When I first started writing, I was so protective of my stories that it bordered on paranoia. I had spent my entire life developing a huge High Fantasy world to write in, but was only scratching the surface of what it meant to create stories that had beginnings, middles, and ends. Eventually, I realized that my fear was fueled by a feeling that those first stories were the only ones I would ever create—that the love and time and work poured into that world over decades could be taken from me somehow.
I rewrote the first book a ridiculous number of times, learning with each iteration, obsessing to the point that I became stuck. I spent years on it before I finally understood that if I was ever going to get anywhere, I needed to move on. I couldn’t sit at my writing desk fiddling with that one first completed story, no matter how much I loved it (and I do love it).
The second book in that setting didn’t really work. I was too close to that world and there was so much of it. I wasn’t ready to parse through it all to find just the bits that I needed for each story. The second book came out only half-formed.
I could tell that something was wrong. So could my muse—my writer’s intuition.
She started sending me incredible dreams and amazing fleeting visions. I’d walk past a tree and do a double-take. Did I just see…? No, it’s just a tree. I’d see a shadow near a storm drain and sit up straighter. Was that…? No, those aren’t real.
My imagination went into overdrive, my mind’s eye layering possibilities onto everything my physical eyes could see. I never lost touch with what was actually real—it was more like a dam in my mind burst and everything was drenched in “What Ifs?” What if you could use the hole in a bagel as a Fairy Stone? What if that big black dog standing absolutely still at the end of the street is actually the Black Shuck? (I am so going to use those ideas in a story someday…).
The second true book emerged. A contemporary urban fantasy about the Sidhe. It had a beginning, a middle, and an ending that needed so much work—but all the parts of a story were there. It felt amazing! Not only had I finished two real books, but I had used my degree that everyone said I was crazy to get (English Literature specializing in Irish Folklore). I learned that I could create an entirely new world in a relatively short amount of time. A world rich enough to support my characters and their victories and travails.
That knowledge created infinite possibilities. It set my muse free.
Half-way through writing the second true book, I had an existential writer’s crisis. I realized that the story wasn’t primarily about the external events happening to the characters. It was more about their inner journeys, including how they were falling in love (which was a very, very bad thing for the rest of that world). Shifting the focus to their love story lit a spark of fascination in me that I don’t think can ever be extinguished—and I wouldn’t want it to be! I realized that I wanted to write Romance.
With that epiphany, the books started to come more easily, my enthusiasm speeding them into creation, until I finally felt that one was ready to send off into the world (Good luck to you, Wandering Soul! May you find loving homes in the minds of many awesome readers!)
If I hadn’t let myself move on from that first book—if I hadn’t let it go—I would have been trapped in the fear that I only had one story in me, one world. Now I know that couldn’t be farther from the truth.