Hold Tightly. Let Go.

Tomorrow, Monday October 29th, I’ll start writing my next novel. And even though this will be my fifth book, I still feel nervous.

“Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub.”

– Stephen King

Yeah, new projects can be intimidating. First comes the happy-excited feeling of starting something wonderful. But then your stomach twists like a wet rag and you feel that familiar oh shit sensation.

My anxiety whispers: Am I up for this?

But one advantage of getting older (and I just turned 40) is that you know yourself, and your body, and your brain. And I know my oh shit sensation is normal, a kind of reflex, and that if I keep going, it will go away.

So on the eve of a new project, I’ll say huzzah to new beginnings, and to courage, and to telling a good story for the right reasons.

And then my heart whispers: Okay. Let’s go.

My New Scrivener File

I’ve spent the last week getting ready to write the second Emerald City Spies novel. That included things like setting up my Scrivener file, creating a fresh tracking spreadsheet for my daily word count, and building the outline for Act One of the new book.

Here is what my Scrivener file structure looks like:

A folder-view of a scrivener file, including folders for the manuscript, character notes, structure, and style guide.

A cool thing about Scrivener is that I can store my research in the same file as my manuscript. My outline is in there as are my character notes. And because I’m continuing a series, I was able to drag some of my notes from book one into my file for book two.

Research, and story arc, and outline, and style guide, and notes. I am prepped!

Hold Tightly. Let Go.

When I was consulting, I was big into preparation. I planned each step of my work in writing, practiced it, visualized it, and used checklists to make sure I was 100% ready. But on the day of the actual event I’d toss all that preparation to one side and just live in the moment.

My approach was this: Hold tightly, then let go.

It’s funny, as a writer, I do the same things. There’s all this mental preparation, and I get all obsessive about the details. But I’ve learned it’s a mistake to hold onto those ideas too tightly, because creativity requires a certain openness. You can’t plan too far in advance, or you squeeze all the life out of your story.

Finding the balance has been tricky, but I can say that I’m prepared to write my next novel, and I’m open to wherever the story wants to go.

As I start book five, am I getting the hang of this? I think so! Fingers crossed.