The leaves are already beginning to rain down. Only August, and I can feel Fall in the air. It approaches so quickly this time of year. One minute summer vacation is in full steam and the next, football season is starting and school clothes are being bought. Another year gone by. They move so fast.
My writing progress this summer has been slacking. It happens. I’m learning, or trying to learn, to be ok with that. To put less pressure on myself to ‘keep up’ with it all. It’s not been easy. I have a pile of work in front of me, work I’ve let overwhelm me, work I’m now viewing in a different light-from a different angle. I simply can’t do it all. Nor do I think I, or anyone, should be expected to.
When we sit back and look at everything we as writers are expected to do, especially with social media, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
A few of my friends are having a difficult time with their own writing journey’s right now. It breaks my heart, because I know that feeling. Really well. I’ve been in that place. Wondering why I was wasting time, wondering what I was doing. Who am I to be doing all of this, writing all the time? What if it goes nowhere? I think most of us hit that wall now and then, it’s normal. Some of us push-off the wall, others stay glued to it.
We become so focused, so embedded in our thoughts–our own heads, when we write. It’s easy to understand why throwing in the towel is an appealing option. Who needs all those headaches?
I guess that depends on who’s asking–and who’s answering.
I think a lot of very talented writers simply become overwhelmed. This industry can be too much. It can be easier to just stop. Put the laptop down, close up the notes and walk away from the desk. Close off the writing thoughts until they stop creeping in anymore. A chapter closed.
Thing is, these writers–these people, they touch other writers.
I have come to depend on certain fellow blogger/writer friends I’ve made over the course of my journey and selfishly, I want them to hang around. I want us all to see this thing through together, even if our goals and aspirations are completely different. I want to know we all did our best and tried.
So this post is to two friends in particular who are having doubts and questioning what they are doing right now and why. Two friends who have simply run out of something to say.
You know who you are. And I want you to know, that YOU inspire me. You inspire a lot of writers. So don’t go.
Sometimes, all we need is a little inspiration.
Because that’s what comes out.
When I began writing I didn’t say, “Hm…I think I should write a young adult novel.” No, I didn’t say anything at all. I just wrote and YA is what came out. Does it matter that I read YA, that I enjoy that genre? Sure it does. But I enjoy a lot of things–it doesn’t mean I write about all of them.
I mentioned a similar idea in my ‘Why Fantasy’ post a few weeks ago. The same stigma occurs in YA, as does in Fantasy. The idea that those who write in these genres do so because they are attempting to ride the giants coat tails. The giants being the big hitters in the YA fantasy/paranormal genre. You know who they are.
But the truth is, when we write, we can’t always control what comes out onto the page. If I were forced to write horror–I could write it. It would likely suck, but I could still write it. I don’t like horror. At All. However, I know of writers who love horror or romance or chick lit–but they don’t write it. Why? Because it’s not their voice. It isn’t what comes out when they sit down at the lap top.
So why YA? Is it your voice? Were you surprised by it? Do you write in multiple genres?
Am I concentrating on the right book? Are you?
I put my heart into my recent novel. My time–sooo much time–my energy and my focus, and I’ve begun the second book in the series. But I continually come back to my original novel–the one I began forever ago and walked away from. The one that is so damn hard to write. It nags at me. Throws ideas in my face and sits there all the time in my head. And I wonder if I shouldn’t bite the bullet and just write it.
If you had one chance at publication, just one, what would you want to say? Could you say it? Should you?
Not all of our book ideas wrap themselves up in neat little packages with cute bows. Some are edgy and raw. Some are hard to talk about–and harder to write.
Is there a line in the writers sand? Do Not Cross. Or do you let your story ride?
If what you need to say most, is the hardest thing to say…do you still say it?
I think so. Yeah, I think you do.
Comments, thoughts? Love to hear your views:)
I have more documents on my first WIP than I care to admit. I’d venture to guess I have around seven, at least. They all contain different information as well as the same information repeating itself. Information I am deathly afraid of losing. Why? A years worth of headaches are wrapped into those documents. First drafts and second drafts and sixth drafts. Ideas and notes and brain storms are within those docs. Plus, I have three full notebooks of notes as well.
And through all of that information and research and time and sweat, I wonder–did I use it all? Is it all in there? Inside the novel, tucked away in its pages and in its story? I don’t know if it is. I did so much in regard to my first book that it completely overwhelmed me. It was too much information. Too many ideas and I couldn’t shut it down. So really–there is NO WAY that all of those painstaking hours of doc filling and note taking made it into the final draft. Or did it?
As I have begun my second book in the series, a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. I know where this story is going. I know my characters now, the scenes, the setting–I know my story. In the beginning, I was still fumbling through. Ideas striking all the time, waking me up in the night. Blocks that took forever for me to break through. I didn’t know where I was going, or what I was doing in the first draft. I think–I hope–I do now.
So although, every idea I had did not find a place in my final copy, all of those ideas found a place in the overall feel of the story–in the overall drive and forward motion of the story. That brain storming crazed state of mind pushed me to finish my book. All those documents and filled notebooks found their place.
