Four months ago I took a photo in Central Park of a heavy, stone bridge with a gloomy passage underneath. The bridge, and the image residing on my phone, sparked my brain in the direction of a dark, new story with lots of character, haunting backstories, and lots of fast, crashing tension. It was a far more sinister tone than anything I’d written. It even included a murder!
Then I let it simmer.
I have written three full novels and a novella. Each time I sat down at the blank screen and thought, ‘OK, where to start?’ I leaned in and started typing. I pushed forward, building the story and punching through mental walls when I got stuck. I didn’t slow down much.
But this time I wanted to make sure I could spend time with such a heavy narrative. Could I give it the voice it deserved? For four weeks I didn’t write a single word. The hiatus should have been enjoyable, almost a vacation. But it was a period of uneasy, pent-up anxiety.
Finally, on a Sunday night I made the commitment. I was going to give this story a chance.
The following day, I woke up at 4 am, well before the 5 am alarm bell. I brewed an extra strong coffee, sat down at the keyboard, and thought ‘ok, bitch, let’s do this.’ I went to work with big globs, brushing color into dialogue and action and description. It was exhilarating.
This morning, after a record three months, I finished the first draft. I pulled my hands off the keyboard and immediately took Pig for a walk through the icy, morning streets of NYC. Despite all the misgivings every writer feels, the more I breathed in the sharp winter air, the more convinced I was this story was solid.
Soon, I’ll dive back in with rewrites. But I might let it simmer just a bit more. Seemed to work the last time.