Happy Thursday, my bookish peeps! Before I started this blog, I dabbled in nonfiction writing. Yes, I’ve done some writing, but it was primarily for religious journals, religious short stories, and other religious writings. Since starting this blog and with the increasing rise of social media outlets, I’ve been pushed to promote the blog on various outlets with weekly, if not daily posts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the now-defunct Google+). I know from personal experience how difficult it is to keep things fresh and write something new and different each time I sit down (and yes, I know I often fail at this goal). Writing is hard work and the best writers, in my not so humble opinion, make it seem effortless when it is anything but that. Today’s guest, Peter W.J. Hayes, author of the recently released The Things That Last Forever, will be sharing with us his philosophy on the stages of writing a story. If you’ve ever wondered about the emotional investment of the author in the story, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to see what Mr. Hayes has to say and perhaps follow the blog tour to learn more about this author and book. Please help me welcome Mr. Peter W.J. Hayes to the blog. Thank you, Mr. Hayes for stopping by and sharing with us.
The Five Stages of Writing a Story
I’ve published three novels and almost twenty short stories over the last five years, including my most recent novel, The Things That Last Forever. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that writing is a process, not unlike the Siege of Stalingrad or raising a teenager.
For me—whether a novel or short story— the writing process is the same. The only way I can complete a story is to navigate five clearly defined stages, one at a time, in order. That might sound like a lot, but remember they are stages. You can rest in any of the stages—well, ‘wallow’ might be the correct term—but trust me on this, every spouse or partner knows through an innate and unholy instinct when to gleefully kick you in the rear to get moving.
The stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
Good grief, why would anyone want to be a writer?
DENIAL: Human beings, as a species, mastered the art of denial about the time we learned to walk upright. Writers are the final evolution and ultimate triumph of denial. I learned that early in my career, when I used to deny I was a writer simply because I had no published works to prove it (despite three unsold book manuscripts and enough rejection letters to wallpaper the Lincoln Memorial). And as I start each new story, I must always battle denial’s evil twins. I am at once in complete denial the story can actually work, while denying that it could fail. Yes, things are that complicated. I then spend several days (or longer) deconstructing both opinions until that moment when I realize the story—despite some flaws I might be able to work around—is writeable.
ANGER: Unfortunately, at that moment my reaction is always anger because now I must write it. It’s a bit like a wartime military draft. I’m in it now, I can’t get out, and ghastly things will happen before I reach home. But, as I rage at my conscription, the first third of the story takes shape, leading me directly into the next stage.
BARGAINING: This is the ugly, dark-of-night, desperate stage. Every day, facing a blank screen and that relentless, blinking cursor (it’s called a cursor for a reason), I make deals. If I can write just four more pages, I’ll treat myself to a beer. No, an IPA. I’ll do more charity work. Just let me write something, anything, and I’ll live with it. For one good analogy, the devil can have my soul. And so it goes, day after day, until the draft is finished and I stagger into the next stage.
DEPRESSION: In fairness, the day I finish the first draft of any story, I have a few moments of euphoria. That is, of course, an evil trick. As I reread the manuscript, tendrils of doubt creep in. The characters are flat. The plot is hackneyed, worse, boring. Do I even know how to write a sentence? Every insecurity I have (and a few new ones) weighs on me like a millstone. By the time I complete the final draft I’m a work-zombie, and I barely notice as I move into the final stage.
ACCEPTANCE: Sending any manuscript to an editor is a ritual similar to placing flowers on a grave. Yet (and this is a minor miracle) despite the fact that rejection may come, so can acceptance. I rarely feel much excitement or joy at that moment. Perhaps I’m too far into the stages of Bargaining or Depression with another story to think about it. But later, when I see the story in print, I always have a thought along the lines of ‘good grief, it’s risen from the dead.’ I take satisfaction from that. My story has found a home of its own and a place in the world.
Just as we hope for our teenagers.
The Things That Last Forever
by Peter W. J. Hayes
On Tour: January 1 – February 28, 2021
After a house fire hospitalizes his partner and forces him onto medical leave, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police detective Vic Lenoski starts a desperate search for the woman who set the blaze. She is the one person who knows what happened to his missing teenage daughter, but as a fugitive, she’s disappeared so thoroughly no one can find her.
Risking his job and the wrath of the district attorney, Vic resorts to bargaining with criminal suspects for new leads, many of which point to North Dakota. He flies there, only to discover he is far from everything he knows, and his long-cherished definitions of good and bad are fading as quickly as his leads. His only chance is one last audacious roll of the dice. Can he stay alive long enough to discover the whereabouts of his daughter and rebuild his life? Or is everything from his past lost forever?
“The mystery plot itself is riveting…a captivating and emotionally intelligent crime drama.” — Kirkus Reviews
Genre: Mystery: Police Procedural
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 294
Series: A Vic Lenoski Mystery; Pittsburgh Trilogy #3 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads
Peter W. J. Hayes worked as a journalist, advertising copywriter, and marketing executive before turning to mystery and crime writing. He is the author of the Silver Falchion-nominated Pittsburgh trilogy, a police procedural series, and is a Derringer-nominated author of more than a dozen short stories. His work has appeared in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Pulp Modern and various anthologies, including two Malice Domestic collections and The Best New England Crime Stories. He is also a past nominee for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award.
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Peter W.J. Hayes. There will be 4 winners for this giveaway. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and two (2) winners will each receive one (1) physical copy of The Things That Last Forever by Peter W.J. Hayes (US Only). The giveaway begins on January 1, 2021 and runs through March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.