But something wasn't quite right, and I had no idea why. It just wasn't enough.
So I put The Collins Widow away for a while, and wrote the first half of Sanguine. But still, my wonderful little gothic novel nagged at me from the back of my mind, twitching and whimpering for me to pay attention to it. I didn't know how to fix it, and it was slowly driving me mad. Okay, more mad. What was I missing? What was the element that was going to make it all shine? What golden thread could I tug to pull it all together? All I knew was that I was in love with the story, and most of all I was in love with one of the side characters, a ghost named Lavinia who haunted Stella's house.
THAT. WAS. IT.
At this heady realization, that Stella was not the only focus of the book, I sat down and wrote a single sentence: Lavinia did not know there was a monster under the village until her husband stopped coming home for supper. That was it, that was enough, and now I knew what I had to do. I began writing Lavinia's story, and suddenly I was sailing. My book was working, my book was delicious and dark and dreadful in the best way. I added chapters from the townspeople and suddenly my antagonists had agency, they had reasons for what they did, and good ones.
When I was a kid, I had a noisy little device called a rock tumbler. The rock tumbler was a horrible little machine despised by parents everywhere, and freely given as gifts by well-meaning relatives. The point of the rock tumbler was that you could put any old ugly stone into the contraption, plug it in, and then leave it to work its magic. You left that ugly rock to tumble around for a few days, and when you came back, you'd have a gem, a shining, pretty thing. Or that was the idea. Sometimes an ugly rock is an ugly rock, and no amount of tumbling is going to change that. But sometimes your rock would become something beautiful, riddled with colors and stripes of shining metal, and you would have a precious stone.
Sometimes stories need to tumble around in the skull, left alone to wear away the dullness and grit, before they emerge, shining and beautiful. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes a story is just ugly, or boring, or too silly to bother continuing. The Collins Widow came out of my skull tumbler shining and beautiful, and I'm thoroughly committed to bringing it to life.
I don't know if I'll keep that first lovely sentence. I don't even know if The Collins Widow will ever be published. But the point is that no matter how wonderfully eloquent and beautiful and horrific a book idea seems in your head (or on paper, or on a spreadsheet), sometimes you have to let go of your notion of what a book should be and go with what the book needs to be. If I'd stuck with my first inclination of only writing Stella's point-of-view, I would be a very bland horror writer indeed. Sometimes you have to put in more work, and sometimes you have to let something tumble around before you can see what's really inside.
If you're lucky, it's full of beautiful, lovely terror that demands to be written, grotesquely obsessed over, and then polished up like a shining agate from my childhood rock tumbler. If you're lucky, the story works, and all the ugly grinding noises that so upset your mother will be worth it.
If you're lucky, it will be gorgeous.