Friday, June 14, 2013

From Love To Hate To Love

For a week in 2008, on beautiful Fiji, I studied writing with the bestselling novelist Steve Berry.

I learned amazing amounts from him and my five classmates, not the least of which is my wonderful friend Dawn.  I have to laugh.  I just received some of my pages back from her today (Chapters 21-30) and twice she cites Steve and his views on writing.  As it turns out, they're both right. 

Anyway, the most important of those lessons was to write tight.  I still ramble at times, but am doing oh-so-much better.  Sometimes I think I’ve grasped the concept.  Other times it slips into the cracks, and I start again.

Outside of Steve’s admonition “Write tight,” the best way I've heard this concept expressed comes from the English poet Robert Southey, who once wrote, “It is with words as it is with sunbeams.  The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”

Oh, so true!

The most elusive of Steve's lessons is that you’ll work on your novel so much that you will come to HATE it.

I’d never experienced that feeling. 

Oh, there were times I didn’t want to look at it, or couldn’t face it or the thought of one more draft, but I’ve never experienced pure HATE, until last week. 

And I felt guilty as hell about it.

After all, I've spent one full year on this, my ghost story.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m working diligently on Draft Four.  I’d made it more than halfway though when, last week, my beautiful ghost told me that it wasn’t working for her; that I’d have to start Draft Four all over again.

Huh?  A fictional character telling me what was what?

Fictional character?


For good or bad, she’s real to me, just as real as the memories I carry of actual people.  The difference is minor but makes all the difference.  She lives in a prominent place in my mind called the imagination.  The two worlds can see each other, but I always keep a layer of cheesecloth separating my imaginary world from the real.

Bringing the ship into port, she said it wasn’t working for her, and I understood.  I felt it, too.

A month’s worth of work shot to hell and gone in the space of a microsecond.

I stomped around, and cursed her.  Swam lap after lap after lap; played my guitar, especially the blues.  I did everything to try to forget her.  I hated her freaking guts!

Or did I?

She'd been the love of my life for a year, and now I hated her?

How could I possibly go from one extreme to another?

I consulted my faltering memory and found the answer.  Love and Hate are not opposites.  I have no idea whether this notion has sound basis in Psychology, but I believe that Love and Hate are different branches of the same tree of Caring.  Whether I love something (or someone) or hate something (or someone) I care deeply.  Consequently, LOVE and HATE have the same opposite … APATHY.

So yes, I had, for a brief time, a strong negative feeling toward the love of my imaginative life.  But the leaves on that branch quickly withered and left me with love again.  My ghost was right.  The story had deserted her and I needed to fix it.

Took me a week, but I have now caught up, and am charging on my merry way.  I’m embracing it, even as I write this, and so looking forward to helping her and my hero through the rest of their journey.

My ghost is the love of my imaginative life, along with the other seven main and supporting characters.  I love them so much.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They excite me.  They make me think.  I dream about them all, in the day and at night.

I’m a man similar in many respects to my hero.  I’d love to meet someone like my ghost, though she need not be so young on the one hand (31 when she died) or old on the other (over 140 from when she was born).

Check out last weeks post for thoughts on the love of my reality.

And yes, the above picture is from Fiji.  I took it from the balcony of my hotel room.  Those six days were some of the best of my life.

I know my friend Dawn remembers Fiji.  :-)


  1. Great post, Rockstar. I DO remember Fiji - and all of the great fun we had there. Not to mention, the great writing advice from the amazing Steve Berry. xoxoxo

    1. I'm stubborn sometimes, but I do learn. :-)

  2. PS - I also LOVE all of the characters in your book. I have such a great feeling about this one, Rockstar. XO

    1. Thanks so much. Can't wait to hear what you think about the ending. :-)

  3. Rocky, as always I am learning so much from you, not only about writing. Brilliant post. X

    1. Thanks, Jodie! I'm learning so much from you as well! Emmie assignment coming up. :-)

  4. I get the impression that writing can be very painful. I have always had an appreciation for the books I read but listening to your pain makes me appreciate them even more.

    1. It really is a labor of love. :-)

  5. Seems that Fiji retreat was pretty brilliant and served you well!

    I can't say I've hated any of my WIPs. Yet. Though certainly I've thought, "Holy cats, I don't really have to do any *more* edits, do I???????" Er, actually, that's the phase I'm in right now. But I do have to and I'm dragging my proverbial heels. Wah, wah, wah. :-)

    "Write tight" is great. I've seen the greatness of it the few times I've written flash fiction for a contest. Not sure that I've learned to apply it to novel length work, though. :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

    1. Definitely put the pedal to the metal! I looked up one day and ten years had past. My mantra these days is "controlled desperation." :-) And Fiji was amazing!!! Thanks for the tweet!


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