It’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, again. I know, don’t remind me– I was insecure two months ago, and haven’t been here since! But it’s the first Wednesday of the month and, thanks in part to the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh and the IWSG, I’m back. Want to join the best blog hop on the worldwide web, and share your doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak? Click on this linky, and join us!
In the meantime, as my blog reverts to barren wasteland, I’ve been sorting through the dirty laundry of the past year’s unfinished projects, deciding what to pursue and what to leave behind. As I sorted the whites of new drafts from the delicates of abandoned muse rants, and tossed the dark ruminations in a pile of their own so as not to turn my bright thoughts dingy, I came upon a bit of a revelation about my goals.
Because, as I evaluated how I allocate the hours of my day, how I stack up my time this way and that, trying to hack my life to fit more writing in without disturbing all the rest that I hold dear, I felt myself become more and more desperate to get something done, and to have something to show for my efforts. And the greater my craving for tangible rewards, the more I felt the joy slip through my fingers, and the passion flicker and dim. Still, I held fast to chasing someone else’s dream. Joy is well and good, I thought, but real writers get published. Real writers finish stuff and move on.
Then suddenly it struck me: Am I letting fear drive my writing, instead of love?
Is it fear that makes me wonder if I shouldn’t stop this nonsense and do something useful like clean out the pantry or organize my photo albums? Is it fear that demands validation, recognition, or at least compensation?
Fear tells me that I need to write something that will fit into neat little boxes. Fear compares me with other writers who might be doing better than I am, and tells me I’m not worthy. Fear keeps me up late at night as I debate what is best for me to write.
Of course, thousands of years of evolution can’t be wrong. Fear isn’t always a bad thing. Fear also keeps me at a day job to pay bills, and tracks my word count to ensure measurable progress. Fear makes sure I back up my computer and copyright my blog.
But it is fear that sends me into that sinkhole of self-doubt, where I contemplate obscurity, where I question why I even try.
Love is when I forget to watch the clock, and work until I’m exhausted but happy and satisfied with my accomplishments. Love is when passion grabs me by the hands and drags me into my story, and when it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Love knows I’m doing what I’m meant for, and that there is no other path but this one.
After all it was love that started me down this path. When I first began to write stories, before I even knew where the word counter was, I wrote for the love of it. I need to have faith that love will finish what it started.
Laundry basket image courtesy of Kitch Bain, coffee stains courtesy of Mark Carrel, hearts image courtesy of Brenda Carson all @ Stockfresh
Welcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, which you’ll notice is the only post on this blog since last month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. I know. I need to post more. If it weren’t for the IWSG, my blog would probably fade away into oblivion!
But fortunately for this blog the insecure writers meet on the first Wednesday of every month, and fortunately for the IWSG, I am almost always insecure. So thank you, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for giving insecure writers like me a place to share our doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Want to join the IWSG? Just click this linky and hop on over to meet some of the nicest writers on the worldwide web.
Today I’d like to talk about the results of last month’s experiment in literary abandon, a little adventure called NaNoWriMo.
First I give you: Exhibit A
It appears that I won, doesn’t it? Look at that word count! And I’m consistent too, writing thousands of words every day like it’s nothing. In fact, I wrote ten thousand extra words to cover myself as a winner, just in case some of my writing is so awful that it falls outside the parameters of literary abandon. You’d think I’d be exploding with confidence.
But I’ll tell you a secret. I didn’t really write a novel.
Witnesseth: Exhibit B
As may be apparent from the list, I dutifully wrote the first scenes of my novel for the first ten thousand words, but then, because there’s nothing like deciding to write a new novel to make me want to revise the old one, I revised my other story and counted those words toward my word total.
Then revision ended up being really hard and the words didn’t pile up quickly enough, so I ended up goofing off. What kind of goofing off?
May I present: Exhibit C
My Muse drove a mustard yellow pick up truck through the middle of my novel.
