Running Out of Steam

(Originally published Dec. 6, 2006).

Nine weeks ago, my editor requested some revisions to “The Jaguar Legacy”, my first novel, my baby, my pride and joy. Knowing that her suggestions would strengthen the finished product, I assured her, “Sounds great. I’m up for the task.” In my optimism, naïveté, and, okay, arrogance, I even suggested a few additional changes.

For a while, everything proceeded smoothly. I pounded out a prologue. I re-wrote the pivotal chapter containing the black moment. I revised the next chapter because it no longer worked in light of all the previous changes. And then I flexed my fingers and settled down at the keyboard to tackle my final revision–the new chapter my editor had requested. How hard could it be?

That was three weeks ago. Since then, I haven’t slept more than seven minutes a night. All meals consist of a single food group (that would be chocolate). At three in the morning, you can find me, hollow-eyed and exhausted, pacing the floor, muttering under my breath, and uttering the vilest curses I can think of. In case you haven’t already guessed, the chapter isn’t falling into place.

I’m talking about one lousy chapter consisting of two scenes. Give me a break. Granted, it’s a critical chapter, but three weeks? There must be something more going on here than meets the eye.

Part of the problem, I tell myself, is that this new chapter deals with the final settling of scores between my protagonist and the antagonist. Retribution is far from pretty. Perhaps, that’s the source of my writers’ block. I’m simply getting tired of the drama, the tension, the anxt, and want to get back to the main event–undying love and happy-ever-after.

But I know that’s not the entire reason I’m stymied. There has to be more. When I started writing my new chapter (did I mention it was three weeks ago?), I encountered another unexpected roadblock. To my dismay, my antagonist decided to cross the line from self-absorbed fanaticism into full madness. Why couldn’t she have picked a more convenient moment, say a year ago when no deadlines loomed, to morph into a psychopathic killer?  Although this may come as something of a shock to those of you who know me, it is neither pleasant nor easy to crawl into the head and psyche of a person experiencing a total psychotic breakdown.

But those are not the root causes of my dithering. The real reason that I’m finding it so difficult to put the last scene to bed is that I’m reluctant to sever those apron strings. I know it’s time to release my baby into my publisher’s capable hands, but sometimes it’s plain difficult for a proud parent to let go. For three years, I’ve been nurturing this unruly child of mine, attending to its needs, its health, its grooming. Oh, sure, there is another child on the way, but “The Jaguar Legacy” is and always will be my firstborn.

Perhaps I should re-write that scene one last time….