Crying, and crying over my writing, isn’t commonplace for me. Like many people on the neurodivergent spectrum, I have a hard time with emotions. Rather than being an explosive sort, though, I’m rather implosive. I need time to feel my feelings as they say. Sometimes, I’m uncomfortable and I’m not even sure why. Or, I’ll be in the middle of the kitchen, and suddenly realize that like… I was really angry the day before.
Since I was a kid, I’ve used art to process my emotions. And lately, with a pandemic, a migraine disorder (hey, FYI, ice pick migraines are the absolute worst), and the stress of raising my kids, juggling my career, and you know, doing this writing thing, it’s felt like A Lot of Things.
But it’s also been awesome?
I got my second round of edits from my agent Stacey a few weeks ago, and dug right in. She had some really, really good insight about Edith–my Darcy, for lack of a better term–in Netherford Hall (that’s my Bridgerton but queer and with witches book). Though Edith is stoic, and stalwart, she needed to have more at stake. She needed to fail more. The reader needed to see her flaws. Poppy, our chaotic heroine, is like a patchwork quilt of flaws, but she embraces them.
This was really good advice. Stacey was so right. Characters like Edith are difficult because they seem to have their shit together. We don’t see Darcy’s flaws from inside his head, really. That aloofness is part of the Darcy charm. And sometimes we think that mystery will diminish if we dig too deeply.
Except in Netherford Hall, it’s a story about two very different women, and it’s told from their dual point of views. We expect Poppy to fail, because failure is what she’s known most of her life. But Edith has been brought up with all the privilege her birth can afford, and though she has experienced loss (she’s the last of her coven to survive), and some shame (she’s not exactly top of her class in terms of magical acumen), she needs to have her own journey. It’s easy to root for Poppy, she’s got all the charisma in the universe and then some. You forgive her for her tantrums and her moments of frivolity. But Edith has to earn it.
I can’t give it away. I can only say that that advice pushed me to the absolute perfect brink. I was shaking writing the final scene in this book, where Edith is put in a place where she has to make an impossible choice, and forced to look at herself and see just what she’s made of… and come up wanting. That is a horrible thing. But it’s a wonderful thing, too.
Ultimately, I needed that catharsis, too. I needed those tears. And that’s why we have agents and editors. That’s also why we have therapists. And good teachers. And beta readers.
Just like our emotions, sometimes our writing can feel too close to us, too familiar. It’s so important that we push ourselves, and open ourselves up to that next step in our growth as storytellers. It’s our journey too, after all.