Word count: 2718 words
I consulted with an imaginary literary agent about what my novel needed to make it work and why I was having so much trouble figuring that out. I spontaneously stopped punctuating dialogue and left it that way because I thought it would be cool.
Word count: 11,683 words
Then my protagonist from Ye Olde Novel showed up with a switch blade and dared me to start cutting up his story.
Word count: 3092 words
After that my Muse came back and took me for a ride on his new orrery.
Word count: 1390 words
In between all this, I did manage to make significant progress on my revision, but why do I persist in zigzagging back and forth between stories like this? Why can’t I at least stick with one project for a month? Why can’t I write in a straight line like everyone else?
Don’t get me wrong. I had a blast writing during NaNoWriMo. There were times I would sit down in front of my computer bursting with words, and lose track of time while I wrote them. I was laughing at my Muse’s antics, gasping at the revelations I came up with in my revision, daydreaming about scenes for the new story draft. But through all of these words I got nothing finished.
Everything I wrote needs work. It’s too weird. Or it’s too long. Or it’s poorly punctuated.
Which is why I have to ask myself why I feel compelled to write things that defy any sort of publication. Have I lost the ability and desire to write stuff that might appeal to readers? Or have I simply lost my nerve? If this blog is my playground, why am I afraid to come out and play? Is this merely the painful adolescence of my development as a writer?
Will I grow out of this awkward stage and into a real writer? Or am I doomed to write weird stuff that doesn’t fit into any of the proper boxes?
I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to stop!
How about you? Do you work in a straight line? Or does your creativity take the scenic route like mine?
Orrery image courtesy of Sage Ross @ Wikimedia Commons
I know you’re staring at your screen thinking, “What’s with all the acronyms? She’s really lost it now. Things haven’t been the same at A Scenic Route since the A to Z challenge.”
I’ll start with the IWSG, short for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We’re a bunch of writers, three hundred and counting, who meet on the first Wednesday of every month to discuss our fears and doubts without worries about appearing foolish or weak. Want to join us? Click the linky to be whisked to founder Alex J. Cavanaugh’s site, where you can add your name to some of the nicest writers you’ll ever meet on the worldwide web.
Now about this NaNoWriMo thing. You might have heard of it: Fifty thousand words, one month, lots of coffee? So why would an insecure writer like me undertake such a monumental challenge, not just once but every single year?
I’ll tell you why.
First off, there’s literary abandon. At last I can set aside the burden of wondering if what I’m writing has any merit whatsoever. I don’t have to edit; I don’t have to debate whether my structure works or not; I don’t have to vacillate about whether my characters have any business being in my story. I’m free to experiment and I’m free to turn back around and try something different. All that matters is that I keep adding to the almighty word count.
Second let’s talk about camaraderie. National Novel Writing Month seems to have become an annual rite for all writers who have ever considered trying their hand at writing a novel, from beginners to multi-published authors. Here we have a chance to work side by side, at least in a virtual sense, on a crazy project that is equally intimidating to all but the most seasoned storytellers. Together we share the challenge of getting words on the screen. What a boost it is for me to be just another nervous writer, instead of working away on my own as self-doubt perches on my shoulder, pecking at my self-esteem with every opportunity.
And, this might sound odd in a challenge where the daily word quota is 1667 words, but stopping and calling it a day is really encouraging for an insecure writer like me. I suffer from the uncontrollable urge to compare myself with other writers, so looking at my word count and seeing that it measures up is a huge boost for my confidence.
Or it could also boil down to the simple fact that writing at this pace leaves no time to be insecure! Falling into bed exhausted, and doing it all over again the next day is a great way to stop worrying about whether my story is any good and just letting it flow onto the page the way it wants to.
I know there are doubters out there— writers who claim that careful outlining and meticulous wordsmithing are the only way to write a novel worthy of publication. Perhaps that is true, but my contention is that there are many ways to write a story, and drafting at this speed is an incredible rush for me. Just look at my word count and you’ll see: I’m soaring.
