Recently, I was flying back from my cousin’s wedding in Florida. The event took place in a lovely coastal town and my cousin married the man of her dreams. The whole weekend was a nice reminder that there are beautiful humans in this world in a time that, sadly, continues to feel dark and scary.
The flight home from the wedding was long enough to warrant movie selections for the plane’s passengers. As often happens for me, movie-watching trumped sleep, and I gleefully swiped through the surprisingly wide selection of movies offered on the five-hour ride back to the west coast. I chose Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy as Lee Isreal. To quote Wikipedia, Lee Isreal is “a frustrated, hard-drinking author who can barely afford to pay her rent or bills in 1990s New York. Desperate for money, Israel soon hatches a scheme to forge letters by famous writers and sell them to bookstores and collectors. When the dealers start to catch on, Lee recruits a dubious friend to help her continue her self-destructive cycle of trickery and deceit.”
The movie was released in December of last year, and I was excited to see McCarthy in a dramatic role. The film was pretty good overall. I enjoyed McCarthy’s dramatic turn, and I thought she played the bitter, downtrodden Isreal wonderfully.
There is a particular scene in the beginning of the movie which I found amusing. Lee attends a party hosted by her publisher. Several writers and artists are in attendance, including Tom Clancy. (Side note: I spent half an hour pouring through the internet to try and find the scene I now speak of because my memory is terrible and I wanted to find the exact dialogue. Alas, I came up empty handed.)
The essence of the scene is this: Lee walks into the living room where Clancy is entertaining a group of people. She overhears part of what he says, which is along the lines of, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. It doesn’t exist for me.” Lee gives a snort and mutters a few choice words in his direction since she is, as viewers quickly learn, suffering from THE worst case of writer’s block ever.
This got me wondering about that whole concept: writer’s block. I couldn’t deny how watching Isreal lash out in a snarky remark fit with my own feelings towards Tom Clancy (or, I suppose, this fictional version of him) in that moment. I was squarely on her side and willingly glared with her at the pompous writer in his turtle neck from across the room.
I’m currently working on my third novel. Well, “working” isn’t the right term. A more accurate description might be “slowly and painfully yanking words one by one from deep within the chasms of my imagination, lining them up in a dark room, and squinting really hard at them until a clunky sentence is formed.”
The struggle, y’all. The struggle.
I’m so curious though. Why is this happening now? I’m two books in to my life as a published author. I thought I’d have a good rhythm to this by now. Sure, there’s that other thing, “life,” which keeps me pretty busy and doesn’t allow adequate time or space to sit down and put pen to paper. But this third book I’m writing is the second part of my trilogy! It uses many of the same characters from the previous book. It’s in the same world! Everything’s familiar! Why is this so hard?
I keep hearing Jamie Kennedy’s Randy shouting in a video store from the movie Scream 2: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.”
Sure, the story I’m writing now is not technically a sequel, but a continuation of the previous story and part of a trilogy. Nevertheless, I feel the need to take bigger risks with this new novel. Should there be an eviler villain? Massive explosions? Wild new characters? A unicorn?? I don’t know!
As I’ve reminded myself, this book is part of a trilogy. So, there is a plan in place. I’m simply finding it difficult to follow my characters from Point A to Point B.
I’m wondering, have other writers, particularly those who have done sequels, trilogies, or sagas experienced this? What did you do to get back to that happy land of flowing words and vivid imagery? I feel like I can see it, but I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Also, are there any series of books or sequels, as readers, you absolutely loved? What did you love about them? Or, are there any that left you disappointed as the books went on? Do you prefer each book to have a cliff-hanger ending, or a relatively clean-cut ending?
Let me know! In the meantime, I’ll be researching how many unicorns is too many to put into a story.