Taking on a particularly challenging story is an investment of both time and emotional energy. But to be honest, I never anticipated that writing my YA novel in verse would take me 4.5 years. Sure, I revised a different novel during that time and wrote and published numerous short stories and other articles during that time. The fact remains that the last time I started a brand new book was in October 2018.
Those of you who have been here for a while know that I finished that YA verse novel in March. Since then, I took some time off, had a son graduate high school and launch to college, took my mom on an epic adventure, and basically did a lot of living. I even tried on a few new story ideas for size. But nothing really stuck.
Initially, I wasn't too concerned about my writing hiatus because I had so many other things going on, but as the trip to Iceland--the last of my scheduled time commitments--approached, I realized that I didn't have a new story idea I was really excited to write.
Then I found myself in a minibus hurtling across the black sand deserts of southeastern Iceland and I saw a flash of a story, like a glimmer at the edges of my vision that might disappear if I looked directly at it or acknowledged it too overtly.
OK, don't panic, Julie, just sit quietly and let it come to you.
Not panicking, not throwing myself body and soul at this new idea, was hard because the truth bubbling underneath the story was I was desperate to find my new story. I've missed writing. I've missed having a story world to escape to. And, last but not least, I have an annual writing retreat the last weekend in September and I needed something to work on besides this newsletter! And besides, being chill is so not my MO.
Sit quietly I did, and soon a setting started to take shape in my mind. The challenges of survival in a harsh landscape. What life might be like after the end-times in a remote place like southeastern Iceland. How I might try to take advantage of things like geothermal springs and rocky cave-pocked cliffs to survive.
But a setting is not a story. I needed characters that I loved enough to devote a year (or four) to following, to fleshing out, to telling their stories. I returned home from Iceland, battled a non-COVID plague that followed me, and kept sitting quietly with this baby story idea.
The night before my retreat, two women started telling me their story. I'm not going to say much more right now--I'm still terrified that glimmer at the edge of my vision might fade before I can see it with the clarity I need to craft a book from it--but I'm typing this from my retreat, where I've just spent the morning going through the planning materials I use with my coaching clients. And a story is starting to take shape.
It's the kind of magic that was worth waiting for. Hope you find some story magic in your writing life this week.
PS - There's still time to register for the next event in my $25 webinar series: the "Is Your Manuscript Ready" query audit webinar on October 9. Learn my time-tested method for assessing pitch readiness in this 90-minute webinar full of examples, exercises, and plenty of Q&A. Hope to see you there!