Period of Adjustment

When we were in London, we saw a couple of plays. One was written by Tennessee Williams, and it was called Period of Adjustment. This post isn't about the play (which I thought was excellent) but about the concept of adjusting. Wrapping your brain around a new or different idea or situation. Allowing yourself time to absorb and adjust.

Last night, I wrapped up and turned in the synopsis I've been struggling to write for a month. The contracted deadline was yesterday. I had permission to email it and I did so at 11:30 pm. I got it in before midnight so that counts as turning it in on March 30, right?

As I madly typed I thought, why do I always end up writing right down to the wire? I had a month to write this synopsis and yet I ended up cramming two days before the contracted deadline. It's not like I slacked off. I started this synopsis the day after I turned in my last book. But I couldn't get past the first page which was basically a summery of what had happened in the preceding story. Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention, this is the synopsis for book two in a running series for HQN--working title: The Chameleon Chronicles. Anyway, I had a premise in mind, but I couldn't connect the dots. I didn't even have any dots. Random scenes usually come to me, along with an opening and closing, but not this time. Nada. Total block.

So I worried, and obsessed, and stressed for almost a month. Last week, while in London, I remembered something I'd heard agent Donald Maas say in a workshop. It revolved around raising the stakes. I realized that my premise (Using that term loosely. It was more like a half-baked notion.) was lukewarm. What would make it hotter? Initially, a friend of Evie's mom was going to fall prey to a scam, a scam that Evie and the Chameleon team would bust. That's what Chameleon, a covert agency, does--bust grifts and scams. Sure, Evie knew this woman, but there was still emotional distance. I realized suddenly that Evie's mom needed to be the mark. Raising the stakes. Even better, the scam she's fallen prey to is known as the Sweetheart Scam. This is where a con artist charms/romances a woman (or man), usually older, widowed or divorced, winning thier trust, and conning them out of their life savings. Mrs. Parish is particularly vulnerable as she's currently seperated from her husband. More to it, but the thing is, I could have picked any one of a dozens scams, but the Sweetheart Scam, in this instance, is most devastating to this woman and my central character, Evie. Raising the stakes.

Okay. So now I had a dot. One dot. Then another epiphany about a day later (still in London). I was focusing on plot. One story. This story. But this story is a continuation of the last story as well as a set up for the next story. The series is character driven. I've already established these characters. They're alive and kicking. As soon as I put myself in their shoes, more dots (scenes) occured. It snowballed from there. Two days before deadline I started connecting dots. I kept two things in mind. Character driven and raising the stakes. Still, something felt a little off. I was missing something. The comedic angle. Night before last, I woke up out of a restless sleep thinking about a particular movie. That's it! Evie and one of the leading men are movie fanatics. Again. Character driven. It was there all along. That angle, that movie, was the last missing element. Ducks in a row. Dots connected.

Are you getting anything from this? In a nutshell, writing is hard. For me anyway. Frustrating when it doesn't click. Electrifying when you're in the zone. Always, always fascinating. For me anyway. I envy any writer who has a routine, a system, whatever. It never works the same for me. Ever. Every synopsis poses a different challenge as does every story. My only routine is chaos. I whine about it, stress about it, but my best work happens close to the wire. Something about the pressure to deliver on time zaps my creativity. All that time before, the part that feels uncomfortable or foriegn, that's my Period of Adjustment. Thanks, Mr. Williams. At least I now have a name for what plagues me.

“Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it... Success is shy - it won't come out while you're watching.” ~~Tennessee Williams, Author


Alison Kent said…
I love your ending TW quote, veddy nice! Great post, Beth. So much to think about! (And I'd say more but I have to write now, ack!)
Tori Lennox said…
Writing is VERY hard. Right at the moment, I hate pretty much everything about it. :/
Julia Templeton said…
Hooray on making your deadline, Beth! REALLY proud of you, and I wouldn't fret--you're not the only one who writes down to the wire.
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi Alison. Yes, that's a great quote, isn't it? Pertains to so many things. Good luck with the writing. I know from your blog that you're swamped!
Beth Ciotta said…
Ooh, Tori, sounds like you're sailing choppy waters just now. Hold tight and keep going. Sunshine up ahead.

Hi, Julie! So, um, writing down to the wire, are you? Yes, but you write so fast! I need to channel your speed. :) Best of luck!
Roni said…
Beth, some people write better with tight deadlines. Others don't. I say whatever works for you is the correct way to write! And since your books are so good, just keep working the way you work best!
Beth Ciotta said…
Thank you for your kind words, Roni. Makes me smile. :)

Just checking in quickly. Long work day for me today. A double. So I might not be able to post. Plus my laptop picked up a virus and I can't get onto the Internet because of it. Major pain. Anyhoo, it's a beautiful day here in Jersey. Have a great Saturday. Happy Spring!
Bethany said…
BUT, you made the deadline. That is all that matters....

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