Nancy Pickard is one of the guest speakers at the Crimebake conference this year. Not only will I reread her novels but I’ve discovered the book she wrote with Lyn Lott, a therapist/writer, Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: the Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment. Both experienced and novice writers go through these seven steps.
So far, I’ve read the chapter on unhappiness, step 1, the restlessness and discomfort that precedes creativity, and step 2’s chapter, wanting.
To find out what I really want, Pickard and Lott suggest I take into account negative feelings that include jealousy and envy. Once I know what makes me jealous, I can make a list that will help me discover my real desires.
By now, around pages 50 to 60 in the book, I’m sure several readers are delving into these feelings and making great lists. I’m slow at tasks like this. I’ve written stories and not included a single internalized thought or feeling. Introspection isn’t my bag. I see pictures and memorize everything I see. However, I wanted to uncover new stories and characters so I persisted with the task.
I wish I could write pages of internal thoughts like Harlan Coben that are as dramatic as action. I wish I could use language to show character and emotion the way Lisa Gardner does. I wish I could give a glimpse into the lives of three boys and then show their stories unfolding and intertwining when they’re adults. As a reader, I was convinced each boy could only become the particular adult portrayed in Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. I wish I could use language the way Tana French does to show the visceral responses of her characters. I wish I could create a character like Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy.
I’ve just begun to try the approach suggested by the seven steps. At every conference I’ve attended, I’ve learned what agents and publishers are looking for. It doesn’t make sense to totally ignore the marketplace. However, I’d like to find out more about the themes and characters that preoccupy my subconscious.
To reach the zone, I sometimes have to turn off all the voices of critics, no matter how helpful in the past, and of expert marketers. It’s not easy. Listening to a favorite piece of music helps me. Do you have a method to reach the zone?