I am long overdue in featuring this week’s guest blogger. August Clearwing (author of erotic romance NEVER HAVE I EVER) is my long-time writer darling and editor-partner-in-crime on the CLICHES FOR A CAUSE charity anthologies. She’s also a founding member of the Herding Cats writing group, helping corral us crazy kittens into something like writing productivity LOL, as well as part of the core trio of the #MimosaThursday writerly podcast.
Basically, she’s a delightful human (who I keep going out of my way to find avenues to collaborate with her), and one you should definitely get to know on Twitter or Facebook if you get a chance! Better yet, she’s one you absolutely should consider supporting on her brand new Patreon. You’ll get patron only sneak peeks at her new novel, short stories, and even audio recordings of NEVER! Check out the link below to lend her your support!
Without further ado, August Clearwing!
THE LONG NIGHT
"It would be interesting to know to what extent the work of authors is influenced by their private affairs. If life is flowing smoothly, are the novels they write in that period of content coloured with optimism? And if things are running crosswise, do they work off the resultant gloom on their faithful public? Probably the eminent have the power of detaching their writing self from their living, work-a-day self; but, for my own part, the frame of mind in which I now found myself had a disastrous effect on my novel that was to be."
PG WODEHOUSE, Love Among the Chickens
The Long Night. That’s what Cat called it the other day. And she isn’t wrong. Most of my life has been lived in the dead of the night, so the metaphor is appropriate. Since 2010, I've worked graveyard shifts at one tech company or another while writing. It was easy to write at work until about three years ago, when I left the tech job which allowed me to work from home.
Everything changed the night I began commuting to an office.
The rub about working for a security-centric technology company is that they're more than a touch particular about what internal information can be accessed from outside their Intranet. And we all know the HR nightmare tied to ‘pornographic material’ at work should someone look over my shoulder. So, the times of writing perfectly reasonable smut at work in the comfort of my own home—like you do—were behind me.
Let's talk about depression. I know, I know, why do I have to harsh your buzz? Another thing contributed to the demise of my writing work ethic. My father died, then a good friend died, and then I got divorced, all in the span of four months.
Depression slapped me so hard I saw tracers for years. It destroyed my self-esteem and my desire to give a shit about anything. I lost interest in sex. I lost interest in life. As I began the agonizingly slow climb back out of that pit of despair, with a lot of help from my friends, I struggled to focus on a story I wanted to tell enough to write. When I found one, the going was slow.
Not only had I chosen the wrong place to begin, but I also had the unenviable task of constructing a brand new world in which to write. Eight chapters later I realized I had to tell another story before I could tell this one. Grudgingly, I set it aside.
I began work on my current novel, House of Spheres, at a writing retreat in 2013. I didn't write much on it over the next year, what with the whole depression-vice-grip thing, until October 2014. My pépère died that month. I took a week off work and flew to Upstate New York for the memorial. Time away from Texas in autumn was a godsend. My family owns land there, and it became a mountainous respite. The only people I spoke to were Mémère, with whom I was staying; my uncle's family, who lived down the hill; and the occasional family friend. Hours upon hours of time opened to me that week in the middle of nowhere.
I only wrote fifteen pages. See, my lack of progress was compounded by the fact that I was barely scratching the surface of the world building. I played with tenses, names, and supporting characters for the next year until I settled on what has evolved into a five part novel. Two and a half parts are complete today, and my stride is returning a little more each month.
All of this to say: no one knows how long a book will take to write, not even the author who you'd think would have the clearest idea of the work ahead. The Long Night may be years longer than expected, but that has no bearing on the worth of the book, itself. It takes a village to write a novel because it's the people and experiences in life which propel the writer forward in her efforts. Without them, succeeding at that final punctuation mark can feel impossible. I got lucky with NEVER HAVE I EVER when I wrote it in six months. But after it was over, my passion for the fantasy genre demanded I come back. Constructing a brand new world gave me focus in my depression because it made me feel I wasn't wasting my time. Being around other writers inspired me to stay the course. If I couldn't write, I could imagine. I could build. I could research and plan. I would encourage others and read about other worlds in the interim.
The next time you find yourself trapped in the Long Night, whatever the reason, don't worry about the speed at which your writing takes shape. The important thing is that you keep going. Keep learning. Keep growing. The rest will follow.
Cat has granted me the honor of using her space to announce that I have started a Patreon page to help me recover from my Long Night. If you're interested in fantasy, romance, and the occasional spicy sex scene, I humbly invite you to swing by for a visit and consider supporting my efforts. You'll be the first to read the polished draft of House of Spheres before its eventual publication, along with some extra perks each month.