In this post from our Archives, originally published November 2019, USA TODAY bestselling Harlequin DARE author Cara Lockwood discusses difficulty of writing when doubts—and photos of adorable animals—get in the way. If you’re feeling distracted or doubtful lately, give this a read, and remember, no one said writing was easy!
I know I should be writing that next chapter. My manuscript is open on my computer, cursor blinking out Morse code that pleads, F-i-n-i-s-h M-e. But am I typing? No. I’m scrolling through pictures of adorable kittens. Oh! Look at that one! She’s hiding in a teacup!
It doesn’t make sense. Of all my book babies, this one, this one just might be my favorite.
It’s the best idea I’ve EVER HAD for a novel. I’m totally PUMPED about seeing it in print when it’s done. This will finally be the book, I think, finally after twenty-seven novels that will land me in the number one spot for The New York Times bestseller list. Then, Ellen will have me on her show. Then, Reese Witherspoon’s agent will call. She’d like to talk you know… about maybe making this wonderful new book part of her book club… and then, drum roll… a five-season series on HBO.
So why am I ignoring this perfect peach of a book? Why am I stoically scrolling through every baby animal video (Baby hedgehogs?! Baby koalas? They’re hiding in tea cups, too!) rather than opening the damn thing and getting to work to finish what just may be my defining success?
Because…if I’m honest…I think I’m messing it up.
Actually, I know I’m messing it up. I 100% know that I’m ruining it with every new word I type. It might be the most brilliant book I’ve ever come up with – IN MY MIND. But, now that I’m actually typing it into my computer, I am screwing it up. And not screwing in a white hot sex way, but in a oh, God, no one is going to read this, and my editor is going to tell me that despite this being my twenty-eighth book, I’m actually a talentless hack and need to go back to my day job.
Everyone will see that at long last, I’m a fraud. I’ve only been pretending to be a writer this whole damn time. THE BEST IDEA IN MY MIND has become THE WORST BOOK EVER WRITTEN.
I tell my husband, “This is the worst book ever.”
“But yesterday, you said it was the best book ever. What happened?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m going to burn my computer. I’m going to put it out on the lawn and burn it.” The idea of watching THE WORST BOOK EVER WRITTEN go down in melted plastic kind of appeals to me at this point. And, bonus, I can’t finish what no longer exists.
“Oh… so we’re at that stage of the book? The part where you want to burn your computer? Didn’t this happen last time?”
And, I realize then: he’s right. This is the stage. The part where I doubt everything.
Ugh. I’ve been here before. I’ve been here twenty-seven times as a matter of fact. How do I forget this each time? So. I take a deep breath and put down the lighter fluid. I can do this. I can finish this book. I can make it not the worst ever written, and I can at least make it passable enough.
How do I start? First, I go back and read what I have. What is making this the worst ever? The lame motivations for the hero? The total lack of real chemistry between this two love birds? The surprise baby trope that’s making me want to kill the heroine for her lack of honesty? Maybe I need to make some big changes. Or small ones.
So, I tinker. I tinker with the parts that annoy me the most. Even if it means rewriting a ton, I am saving my computer from a fiery death. And… by the end… maybe… just maybe, the manuscript has gone from the WORST STORY EVER to one that’s okay. Even… good. Not the BEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN, as I’d hoped when I started, but it’s not the worst, either. And that’s something.
My computer lives on to fight another day. But, I’m still keeping the matches and the lighter fluid: just in case.
Now, where was I again…? Oh, yes…cute animals in teacups…
About Cara Lockwood
I grew up in Mesquite, Texas, which for those of you who like livestock shows, is the home of the Mesquite Rodeo. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, worked a few years as a newspaper reporter, and then as a marketing writer before I got serious about finishing my first novel, I Do (But I Don’t). It would go on to become a Lifetime Original Movie starring Dean Cain and Denise Richards.
I’ve written a whole lot of books (eighteen and counting) in a whole lot of genres including YA, paranormal, mystery and romance. My books have been translated into several languages and are sold all over the world. I’m married and live near Chicago with my husband and our children. When I am not staring at a blinking cursor with dread, I am working on finishing my next novel.