As with every new book or writing project, there are a lot of things I learned writing The Matriarch's Devise. However, one of the key things I grew to understand on a deeper level is how much trust it takes to bring a story to life and send it out into the world. Here are five things I learned about trust while writing the sequel to The Healer's Legacy:
- Trust your process: Fear can cause you to freeze. This is as true at the keyboard as it is in the wild. The more people who told me how much they loved The Healer’s Legacy, the more worried I became that unless I did it absolutely right, they might not love, might even hate, the story’s sequel, The Matriarch’s Devise. Since I am an organic writer, what some call a “pantser,” (one who writes by the seat of her pants), this is the one and only time I have ever experienced anything like writer’s block. I spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about the story when I should have been writing it. I worried so much that, when I did sit down to write, I found myself writing fewer and fewer words, until the day that I realized I needed to go back to what had worked for me in the past and simply write the book that needed to be written. If I believed in the story and the world and wrote the best book I was capable of, if the characters remained true to who they were, and if we honed and polished the manuscript with an editorial eye, my readers would enjoy the second stage of the journey as well as the first stage.
- Trust your subconscious, but be willing to try new tools: As an organic writer, I find myself deeply enmeshed in the story and the characters I have created. This can make it difficult to be objective about what is working and what isn’t. It’s very hard to kill your darlings when you are snuggled up so close to them you can’t see their flaws. I have found a number of tools, especially those related to plotting and character development that allow me to extricate myself from the story and see the shape of it more objectively. This is especially helpful when writing a story as complex as the one that takes place in The Matriarch’s Devise, which contains a larger cast and more plot lines than anything I had written before. Keeping all those character traits and agendas straight took more than my usual simple character sheet, and I ended up using a number of writing resources and tools to develop my own process for handling all that information in a manageable way, while still following and trusting my personal writing process.
- Trust your editor and/or Beta readers: Sequels can be difficult and squirmy. Because I am an organic writer, I did not have a fully formed plan for what would take place after the conclusion of The Healer’s Legacy. So, writing The Matriarch’s Devise felt at times like trying to make a sand castle on the beach with the tide coming in and the waves periodically washing away bits and pieces of the story. There were times I had to remind myself to let go and, to follow Jane Yolen’s advice to just write the damn book. The editing process may be different for plotters, but for a “pantser” like me, filling in the gaps and scraping off the odd lumps and ugly bumps comes after the first draft is written, during hard content edits. Here is where it’s important to have a great editor and Beta readers. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also trust your own editorial eye, but once you have done all you feel you can with a story, it needs to spend time in the arms of honest Beta readers and a good editor.
- Trust your gut: When you get feedback on a story, try to read it with an open heart, that way you will know which comments and suggestions resonate and will make the book better and which may push the story or characters in the wrong direction. This doesn’t mean that any feedback should be ignored completely, unless the reader is hitting completely off-base. Although, that should be a red flag, especially if it is coming from a trusted source. But some editorial remarks will make you slap your head and say duh, while others may cause a negative kneejerk reaction. For me, all feedback generally needs to stew in the subconscious mind a while before just the right fix reveals itself.
- Trust your readers: The realization that I had to get back to my own mind space for writing the sequel to The Healer’s Legacy in order to give my readers a good book required me to place my trust in them just as they, by buying and spending time reading my books, placed their trust in me. Forcing myself not to worry about their expectations was really about trusting them to want to come along on the journey and spend more time with the characters they fell in love with in the first place. Rather than causing my brain and heart to freeze, trusting my readers is what ultimately enables me to bring them the next story and the next and the next. As long as I push myself to tell the best story possible and work to ensure it is as polished as it can be, I trust my readers will continue to enjoy spending time in my worlds, and readers you can trust really are the best possible company to have on this crazy writing journey.