous. It’s the dark, painful character situations that seem, in contrast to real-life suffering and difficulty, hollow and artificial. In the face of real pain (mine or that of someone close), it’s hard to render the troubles of my imaginary people (usually troubles that are “impossible” anyway, since I write fantasy) believable to myself. No, I don’t have that feeling about reading other people’s dark fiction. I just envy them for the ability to make fictional difficulty, pain, and fear believable. Yes, I know the basic answer is to work harder at channeling my own emotions into my story people’s lives, easier said than done (because real-life worries tend to lead to depression, and depression saps energy). Any thoughts?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. Oh, boy, do I relate to your writer's block when real bad events (and weather) come a callin.' I've been spending the past few days writing my two blogs and looking at my forlorn characters telling me to get with the program. I relate to the GA too, as I used to work with one for seven years.

    All we need is a ray of sunshine( and no arctic blasts),

    Bobbye Terry aka Daryn Cross

  2. We've had plenty of sun in the past week, thank Heaven, until the fresh snow came through last night. But it wasn't very heavy, and the sun is supposed to return for the next week or so. Still, it's too cold -- abnormally cold, not so frigid as many parts of the country, but still too cold to be going on day after day. The forecast says we may have some temps up to 40 next week. Strange to think of that as mild.

    Our General Assembly session starts next week. In Maryland it lasts for 90 days, and extended sessions are extremely rare, luckily. Too bad Congress can't be forced to adhere to that kind of discipline. :)