They were worth saving.
After wind, hail and blinding rain, we were left without power for a few hours yesterday. The sun peeked out briefly but not long enough to eliminate the need for candles. Without internet, WordPress or Twitter on my laptop I, of course, went to my iPhone.
Genius. Until I noticed it only had a 10% battery life left and no means of charging. After complaining, to myself, and feeling the heat begin to rise due to no A/C, I sat down and listened to the silence. Without the constant sounds of technology ringing in the background–I found, surprisingly, a little peace.
The stillness in the house didn’t create a flickering of candlelight, only a warm shadowed glow across the surface of my table. As I watched the shadow move slightly, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Silence has a strange power if you just listen and let go.
I wrote with pen and paper in the candlelight and the pressure I’ve placed on myself loosened.
I complain about being stuck and unable to break this wall I’ve built around my WIP. But as I sat and wrote, I realized beating my head against the wall isn’t what this is about. We get so caught up in writing the perfect novel, short story, etc… So caught up in all that surrounds us. All the Noise. The inbox alert, the tweet alert, the phone ringing, the text alert, our blogs and Facebook accounts. It’s so much and it’s no wonder we lose our place, our concentration and…our reason for writing in the first place.
Before realizing my battery was close to dead, I sent out a few tweets from my iPhone. Complaining. Lisa Kilian, a fellow writer, blogger (and editor), tweeted me back. You can find her extremely insightful blog here: Lisa Kilian’s Blog
She said that she wished her power was out. She needed to decompress. Now I know what she meant. If we stop and hear the quiet for just a minute and re-connect with the reason we write, the weight lifts.
Writing isn’t about readers or followers. It isn’t about the number of blog hits or Facebook fans we have. Writing is about us, the writer. You. Me. We write for ourselves because we have something to say. The rest is just bells and whistles. Icing. We can’t use the icing if we haven’t baked the cake.
Let there be light.
This is when nothing clicks anymore. When your sentences sound awful, your story doesn’t make sense, you can’t think or concentrate. I believe this is writers burn out. This is writers burn out for me.
This is the point when you wonder for the first time if you should ditch it. Dismantle it all. Everything. And call it a day. This is where I am. I hate to admit it. Admitting it makes it real.
This isn’t writers block. This is something completely different, completely foreign.
My novel is still on my mind, new ideas still come to the surface. Some days I jot them down, other days I push them away.
I’m pretty sure this is why blogs disappear, novels go unfinished, talent goes untapped or unseen. This is when writers walk away.
Walking away isn’t my plan.
But I have been putting too much pressure on myself. Listening to too much noise. I suppose it’s part of the process–these revelations of sorts. I hope.
So, I believe the only solution is to leave it be for a while. Take a few more walks, run a little farther–a little faster and try to regain the passion that put me in front of my laptop screen in the first place.
Back to the grindstone. That’s code for editing. When in doubt about what you’re trying to write and banging your head against the wall doesn’t help anymore, edit a different work in progress!
Step 1. Reread, again.
Step 2. Cut and rewrite, again.
Step 3. Repeat, again.
Step 4. Question everything.
Step 5. Ditch it and create random blog entries.
Ding, Ding, Ding….I choose number 5.
Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!
I am not a multitasker. At All. Thus, my scattered mind and anti-focusing ability. No I do not have ADHD. People with ADHD probably focus better than I do as of late. I think back on the first six months or so of writing my novel, when all my thoughts were a flowing faucet. When my energy was high and my enthusiasm was higher. When I was positive my story was right on course. I wrote my first draft in three months. The full story. A year later, I’ve rewritten that story probably five times.
I wonder about authors like JK Rowling. She took five years to complete The Sorcerer’s Stone. I wonder how she didn’t lose interest after all that time–how she kept her focus. It’s applaudable really.
Here in the 13th month with my WIP, I am the closest I have been to actually finishing–I’m just not sure how close that is. If I could sit and write for hours like I did in the beginning maybe I would already be done. But the constant questions hanging over my shoulder as I write, quash that possibility. They urge me to look deeper, question more–take longer.
I am trying to embrace my style of writing, find it useful in my progression and learn from it. After all, it is the way I write, frustrating one day, over-exuberant the next. At some point I’ll nail down the ins and outs and reel in the over-bearing devil on my shoulder. In the meantime, I’ll try to embrace what he says instead of fighting him all the time. Or…..I’ll just knock him off;)
My rewrites are numerous. My ideas…off the chart ridiculous. My scope…? I’m not sure it’s wide enough. And honestly, I’m not sure how to figure it out. I know that sounds stupid. Let me say it this way. I can name any number of my favorite books and point out just where they went right. The reasons the story works and flows. I can name a few other books that all but lose me. Or pick me up and then drop me again. The books that I need more from, more detail, more explanation, more feeling.
