Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writer's Roller Coaster Ride

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Next month my husband Rick and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary so when I attended a wedding last weekend and the minister compared marriage to a roller coaster ride; the ups and downs, the laughter and tears, believe me, I got it. It was obvious from the smiles on the faces of other couples present that they did too.  :)

I listened as he told the couple that everything in their lives and every person they’d met had led them to that moment together at the front of the church. He told them that even after the first few years they would continue to discover new things about each other. Marriage, he said, is change and change can be scary as well as exciting. Yes, they would encounter numerous twist and turns along the way, but if they stayed together and saw thing through, those bumps would serve to strengthen their relationship. He admitted they would encounter days when the ride isn’t as much fun. The day might come when they’d get tired of the ride and perhaps not want to ride at all. But, giving up isn’t the answer because unlike a roller coaster ride that eventually ends, marriage is an ongoing journey that needs developing and needs to be sprinkled often with a good dose of nurturing.

It made perfect sense to me, but what aspect of life doesn’t cause a bruise now and then? Parenting, careers, siblings, friendships—each aspect of life has its own set of bumps that at times makes us scream that we want to get off the ride and go home.

Okay, so I’m off the subject of writing, or am I?

Do you remember the first day you realized you could and/or wanted to write? I do. It all started with a “What if?” I didn’t notice the writer lurking inside, waiting for the right moment to grab me by the throat and say, “I’m here!” Heck I worked full time (still do, by the way), our children were small, and my evenings and weekends were filled with the usual things that families do. And yet, the writing bug bit and its sting was something of a nuisance at first, but as much as I tried to ignore it, it started to burn.

I remember being totally consumed by my writing in those early days. It didn’t matter that I’d never written fiction before, that I didn’t know the fundamentals of dialogue or plot, that hadn’t found my voice or knew the first thing about pace. No, I was writing from the heart without a thought in my head about readers, publishers, editors, or agents. Sales and book signings were the farthest thing from my mind. Websites and blogging? Forget it! I didn’t want that distraction. I was truly happy being creative.

It’s been several years now since I pounded out those first words on the keyboard and like my 30-year marriage, my 8-year writing career has matured (it happens whether we like it or not). It doesn’t mean that I like writing less or that I’m bored by any stretch of the imagination. It simply means that I understand what’s at stake and instead of tossing the manuscript on the shelf when I can’t figure out a scene, I work it. I may walk away, but I work it until it’s right. Sometimes “right” means cutting the scene out of the novel completely or killing my favorite character if that’s what it’s going to it take to make the plot work .

Writing, just like any other aspect of life, can be exciting and frightening at the same time just like a roller coaster ride. The thing is, I’m no longer writing just for myself. I know what I’m capable of producing and what my readers expect and that’s what keeps me going. Yet, as sure as I’m typing these words, I know there will be more nasty turns on the other side of the ridge. I’m expecting to bruise again, but I’m not giving up—not yet. The “What if?” moments haven’t stopped coming and stories continue to demand attention.

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 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)


Regina said...

I love the analogies used. I agree about the roller coaster with my husband but also feel that with my writing career. I didn't seriously think about writing until last year. Something hit me and I pumped out a MS. Now I am working on editing and then will query and let the fun begin as I work on the sequel. I love what I do, but yes the balance of full time work, family and writing is one that takes time to figure out. I am still working on it and I too am still trying to find my voice, plot and other aspects of the writing world that I have researched about. Thank you for the insightful post. It was inspiring for a newbie writer as myself.

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks for stopping by, Regina. It takes time to figure things out. The voice will come, just keep at it.

My crime plots tend to be complex so the one thing I've learned is to not get in such a rush to finish the MS that it lacks depth and substance or that I’ve overlook tying up key elements. The neat thing is that I learn something new with each book I write. :)

All the best to you and your writing!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Love reading your posts, Marta. Having a 59 years old marriage, I have to agree with the comparison to a roller coaster ride. Same with the writing. If I'd been writing for fame and fortune, I'd have quit long ago.


Marta Stephens said...

Wow! 59 years!! Congrats. :)

Hart Johnson said...

I'm hoping, like a marriage, that it also gets relatively easier to predict--that the passion may simmer down, but what settles in is a comfortable companionability... I'm hoping, honestly, that this marriage to writing is easier than my marriage, but I guess since I've stuck with the ONE, the other HAS to be easier--it sure as heck has more components I can DO something about (please don't disagree with me)

J D Webb said...

Great post Marta. I've often compared marriage and writing. In fact I believe that producing a novel is as close as I'll ever get to having a baby. You nurture it for nine months till the birthing process (pain through editing) and then the troubles begin. There are many more comparisons if you think about it.
By the way, my soul mate and I celebrate 43 years of bumps and bruises this December.

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Watery, I agree that as writers we do settle into a comfortable companionship with the writing in that the more we write, the more we learn. The basics become ingrained into our minds so things like grammar, sentence structure, etc., etc. become automatic. When that happens, it allows us to concentrate on the more complex aspects of writing and we learn a bit more.
I do have to admit though, passion is still at the core of why I write. One of my critique partners sent me his edits and I finished making all of the corrections today—I’m sure more changes will follow, but for now, I’m “done”. In my head, I know I should probably kick back and take a breather, but I’m already thinking about the next story that I outlined in March.

Hey JD! Congrats to you too! I think it’s pretty amazing (and very cool) to see how many of us are in long-term marriages. I couldn’t ask for a more supporting husband and life wouldn’t be as much without him either.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Wonderful piece, Marta! And so true in all aspects. My wife and I are just one year behind you and Rick. We celebrate 29 years in July!

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I love this analogy. In fact, I'd take it a step farther and say that the ride can scare you into thinking - what am I doing? I want off. Some people opt off the ride, but others are always gluttons for the thrill of the wind and the need to see if that climb up the hill will be as nerve wracking as the last time.

Marta Stephens said...

Hmmm ... "the thrill of the wind..." I like that! :)