My absolute favorite stage of writing is what I’ve often heard referred to as the honeymoon phase. This is the point when I am just beginning a new project. For those of you who don’t write, it’s what I like to think of as that happy, jumping off period where you still love everything about your story and you believe that your characters are the best that any writer has ever created. When I’m in the “honeymoon phase” anything seems possible. My storyline is perfect, the setting is to die for, and the plot is more amazing than any plot in the history of plotting. I just know that I’m poised to write the best book that has ever been written, and I certainly won’t encounter any of the ridiculous problems that I had with my last book. You see, I have evolved, and I’m a better, more polished writer than I was way back then (Insert sarcasm here).
This shiny, sparkly stage is where I’m getting to know my characters and I still love them dearly. I just know that I’m going to be the one in control of these pesky characters this time around. I’m going to write this story, and they’re going to follow along like good characters should, and because I’m in the honeymoon phase, I actually believe these things. My characters haven’t yet annoyed me to the point of ripping out my hair because they just won’t cooperate. They haven’t yet taken me in a direction that is completely and utterly off the beaten path, forcing me to use that delete button so frequently that it is probably going to need to be replaced before the whole thing is said and done. They haven’t yet done these things, because they’re still pretending to be nice.
You see, new characters are like new boyfriends or girlfriends. They don’t show you their true colors until you’re hooked, and by that point, you are so far in that you don’t know what happened (except for my husband, of course, because he’s pretty awesome). But that hasn’t happened yet, because we are still in the honeymoon phase and the characters haven’t yet revealed themselves as the pranksters that they are. They’re still smiling innocently at me with their fingers crossed behind their backs.
The honeymoon phase is an integral part of the writing process, because without it, most writers would probably be too gun-shy to ever do it again. Having had three children, I would compare writing a book to the pain of labor- if you remembered how badly it hurt, you would say, “No thank you, I’ll stop at one.” That’s why I believe that every book begins with a honeymoon phase. Writers need this stage so that they can optimistically dive into a new project, putting the blood, sweat, and tears of the last one behind them. I think that more than any other, this is the stage that allows us to keep going, because if we really remembered how hard it was to write a book, we would run away kicking and screaming.
As with most good things, the honeymoon always seems to be short-lived. It seems that after the initial swooning is over on a new project, and the hard work has begun, I forget that I ever loved these difficult characters whom I have created. I forget that I believed that I had the most amazing plot and the best setting of all time. Some days, I even forget that I know how to string words together into a coherent sentence. That is the writing process for you, though. It’s a winding, difficult path that most people don’t understand unless they travel on it. It’s ecstasy, it’s insanity, it’s depression, and it’s ultimately victory. People ask if I love writing, and most of the time, the answer is no. What I do love, though, is having written.
Even though I’m diving into my seventh novel, I am by no means an expert, and my process is just that- mine. Some writers may never experience these ups and down, as each person’s journey is unique. Most days, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m coming to realize that’s also a part of my process.
In writing my current work in progress, Forever Faith, I have quickly exited the honeymoon phase and I have entered the point of questioning everything, including my own sanity for taking on the task of writing another book. But I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I know that it will all work out in the end. The honeymoon stage, as well as each excruciating phase that comes after it, is necessary for the completion of a project. And like Ernest Hemingway said, “Do not worry. You have always written before, and you will write now.”