Yesterday I finished the first draft of my second book in my young adult noir/lesbian/roller derby series. I immediately felt a wave of sadness to close another book on a protagonist I have come to love and feel very connected with. It’s an emotional moment to cut ties with someone who has lived in my head for the last eight months, and especially in the forefront for the last five weeks as I’ve worked on book two.
I’m about to do what I always do after finishing my first draft, take a break and work on another project. I am a big proponent for stepping away and finding some clarity before returning to your work. That fresh eye is hugely important when it comes to revision–a task I’m about to take on for another round with the first book in the series (I’ll talk more about that next week). For now, I need to simply step away from this book.
When I started book two, I thought it would be another mystery like the first one, but it turned into more of a love story. This surprised me in a good way. In the second book, my protagonist Jamie Blake is a freshman in college. She reconnects with one of my favorite characters from book one and begins dating her. I became so enraptured with writing about the rush of young love–its immediacy and intensity–that her first serious relationship took precedence over the mysteries in the book. That’s not to say that the plot doesn’t revolve around the mysteries and that they aren’t solved by the book’s end. It means that alongside those mysteries, I found a way to also talk about how we need people to help us through the terrible things that happen around us.
I lost a loved one last month, and often when I talked to people after it happened about finishing NaNoWriMo or focusing on my book, they experienced a sense of surprise that I could still write after enduring a tragedy. My only response is, what else could I do? I’m a writer; I write. Writing is my sanity and my saving grace; it’s the best chance I have at making sense of the world. So of course when something terrible happened in my life I would write. It helped that I was working on a young adult novel that provided me a lot of escapism, but the pain I was feeling definitely crept into my work, something I feel was for the best. If I can’t take the hardships I endure in my life and make my writing stronger for it, I’m not sure what the point is of trying to write. My writing is inescapably linked to my personal life, directly and indirectly.
For now I’m letting go of my protagonist; I’ll be in the process of letting go of my brother for the rest of my life. Through writing, he can live on with me, whether as a personal essay or a line in my book infused with a rush of sadness, the kind that comes and goes in waves, like loss, like hope.