Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Value of Gab

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

As most of our regular readers are aware, the MB4 gang, Kim Smith, S. W. Vaughn, Aaron Lazar and myself met several years ago. The more we got to know each other, the more apparent it became that we all have a great number of things in common—everything from raising children to pets, favorite foods, edits and reviews, gardening, book promotions, and oh yeah, writing! We are, as they say, like family. And like family, we may not always agree, but you can bet that when one is in need, the other three will be there in a heartbeat.

Recently, Kim and I have had many long talks on the phone about our writing dilemmas.

It so happens that she and I are at the same stage in our writing ... again. I’m at the mid point on the first draft of the third book in my Harper series; she’s a few thousands words behind me in her Shannon Wallace. Fear not, she’ll catch up soon and leave me far behind.

Now to make matters worse, we’ve recently stumbled over that same pesky writer’s block. As Kim and I talked about our experiences with our current manuscript and the struggle we had encountered while working out the kinks of a complicated plot, it was a tremendous relief to know that I wasn’t alone. At one point she blurted out in her endearing southern accent, “My thoughts are tied up in knots.” Short, sweet and to the point, my dear! That’s exactly how I felt too so we went from there.

My block was so overwhelming that several close to me, including my publisher, suggested I put this book aside and move on to the next one. But I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge. I don’t expect perfection on the first draft, just a logical plot flow. Call it stubborn or whatever you please, I kept at it because for me, to not try only guarantees failure.

At any rate, as Kim and I discussed our jobs, other books, techniques, and what we were fixing for dinner, the answers to our plots started to come to the surface. In a matter of days, my thoughts got untangled and was able to see how the subplots will work their way into the main flow of the story. Now I can’t wait to sit at the keyboard and write.

So fellow writers, my advice of the week is, next time you run into a brick wall, turn off the e-mail, and pick up the phone or have a face to face chat with one of your best friend. It’s amazing what the gift of gab can do for the soul ... and your writing.

Oh yes, Kim suggested I also mention the following: The big shot in the arm this week is that my second book in the Sam Harper series, “The Devil Can Wait,” was selected as a semifinalist in the mystery/thriller category in the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Awards).
The winners will be announced on May 29th on the first evening of the BookExpo America convention in NYC. Fingers crossed—please!

* * *

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK).

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), Semifinalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)


s.w. vaughn said...

Is this weird or what? I'm exactly where you and Kim are. And stuck like the Molasses Swamp in Candyland. Blargh!

But you're right about talking. Usually I can spend some time gabbing with my hubby and get my gears shifting again. Perhaps I'll go out and do that now...

Congrats again on your semi-finalist status!!!

Kim Smith said...

Got fingers, toes, eyes, and hairs all crossed for you, dear. I know you are going to win though. It's fated to be.

SW- I think it's the changing seasons. We're coming out of hibernation and our brains are foggy. Fortunately, Marta and I have broken out of the blur. Call me up if you want to chat about this mess. IT does help!

Ericka Scott said...

Good luck! How thrilling for you.

Glad you got over the's awful to want to write, to need to write...and not be able to progress. I'll keep that face-to-face idea in the forefront the next time I hit "the wall"

Sheila Deeth said...

Such great news about Devil can Wait. And such an encouraging article about the demon writers' block.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, I'm proud as punch about TDCW and your honor! What a thrill!! Congrats!

When Sonya and I "chat" via emails (sometimes very long and emotionally charged, full of angst over our plots and characters), it always gets me going again when I'm in a quandry or stuck in the story. I so appreciate the ability to do this with someone - it really helps!! I also loved my phone chats with you, Marta, and my radio chats with Kim. It all helps. We are inexorably linked, we four. And I'm so proud we are!

Marta Stephens said...

Thank you all for the good wishes and the crossed fingers and toes!

I'd be totally lost without my writing buddies. Am grateful everyday for each of you!