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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Terrified Writer (It's for my own good!)

Inside my blocked brain
Well, now I've done it. Ever since I entered the writing funk I've been in for the past several years, I've been blaming my lack of productivity on an accompanying lack of a contract and a due date. I used to write a couple of chapters and a synopsis, send it off and someone would offer me a contract. But those days don't seem to be returning. After a lot of complaining about how hard it is to write when no one is making me do it, I started this blog as a way to jump start the writing habit I'd neglected.

As it turns out, I love writing my blog. I didn't expect to. I thought writing nonfiction would be tedious, but it isn't. It makes me think things I would never have thought if I hadn't written about them. It makes me look more deeply at life around me. It forces me to be social.

The problem is that I still wasn't writing fiction. In fact, I was so happy with my blog that that's all I was doing, and that's no way to earn a living (unless there is an unprecedented rise in the number of visitors clicking ads on this page). I knew I needed to do something more if I was going to finish one of the dozen or more partial manuscripts I have floating around.

There's one in particular I really wanted to finish, a Pride and Prejudice sequel: Mary and Kitty: A Tale of Two Sisters. It's been rejected as "too literary" by numerous agents and editors (but isn't being literary the point of attempting to write in the style of the august Jane?)  Since I didn't have a contract to jump start me, I decided to "simulate" one. Early last week,  I began to serialize my book, giving myself a weekly deadline .

Readers traditionally love Jane Austen sequels, so it wasn't long before I had followers and a lot of hits. Well, now I have to write the silly thing and I am terrified.
Picture me here
One would think that the notion of emulating Austen, borrowing her characters and settings, as well as her audience would be the scary part, but it isn't. I must be alarmingly arrogant because this doesn't bother me a bit. Regency England was the setting for one of my past lives (more on this another time) so it comes to me naturally.

No, what scares me is having an audience who will necessarily see the rough spots as I compose. The composing process is messy, but readers rarely have to bear with it. Moreover, writing a chapter a week, is one thing, but when you're trying to write like Austen it's like trying to compose with an embroidery needle. There are bound to be a few loose threads and awkward tangles. And what if the readers don't stay with me? How humiliating! How good it will be for me ---and my outsized ego!

So, read Mary and Kitty  if you like Austen. Forward the link to like-minded friends. Send me comments and suggestions, please. I will need them all!


  1. Hey Mary - what great inspiration. The last Jane Austen sequel I read was "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." (It was surprisingly good.)

    For writing, at Christmas I came across a great motto from a Stephen Hunter novel of all places. It was the three steps for doing a hard job: (1) Start now, (2) Work every day, (3) Finish. Looks like you've discovered the same advice on your own.

  2. Thanks, Zak -- so good to hear from you!