How Butterflies Saved My Book

When I sat down to write IN THE AFTER, I was battling two forces.  The first being writers block and the second being an undecided ending.

Writing a novel, it’s not easy work.  So much depends on how “in the game” you can get your head, and how much the characters are willing to share of themselves with you.  Without those two things, you’re fighting a losing battle.  And, I had neither going for me.  I was coming off the back end of abandoning a story I been fighting with and for since November … and IN THE AFTER was nothing more than a rough outline and few character sketches.

IN THE AFTER revolves around the story of two women, Emmy and Sidney, they very different women with one commonality … they are best friends.  They never picked their predestined friendship, it was born before before they knew better, it was willed upon them by their mothers who traveled in the same circles.  And still, they never outgrew it.  Each needed the other because, or spite, of their differences.

When Emmy disappeared on April, 7th 2010 … Sidney’s world changed forever.  Gone was the girl Sidney had always known and now she was forced to face not only all the ways she failed Emmy over the years, but the emotional backlash of a loss like that.

I knew, as I stared at the cursor, where I wanted to focus my energies.  The story is lightly based in reality, but blown up to fictional proportions for the sake of “a novel” … and I knew who they women were destined to become to the reader and how I could tell their story respectfully to the underlying current of domestic abuse.  But how did it end?

In a story like this, there is no “add water” ending.  It can’t be a happy one where they skip off into the distance to live forever and ever because something that easy wouldn’t do justice to the other aspects of this book.  But the thorn in my side was the how — how do I create a compelling end to a novel that will stand up against the rest of it, so that when someone does read, they are left with the bigger picture.

Suddenly I was faced, again, with the prick of writers block … and if you’ve ever felt that, then you know, you can’t fight it … it needs to work itself out.  And as I learned, it would …

My husband and I were out running errands one Saturday afternoon when I came upon the thing that would essentially blast my writers block to hell.  It was as benign a coffee cup.  No, I didn’t find the answer I was looking for at the bottom like some tea-leaf fortune … it was written.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending it became a butterfly” – proverb

And I had it — all the answers and all the resolution and the final chapter.  It was really that stupidly simple for me.  So, essentially, butterflies saved my book.  How that will be … I guess you’ll have to read to find out …

Now, I have this weird thing I do … before I go to bed at night I write.  A few minutes and sometimes a few hours.  I’m writing patchwork style and every day is something new and totally non chronological as I tie up the trail of breadcrumbs.  After I close the lid of my computer and climb into bed, I mentally ask my characters to tell me their story … and then, I dream about them.  And when I wake up in the morning, I do have a clearer vision of what they want from me and how I can live up to that.

But, the bigger point is … when you’re feeling like your piece isn’t sewing itself to your side … open your eyes.  LOOK for the resolution you need because it could be out there hiding, waiting to be found.  For me, it was a mug … for you, it may be something else.  Writers block can be disheartening and hard and scary — I know I wondered if I’d be a one time writer, never to publish again — but I believe that good stories can be hard to tell, because if they were easy … everyone would do it.

On a side note, because I’m so tickled by this — while looking deeper into the quote, I’ve discovered how much those words mean to people.  Literally, girls have them tattooed on their ribcages.  And I think that is so special, and I’m so excited to bring that quote to life in this novel.  I just can’t wait for it to be finished and out there!