How about you? Does NaNoWriMo make you more secure about your writing? Or are you a fan of more leisurely story crafting?
Test tube and book images courtesy of ‘Winner’ at StockFresh.com, clock image courtesy of ‘magicmarie’ @ stock.xchng
Since I love walking in the woods, I find it often feels as if my Muse is wandering in a forest full of ideas. Writing these stories down, especially as a discovery writer, feels very much like growing trees.
For example, despite their magnitude when they are finished, stories start with nothing more than a seed, a nut with a soft center but enclosed in a hard shell. In other words tough to crack— but put the seed in the soil, water it every day, and if it rains and the soil is damp and well aerated, over time the shell will crack and sprout.
This is the part where the daily words come in. I write almost every day, preferably in the morning, with a cup of coffee at my side. With time and persistence, the story inside me will reveal itself, and eventually a tiny seedling will surprise me as its green shoot pokes out of the fertile ground of my imagination.
This stage of story growth, while exciting, is also one of the most fragile. I must be careful lest a careless stomp of a critical foot presses the tender seedling back into the ground. I must shelter it from storms, from hungry rodents, from drought. Also, tiny as the seedling is, I can’t even distinguish what it might become. I must write a little every day before discovering what kind of tree I’ve got. Is it an evergreen, destined to adorn a future living room’s Christmas? Is it a weeping willow, its roots seeking the succulent earth near a lake or a river? Or is it a maple, turning fiery orange and red every Halloween? The excitement of discovering what it might be keeps me writing. Who are these characters who populate my idea? What genre of story do they inhabit? Before the first leaf shows its shape, anything could happen.
Once the tree has revealed its species, I must remain diligent as leaf after leaf unfolds to nourish the emerging trunk and creeping roots, as the theme of the story sends shoots into the ground and branches into the sky. As with many things in life, one can’t see the growth from day to day, but over months and even years, that tender sapling grows into a sturdy young tree with broad branches gently swaying in the summer wind. I am incredibly proud of it, but at the same time there are some limbs in the wrong place, shoots springing up next to the trunk that don’t belong there, and even the occasional infestation of wood eating pests.
This is where the pruning shears come in. Knowing where to prune and what growth to promote is an art in itself, one that can be learned through practice and observing other properly groomed trees. It can be wrenching to lop off graceful boughs in the name of stronger tree growth, but it must be done. A good gardener knows that the light and the nutrition must reach the branches that will bear the most fruit. A good writer knows where to cut and where to graft to create a rewarding story.
Finally when the tree has grown to its full glory, its magnificent crown dappling the garden below in ripples of shade, I invite my friends over to take a look, to admire the symmetry of the branches, the health of the leaves, the depth of the roots. We can picnic under its benevolent shadow, smell its savory blossoms, and I marvel as I contemplate this massive miracle of wood and bark and leaves and seeds that is my own creation. Trees, because they grow so slowly and tenaciously, sometimes feel as if they live forever. Certainly they outlive us, and stories feel that way to me as well. Writers who came before me, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, have left behind mighty literary forests that still inspire and enchant us today, and that still cast their shadow over lesser saplings like me.
As I look over my orchard of half-finished books I sometimes wonder, will my trees ever bear fruit? Will I ever reap a harvest from happy readers consuming the results of my hard work? Or will my story trees remain forever ornamental, fun for me to look at, rustling at my window as I sleep at night, but never to be shared?
How about you? What would you compare your writing process to? What is your favorite kind of tree?
Leaf images courtesy of Billy Alexander @ stock.xchng
I brush aside the palmetto fronds to see my Muse sprawled across one of those inflatable chairs in the middle of the swimming pool, his arms outstretched, his wings a sodden feathered mass behind him. His face is turned toward the bright sunlight, his eyes are shaded behind dark silver sunglasses. The wind ruffles the surface of the water as he drifts a little closer to the pool’s infinity edge.
