Writer’s Conferences are an overwhelming affair for me. While I am not an introvert, I do enjoy my chosen lifestyle of working at home. Going from my rural existence with four dogs under my desk and a husband at work to a strange hotel room and thousands of people, some I know only from FaceBook -for me it’s like walking outside into a blizzard: blinding bright world full of inspiration and perspiration.
The last Conference I attended was a well-organized circus. I was used to scientific and computer tech conferences, so I approached it the same way. I took as many classes as possible and absorbed everything. I ran home and took all this brilliant advice and ruined three WIPs. Since then, I tucked those projects into little beds and wrote another book. It was a story dear to my heart, an outline I wrote years ago. I took out the murder and tried to make it a romance.
Coming from a life of several not-happy-ever-after periods; a horrific, abusive childhood; a tragic, first marriage watching my love die for seven years; then working like a dog for ten years to pay off a medical debt triple my annual salary and years of grief and loneliness –I had the crazy idea that writing a romance now, when my life is pretty, frigging perfect would be a transformative act.
Yeah, not so much. Have you ever been caught in a riptide? Once in Wilmington NC I was caught in one. Unseen forces carry you away, away from safety and away from life. You can fight it or give in. The thing is, fighting will wear you out and leave you with no energy to survive. Giving in, while gently maneuvering yourself out of the riptide will leave you far off track but in a gentle place where you can safely swim back to shore. Writing the romance was like fighting a riptide, a dark shadow emerged from my past, the monster under the bed that I had been ignoring, the storm I had been fighting.
The traumas of my life created weak spots in my wings. It was okay if I played pigeon and walked around writing and smiling but if I tried to soar or fly (get published), these damaged areas blocked me. This epiphany stunned me. I found myself at a place in the water where the correct direction contained a riptide. So, I took the summer off and worked on healing old wounds, resting in the strong tide until I came out the other side.
At summer’s end, I was exhausted and not sure what beach I’d landed on. I was also not sure the hard therapy was worth it. During my morning walk, another thing I started over the summer, I had an idea. I had been thinking of my WIP-children, poor little babies. I realized each had a good premise, a solid story. I went home and started writing outlines, beefy paragraphs, the original stories -no forcing into a genre box. They still worked, they still empowered me. I set myself a goal, at least two thousand words a day, thirty days, a not so rough draft in a month. When I started, I was amazed at how the story flowed and at the midpoint of thirty thousand words, an epiphany -my ending reformed itself into a sledgehammer.
At this midpoint, I found myself headed to Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh. I was a little nervous about a repeat of the previous conference -will I come home and change (ruin) everything? I went a day early, for a four hour class with James Scott Bell it was SinC into Great Writing, a lofty goal to be sure. I also limited the classes I took and allowed myself to relax, meet people and just go with the flow. The class was a watershed moment for me, it helped me realize that everything I was currently doing was spot-on correct for me and my story. It also helped me reconsider the midpoint -where I had left the story to go to the conference.
For me the most insightful lesson James Scott Bell taught in his class was the ‘magical midpoint’ the ‘mirror moment’.
He showed several movie clips featuring the midpoint moments in the story. In a character driven story, it was the place where the character looks at themselves and wonders who s/he is and where s/he is heading -kinda the Road Not Taken moment in Robert Frost’s poem. In a thriller, it’s the moment s/he makes the decision to move forward, even if it the risks are so great they might die.
The conference was great but on the third day, my immune system, more accustomed to isolation, encountered the dreaded flu. I spent a day in bed and limped home on the last day to get back into bed. There was no leaping back into the WIP for me, there was rest, elderberry syrup, orange juice and TV.
So, as I lay in bed, I played ‘look for the midpoint’ on Netflix. I looked in old movies, new movies, TV series looking and finding the mirror moment. All the while, I considered my WIP, which was at exactly 32,000 words when I left for Bouchercon last week. I left my character on a bench at the beach having a heart to heart with the character who creates the conflict.
I had intended the scene to be between both of these characters but now I see the main character has another relationship in the mix impacting the other. She also is in a dangerous situation and in hiding. I know now that she needs to make a conscious decision for her future. She has a well-defined midpoint with both types of mirror moments entwined. I wrote this into my notebook and fell back asleep spooning a sixty pound snoring Siberian husky.
I’m still too sick to write but not too sick to play midpoints on Netflix and keep adding ingredients to the cauldron. It is time well-spent, my notebook is full of ideas, followed by naps. Those three WIPs I put to bed? They are waking and ready for new outlines.
Bouchercon 20125 was my mirror moment.