I have such a wonderful guest blog post for you written by soon to be a debut author Rebecca Duval.
This is such a brave thing to write about and I’m so pleased she’s chosen to share it with us.
Over to you, Rebecca.
This is not a blog post I ever imagined myself writing, but as Allen Saunders, and later, John Lennon said – “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Or in this case, life is what happens when you’re busy writing a book. It would be over-simplistic, and somewhat dramatic to say that I looked up one day from the pages of the romance novel I was writing and realised my own relationship was over, but in many ways it felt like that.
It had been a tough and busy year with a big move- not only to a new house, but to an entirely new part of the country, settling the kids in at a new school and frantically trying to rewrite the book I’d finished a year before while my partner studied for a masters degree. To the outside world, the fact that my 15 year relationship wasn’t able to withstand that pressure might have been understandable, but to me it wasn’t. This wasn’t part of the plan. For months, my focus had been on the Happily Ever After of a fictional couple, and now my real-life HEA was uncertain.
Working through any break-up is tough, but when you’re a romance writer, it feels doubly so. Even after the practicalities were taken care of, the logistics figured out and the dust was settling around me, I still couldn’t bring myself to revisit the book I’d been editing when my life had exploded. It felt like that book had been written in another lifetime, by another Rebecca entirely, and I had no idea how- or even if- I would be able to bridge that chasm in order to get my debut out into the world.
But here I am, just three weeks away from my book’s release date. Living proof that it’s possible. So for any other romance writers out there who find themselves in the situation I did, here’s how I made it back to my keyboard:
Ha. But in all seriousness, I’m not kidding with this one. Take your time. When you’re going through a break-up it may feel like the world is moving on without you, while you’re stuck in a sort of limbo between your old life and your new one, but one thing that isn’t going anywhere is your story. Whatever stage you were at with it when you last closed your laptop or put your pen down to focus on real life, that’s where it will be when you feel ready to go back to it. Yes the world needs your novel, but your novel needs you, and it needs you to be in the right headspace when you go back to it.
If you open the word document and think the whole thing looks unrecognisable, or you can’t imagine how you could ever write a first-kiss or a perfect proposal ever again, then you know it’s too soon. For me, I knew it was time when my new life had settled into enough of a gentle rhythm that thoughts of my book and characters would pop into my mind unbidden. If you have the headspace to daydream- even if it’s just a couple of minutes here and there, then you know you’re onto a winner.
2. With grit
As much as it’s important to be gentle with yourself when you’re going through something like this, you also need to remember the reason why writing, or in my case getting the damn book finished was so important to you in the first place. This can be hard when your entire world view has shifted.
Certainly for me, in those early weeks my entire focus was very much on surviving and helping my kids to navigate this new landscape we found ourselves in. But there came a point when I realised that to let everything else slide indefinitely would be to do myself – and my children- a disservice. Writing is a huge part of who I am. It’s something I’m passionate about, and just because I was forced to put it aside for a time didn’t change that. Remembering how much I’d believed in my story, reminding myself of all the time and energy I’d already invested in it, and reiterating the promise I’d made to myself that I would get the book out there, were all key when it came to forcing myself back into the writing chair.
After a period of softness and self-care you sometimes need to call on that steely determination us writers have to give yourself the ‘oomph’ needed to get back in the saddle, so to speak.
3. With support
Whether that’s writing buddies cheering you on, your kids asking you if you’ve sold a million copies yet, or your mum asking you if she can read it (the answer is a resounding no to both of those, btw). You’re going to need people in your corner to remind you that YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t be afraid to call on them for support.
4. With hope for the future
This is a biggie. Whenever anything major happens that shakes our worldview or turns it upside-down, it can be hard to visualise what the future holds. Even if the horizon appears clear and bright, just the fact that it looks different to how we imagined can be scary enough to make us not want to gaze at it for too long. But that hope for the future is vital to finishing a project, otherwise you end up feeling like what’s the point?
Writing romance involves giving two (or more) characters the Happily Ever After they deserve, but writing that can be difficult if your own HEA hasn’t quite worked out how you anticipated. But another way of looking at it is- what if this major life event is just the plot twist you needed to put you on track for something new and incredible? What if your happy ending is just around the corner and hasn’t been written yet? Once you believe that your own version of happy is possible, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to write someone else’s.
So there you have it. Six months on from the split, I’m writing this blog post at my little second-hand writing desk, in my new home. Today I walked my children to school in the snow with my new boyfriend (plot twist!) and came home and wrote the first chapter of my next book. Yes life looks different to how I might have imagined a year ago, but I’m happy and in love, and writing again and my debut novel comes out in just a few weeks- and if that isn’t a happy ending then I don’t know what is.
Rebecca is an author, librarian, lover of whisky and HEA’s, Her debut novel, OUT OF SIGHT is out on 28 March 2020.
Click here to find out more about Rebecca.