I read my book over and over with all the rewrites and editing. Some days, I love it. Other days, I wonder what in the hell? The questioning of my work is what messes me up. Really, I’m fine with that part of the process. The questioning, it’s needed to a point. What I’m not fine with is where to cut it off. When you read your own work so many times, it can feel cluttered and clunky. When I walk away from it for a few days, read it again, I see more hiccups and fix them. Again.
That’s just it. That’s the problem. I could do this same drill for months. I know I could. So when do I leave it the hell alone and know it’s where it needs to be? When I have too many thoughts and ideas at once, my head will likely explode. And I think that’s my issue. Too many ideas. I put my novel down, walk away, come back, read it again and “Hey! I’ve got an idea!” Or worse, “What am I saying??” I don’t know how to turn it off. All this second guessing will likely kill me.
Occasionally, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant -you just don’t know which. You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you’d mapped out for yourself. Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the first place. Trust your demon.
– Roger Zelazny
A friend of mine works in social services. Her job is a difficult one–one that I could never do. She works with abused children. Somewhere along the way, she learned to compartmentalize the various aspects of her work. She has a skill that enables her to turn off what she has seen and heard during her work hours to better enjoy her non-working hours. I’m sure this is not at all unfamiliar to the skills doctors, firefighters and paramedics use. These people seem to have some type of OFF button as well as a FOCUS button that they use interchangeably.
With writers, one would hope it would be the same. The ability to turn a fictional world on and off by simply telling your brain to do so. The ability to push life’s other issues aside in order to focus solely on the task at hand and write productively. Perhaps many writers do have this skill. I know many writers however, who don’t.
When there are a million other random everyday thoughts swirling in your head, it can be very difficult to focus on the writing work that needs to be done. To put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keys. I’ve tried. Which got me thinking. What distinguishes these types of people? And further more, the different types of writers. What is the distinction between plotters and pantsters. Planners versus non- planners. And why? The differences may be in our brains. Specifically, whether you are a left or right brain thinker. I did some digging and voila. I found a few articles that may unlock the questions and help us on the way to finding some balance.
Laura Connell has an interesting article at Matthew Stibbe’s Blog: Left Brain Vs. Right Brain for Writers
And Matthew Stibbe has an excellent article on staying focused: Concentration: 22 ways to stay focused on writing
If we can harness what is driving us in a certain direction, putting the butt in the chair and the fingers on the keys, will be a much simpler task to accomplish. It’s certainly worth a shot.
First off…As if I do not have enough hair pulling going on with simply trying write, I have thrown myself into the twitter bowl. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to watch me crash and burn for a few weeks.
On a positive note, writing picked up steam last night and I was not only able to stomach the first 7 again, but actually made some good edits along the way. I’m on the upside of my carousel ride again…I pray it hangs in for a while.
In the earliest stages of my novel–when it was only a stream of ideas, my POV took hold. It wasn’t something I thought about at the time. But I think about it now and why it came so naturally. I wonder how much of me was my protagonist in the beginning. As the story moved and continued to unfold, the characters became a far cry from where they started–who they were, when I started. The personas, voices, thoughts and feelings are distinctly their own now. They are no longer the people I began with and I love that.
I realize that there is a part of me in everything I write. A part of every author is weaved into their landscape, their characters, their stories. In some way, no matter how small, we are what we write. The choices we make, the angles we take, the voices we use–they are all part of who we are. Knowingly or not.
When we write, we create the world, the rules, the behavior and the actions. It is at our command. The possibilities are endless. The ability to change and evolve. The choice to stay the same. But I believe our characters at some point, take over. They have to. They lead us the rest of the way through the journey and to the end. And in that evolution, the real story comes out.
The best idea in the world rarely ends where a writer thinks it will without total manipulation of the characters. Unless we allow them to speak on their own, we can never know the true story. At some point we need to relinquish part of the control and allow ourselves to be led rather than to lead.
“Whether we are describing a king, an assassin, a thief, an honest man, a prostitute, a nun, a young girl, or a stallholder in a market, it is always ourselves that we are describing.”
-Guy De Maupassant
“Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.”
-Richard North Patterson
(By PrimroseSue via Photobucket)
I like some of them. Some of them work well, truly they do. I don’t want to do this! It’s going to take FOREVER!
What a touchy subject. Cut them all! Leave them alone, they’re fine. Get them out!
I’ve made it known what a huge reader I am. And I will say right now that I have read many books with plenty of…..ADVERBS! One in particular, a very popular book, is loaded with them. Many writers say to cut them all….every single one. Others say, a few are just fine. And others still, LOVE them and use them with no qualms. So what’s the best answer?
As I am scrutinizing my first 6 chapters (again), I’m finding it hard to see a middle ground. I am also finding a few ummm….. wickedly, lovely, softly, gently….CRAP!
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
— Stephen King
I guess Stephen King would know. I’ll continue cutting.
Today is the day. 9 days and counting. The 19th will mark one year since starting my novel. Although I would love to say that my one year mark will also mark my completion date, I can’t. I’m trying to find solace in the fact that numerous writers have taken years to finish their first novel. And of course the obvious fact of having it done right rather than just having it done. Happy 9 Days to go to me.