Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just Another Challenge In the Life of This Writer

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I don't know who wrote this, but I love it and keep it handy to remind me that success is entirely up to me.

"Expect more than others think is possible. Dream more than others think is practical. Risk more than others think is safe."
Recently, I walked away from a long spell of trying to shove a square peg into a small circle (i.e., forcing myself to write a book that didn’t want to be written).

I’ve been writing fiction non-stop for nearly nine years so to find myself in a situation where I couldn’t write--wasn’t being creative, was the most frustrating, worrisome, and discouraging experience I’ve had. To make matters worse, after a while, I quit caring.

But the writing bug was still there and eventually, frustration turned to anger and that’s what usually hurls me into action. I'd had another book floating around in my head for a couple of years that I hadn't taken time to write it because I was so obsessed with getting this other Harper book finished. Finally I allowed myself to say, enough is enough. I put the Harper manuscript on the shelf and that … was the smartest thing I’ve done all year.

This new book will introduce the character of Rhonie Lude, PI. Aside from the obvious difference of changing my protagonist to a woman, I also switched my POV from third person limited to first. There are other differences between the characters. Sam Harper is a city homicide detective, Lude is private investigator which means her style of investigation is completely different from what I’ve been writing in the Sam Harper series. Another big switch is that this story takes place in Los Angeles in 1962. Although I lived there for a few years, I’m spending quite a bit of time not only researching basic information about crime investigation in the early sixties, but I’m also looking at historical information I can use to ground the story in that era.

So what’s this have to do with a quote about expectations, practicality and risk? Once I became a published author, I felt compelled to write on a schedule—one book after another (the pressure is all self-inflicted, BTW) and so for me to put the Harper book down to begin writing this new book was a risk. What if I spent months on it without being able to write it either? The Harper book was over 45,000 words, it had good chapters, strong characters, etc., etc., but I didn’t feel connected to it, if that makes any sense.

It was the risk, the challenge of developing a new character, that feeling of sitting on the edge of a cliff that started the creative juices flowing again like crazy. The first draft came in 50 days--broke my own record of 83 days with The Devil Can Wait. If I hadn’t quit trying to force my writing, I would have never written this Rhonie Lude book (yet to be named). The best part is that I thoroughly enjoy writing this tough lady PI and at last, writing is fun and exciting again!

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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.
Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY AwardsTop Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book FestivalTop Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)
Visit Sam Harper at


Kim Smith said...

Rubbing hands together gleefully! cannot wait!!

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Kim!! Maybe by the time you get back, the first edits will be finished. ;)

Anonymous said...


I found your words inspiring. If every writer could remember this simple lesson, there wouldn't be any cases of writer's block. I had a similar thing happen to me. I had two stories that needed to be polished but didn't feel like working on the one on top. I fought with this for over a week. As soon as I set it aside, and attempted tackling the second one, the desire was back.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Good luck with the new lead character. Sam Harper will still be there when the time is right.

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Cher,I think this happens to most writers at one time or another. Sometimes is best to walk away from the manuscript, at other times, you just have to toss it across the room. :()

Terry! Yes, Sam will be back, He's next on my list. The first draft of his 3rd book is complete but needs a good editing.

Thank you both for stopping by.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm taking my slow time in finishing Silenced Cry because I don't want to reach the end too quickly. Course, I can't keep the Devil waiting too long.

As for your new protagonist, I'm really looking forward to meeting Miss Rhonie (Ronnie?) Lude, Marta. A woman and first-person. Kewl.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Joylene! (love your new picture BTW)

Can't give too much of it away, but hope readers will like Lady "L" as well as they do Harper.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Though I adore your Harper series and the characters within, I'm really enjoying getting to know Rhonie Lude. By the way, I'm all set up now with the new laptop and ready for more chapters whenever you're ready to send them!

Unknown said...

Damn, You read my mind.

Thats what I wanted to talk about. How to get back on track, deal with a subject you know you should write about but don't really want to but you know the story has to be told. I want my first book to be a coming of age story capturing the life of someone growing up in the 60,70 and 80's - with humor and a realistic few of how life really is. Fiction of course but based on some of my life. I dont want it ending up as more of bad memories captured on paper. It's giving me writers block. I am thinking I should take it a whole different route. It is so confusing. I have not wrote anything but blogs for 2 months now. My favorite books are mysterys with power, intrigue, sex (just a hint)all rolled up into a ball. A book that you want to read as fast as someone is talking in a real conversation. A book YOU can't put down until you have read the entire book only taking little breaks in between until you get to last word. I want to live it, breath it and I take that experiance with me. That's a good book! Last but not least the bigger the better. I am not into short stories. It leaves a lot out. Ok Fire back anyone?!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

SStorie - since you love that kind of book, you should try to write one just like that. I find that I write best what I love to read. I did just that with Tremolo: cry of the loon, which included mystery as well as documented my childhood memories in the 60's. ;o) Just start writing it and don't over think it! You can always go back and adjust/change stuff later. :o)

Marta Stephens said...

Storie, I find it helpful to write a brief synopsis of the story I have in mind. Write it without thinking about spelling, grammar, or anything else. Write it as if you were telling your best friend about it. Form doesn't matter at that point.

Then break it up into sections and develop those sections into various chapters. I find too often that my thoughts come in faster than I can record them but writing a synopsis helps to structure my thoughts.

You'll edit it numerous times (or you should) before you're done. Write notes to yourself along the way. I use the comment feature in Word to remind myself of plot points I need to return to, etc.

Writing is a process and every writer has his/her own way of getting through it. But the one thing you absolutely have to do is sit down and start writing!

Thanks for stopping by.