Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Land of Sprinkles, Fairy Dust and Happily Ever After - Kara Isaac

I'll be honest. Most of the time when I'm writing a new story I feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark. Characters that don't do what I want them to, scenes that don't fit, subplots that end up going nowhere, random snippets of dialogue that just show up in my head, having no clue what to put in the middle to get my characters from the beginning to the end, the days (okay, weeks) when it's all just too hard, that's pretty much what the first six months looks like.

It's ugly. I always have to get talked off the ledge a few times. I have been known to yell at my characters. Because, you know, they can hear me out there in imaginary land.

But once I (and my family!) survives all that. The magic starts to happen. Scenes get moved around. Characters tell me why they're being so stubborn. The random snippets bouncing around in my head find their home. Occasionally you break out into song (that's probably just me).

I started my current manuscript last October and so that happy magical place is where I am now residing. There are sparkles and fairy dust and, after months of wanting to throttle my main characters, I love them again. I read parts of their story that make me laugh and I'm all "Hey, I wrote that!"

Nine months, 89,000 words, one real baby, seven rounds of edits (with one more to go) five rewrites (with another to go), four amazing critique partners, two beta readers and a whole lot of chocolate later, the light is blazing at the end of the tunnel.

This will be my third complete manuscript in under three years (the first one took six - three years to write and another three to let go and start something else!) and, I have to admit, as much as I love writing, I'm ready for a break.

It's time to catch up on my ridiculous "to read" pile, to enjoy watching TV without the nagging sense that I'm a slacker who should be writing and to not have Jackson and Allie taking up way more mind space than fictional characters should be allowed to!

This story has been a new adventure for me, in that the starting premise wasn't my idea. It came from a conversation I had with an editor when I was at a writer's conference last September and is the first time I've tried to write on "spec" as it were. I didn't even know if I could do it. Turns out I can :)

Whether my own idea or someone else's, there are a few things I've learnt over the course of the last few years as I've pursued publication seriously:

  • I will always worry that I won't love my new characters as much as my old ones. But I always do (though sometimes it takes longer than others!);
  • There will always be many points in the process where I'm convinced the whole thing is terrible, rubbish, duller than the phone directory and doesn't deserve to see the light of day but;
  • It's never as bad as I think;
  • There will also be many points where I will think "I can't actually do this. I don't have another book in me.";
  • But I can and I do;
  • At some point I will want to kill one (or both) or my main characters;
  • Critique partners are worth more than their weight in gold and I couldn't do this without them. They cheer you on, they talk you off the ledge(s) when you want to throw it all in, they make you smile by writing things like "Squeeeeeeee!" in the margins of your manuscript when they love something.
  • The feeling when you finish and really like it is one of the best things in the world :)
So tell me, since I'm taking recommendations for my reading break. What have you read recently that you enjoyed? What's on your TBR pile?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not being trying to coerce non-existent people to fall in love, she spends her days being double-teamed by her ninja toddler and his baby sister. You can also find her in Twitter @KaraIsaac and Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer.

This is her TBR shelf that she is very much looking forward to spending some quality time with in July.


  1. Congratulations on meeting your deadlines, Kara! Yes, we really have to turn the volume down on that nagging feeling in order to enjoy our free time. :)

  2. I connected with your first point: I will always worry I won't love my new characters as much as my old ones.
    Thanks for sharing your journey. It's encouraging.

  3. What a great way to describe the process of moving from I can't to I can do this. It isn't easy, but when you do step into that magical place where you go aha! It's working! It's wonderful! Next on my TBR list is DiAnn Mill's latest, Firewall.

    1. I just saw an advertisement for Firewall recently - it looks great!

  4. Love your sense of humour, Kara, in the midst of all you have managed to achieve over these past few months. Well done to you! I'm up to writing the last chapter of another non-fiction book, so my celebrations are a little further away than yours and also a bit different, I think--probably not sprinkles and fairy dust, as with a novel, but more just a deep sense of satisfaction that I have hopefully written some worthwhile things. As for my reading list, I'm into a lovely old writers Elizabeth Goudge right now, so am looking forward to getting into 'The Dean's Watch'.