Five years ago – yesterday – I began writing Waiting For Spring. I started it as an unofficial National Novel Writing Month project, as something to keep myself mentally occupied during a particularly rough patch of bad health, without any plans of ever letting anyone see the thing, let alone of having it published.
As I sat down at the keyboard at midnight on March 1, 2006, I had only a vague idea of what the book was going to be about, having made only minimal notes about characters and settings. Tess was a widow at that point, her move to New Mills (then called “The New Town Tess Moves To” in an attempt to boost word count) was an attempt to get away from Sad Memories. And so I started by writing Tess’s moving day, knowing only that the chapter was going to end with her meeting Brian.
It took me less than a day of writing to realize that this wasn’t going to work. Dead husbands don’t bring a whole lot of conflict*. Ex-husbands, however, are chock full of it. So as I sat down to begin day two of writing – five years ago today – I knew I had to bring Jason back to life. I also knew that I couldn’t start writing the book from the beginning. I had to be familiar with Jason and Tess’s backstory before I could write anything to do with Tess’s present. But I didn’t know where to begin.
So I sat there, staring at the blinking cursor for a long time. A very long time. My mind was a total blank. I started to think that, maybe, I wasn’t cut out for this whole writing thing. I started to think that, maybe, I should take up knitting instead. Except that I had told everyone I knew that I had started writing a book. I couldn’t quit after one day. I’d never hear the end of it. I had to at least get the NaNoWriMo minimum of 50,000 words out, even if they were 50,000 of the shittiest words ever written.
And then it hit me. What I needed was an end point, a pivotal moment between Tess and Jason that I could write them towards. So I took a deep breath and, without really knowing what I was doing, typed out the following:
I had to look away from his eyes, because I couldn’t let him see mine. Couldn’t let him see the sudden, irrational spasm of jealousy that twisted my heart at the thought of him having our family–our beautiful blue eyed family–with someone else. Someone new.
It turned out to be my pivotal moment. It was the moment I knew what the book was going to be. I could suddenly see their life together, the long, long history between them. I saw what had brought them together and what had torn them apart. I knew what Brian had to be to make up for all of the things Jason hadn’t been. I knew all of it, in just that one moment.
It was a very big moment.
So happy anniversary, Waiting For Spring!
* as opposed to long-dead wives, as is the case in the upcoming The Wendy House. They bring LOTS of conflict.