Tuesday, April 17, 2007


This is not the blog entry I had planned for today. I had great piece on finishing the book and books that are keepers, but the tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech changed all that. I found I couldn’t write a light piece on such a dark day. My heart aches for the students, the faculty and the parents of that wonderful school. I find myself glued to CNN, trying to get my questions answered. I bury myself in the newspaper and the TV only to find, like many others, there are no answers that make sense.

But I also know that once my mind has absorbed what happened, I’ll need to escape for a while. And like so many other people in the world, I’ll reach for the next romance on my TBR shelf. We all know why people read romances. We need the escapism. We need to know there will be a happy ending in a world where that doesn’t always happen.

When heartache strikes, as writers I feel we need to lock into those emotions. We should write the emotions down and refer back to them later when we are trying to decide how our characters would act. This can only strengthen our writing.

Here’s my problem of the day, I’m at the point in my current work in progress that I have to write the happy ending. I’m not happy today. How do we as writers work past our own emotions and key into our characters when we’re really not in the mood to do it? When our emotions are in upheaval? When our personal lives are out of control due to illness or martial or family problems?

I wish I had the answers to those questions too. For me, today I will attempt to block out all the news, stay off the internet and do my best to hear my characters. But I can do that only because while I have known many people who went to Va Tech, it’s not personal to me. So how do we as writers continue to write happy when our life is in complete upheaval? I’d love to hear your stories.


Anna Campbell said...

I'm so very sad about what happened yesterday. And as you say, Christine, one of the worst aspects of it is that it's NEVER going to make sense.

Anyway, back to your comment - you know, I'm not sure we can write and separate ourselves from what's going on around us. And that's a good thing, difficult as it might be in the short term. What's interesting is that what we experience never comes out in a really obvious way, or at least I'm always surprised when I think back to a chain of events and then work out how it affected my writing. It took me five years to work out that my dad dying really fed into a lot of the darkness in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. But maybe that's why we're writers - because we don't react to things in a direct cause and effect way. The story has to take us on the journey.

Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Chris!
Glad to see you got your post up and while I'm sorry it wasn't what you originally intended, thank you for your keen observations and asking the questions you did.

I'm afraid I have to agree with Foanna. I don't know how to write happy (or anything else for that matter) when my personal life is in turmoil. I know from personal experience. In Oct. 2005, I was told that the 'swollen lymph node' in my throat was in fact a tumor on one of my salivary glands. Having lost my mother five years earlier to cancer, and having a family history of every bump and tumor being malignant I don't mind telling you I FREAKED OUT! I also spent the next two months FIGHTING with my HMO and their ENT specialists to get the tumor REMOVED (the ONLY treatment protocol whether malignant or benign, but no one wanted to disrupt THEIR holiday to do it).

At the same time, I'd just attended a writing conference and had an editor ask for the partial of my manuscript which was about 2/3rds complete (this was the same one that went on to final in the 2006 GH). Somehow I did manage to polish up the first three chapters and send them but I couldn't write ANYTHING NEW.

Happily, I finally had surgery on Dec. 27th and on Dec. 31st received the WONDERFUL AMAZING news that the tumor had been benign. I started writing again a month later (Jan. 27, 2006) when I was sufficiently healed and off pain medication.

So, long story short, I personally can't write when something major is going on in my life and I totally understand when anyone else can't either.

Caren Crane said...

Great topic, Christine! I get some flak from friends about taking a "holiday" from writing, but I have found I must. When life is crazy with family, work, commitments, I simply can't write. When I do write, I am amazingly productive and more than make up for lost time. Then again, I have the luxury of no deadlines (other than self-imposed ones).

Friends who have contracts and deadlines must make themselves write no matter what is happening in their lives. They all say it is like pulling teeth to write through the hard times. Does it show in the finished product? I have never noticed. They can point to a scene and say, "This is when such-and-such was happening." It is a credit to them that I cannot tell it from their other writing.

Could I do it myself? I'm not sure, but I hope to develop sufficient writing muscles to be able to slog through. Life will never stop happening, so I had better!

Christine Zampi said...

I had a friend who was writing under deadline and dealing with martial problems. She swears the book was her worst ever and she actually wishes the publisher would pull it. Of course the book was approved by the editor so how bad could it be? She didn't even let her critique partners read it. So I'll have to wait until it's released to see if it's as bad as she thinks.