When people hear that I've had four novels published they assume that by now I must have the process down pat. I mean, you don't write four novels and not figure out how the writing process works. And that's true. But it doesn't mean it's easy.
The stages of novel writing are fixed, predictable, and equal parts miserable and exhilarating. The fun parts: Those first delicious pages when the world is wide open, the characters are sparkly and new, and no dark clouds of doubt or frustration have formed. Typing up those last five pages, the worst behind me, coming out into the sunny, happy ending (and I don't mean happy ending for my characters, I mean me!) The scenes when the words are flying out, my fingers typing so fast I'm half surprised there isn't smoke rising off the keyboard, except even if there was, I probably wouldn't notice because I'm so deeply into the scene, living it, feeling it unfold and capturing it in words. It's such a lovely, amazing feeling.
Sadly, it doesn't last. Because much more often, there's that simmering frustration. The scene isn't breathing. My characters are dull. My words flat. There's an ugly period usually stretching from page 70-200 when I'm lost in the woods. I have a hundred pages of fiction. Some are quite good. Others are quite not. I know what home looks like, but I'm really not sure how I'm getting everyone there. It's the dark wood and I'm lost. The trees look familiar, I know I've been here before, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm lost. This is when it's sheer grit, stubbornness, and a high tolerance for frustration that carries me through. The scene isn't working? Write it differently. The dialogue is stupid? Delete and re-write it. The plot is stuck? Re-think it. It's not glamorous. It's not fun. But it is necessary. It's the only way to get from here to there. And as I'm writing this, I'm telling it to myself as much as to you, dear friends.
I'm in the woods.