I step closer and crouch next to the pool to scoop the cool water in my fingers. Nice. I’d sure like to take an afternoon off myself.
“Why don’t you?” he asks without moving from his languid position. Sweat glitters along his exquisite jaw line.
“Hello, M. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
He raises the frothy orange umbrella-adorned drink to his lips without stirring the rest of his prone form. His skin looks frightfully pale next to his black T-shirt.
“You’re going to get sunburned out here if you’re not careful,” I warn.
“I’ve got sunscreen on,” he retorts and slips the drink into a cup holder on the pool chair. “SPF 200.”
“There’s no such thing as SPF 200,” I say.
“There is now.” He eases himself upright and raises his sunglasses above his eyes to get a better look at me. He appears mildly annoyed. “What do you want?”
I settle myself on the ground by the pool and slip my bare feet into the clear water. “I’m not really sure. But I do want to know how you ended up here.”
He lets the silver shades fall over his black-rimmed eyes and paddles closer so that we’re both under the shelter of the flowering hibiscus trees. Their pink petals litter the surface of the pool and he listlessly picks one up to hold it to his nose, smiling. “The owner is out-of-town and needs a house sitter. Fairly easy to arrange, actually.”
“You mean you get paid for this gig?” I ask in astonishment.
“In a manner of speaking, yes. Unlike you, my dear writer.”
“Please. Don’t remind me.”
“Can I get you anything?” he asks, although he appears to be in no position to get me anything whatsoever.
“I’ll help myself,” I say as I rise. “Don’t stress yourself out on my account.”
“There’s a pitcher of Long Island iced tea in the kitchen …” he starts, but I’ve found the facility myself, a shiny steel granite counter topped affair that Charlie Sheen would be proud of. I return with a Diet Pepsi and settle into one of the wooden deck chairs, far enough from the pool to avoid getting wet should my silly Muse decide a splashing of his writer is in order.
“Why don’t you join me?” he asks.
“I’ve got writing to do, don’t you know? The usual suspects, revisions, classes, blog posts.”
He shakes his head and takes another long sip of his orange drink, then picks out the umbrella and lets it float upside down in the water. It drifts away like a tiny lifeboat for his idle thoughts. “I keep telling you, Writer-babe. When are you going to start having fun?”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve got a lot of side trips happening, and even this little foray into the Hollywood Hills is potential blog fodder.” I glance up to check out the white Hollywood letters above the trees to verify that Morpheus really has taken up residence in one of the most expensive zip codes in the U.S. “What made you decide to take off like this?” I ask.
He quirks the corner of his mouth into a half-smile. “You seemed to have things under control, and every Muse needs some vacay once in a while don’t you think?”
“You think I can manage on my own?” I ask.
“Apparently, but then I see you here, longing for some of this, and I have to wonder.” Morpheus frowns. I haven’t seen him think this hard in a long time. While he ruminates I survey the loveliness that surrounds him. Beyond the infinity edge the city is spread out beneath the villa, clay tile roofs shaded by Bougainvillea and pines and palms, lush vegetation incongruous to this sunny desert climate. Here, in this shady yard, it seems as if the world has forgotten us, one distraught writer and her wayward muse trying to figure out if we’re still on track.
Finally he answers me. “Tell me, Writer-babe. Why do your write stories?”
“To try and understand my life.”
His eyebrows rise above his mirrored shades and he chuckles. “Really?”
“Okay, to get away from my life,” I confess. “And to make myself laugh, and maybe make a reader or two smile.”
“You don’t want to be rich and famous like this dude?” he says and waves his hand to indicate the sumptuous villa behind us.
“Sure, that would be great, I guess. But I know I never will be.” I take another sip of my now lukewarm Diet Pepsi.
“Which is my point, Writer-babe. Why do you drive yourself crazy trying so hard, when you’re already here? You’ve got everything you need right under your fingers; all you need to do is call me.”
I stare at my words as the warm breeze wafts the fragrance of hibiscus over my shoulders and swear I hear the soft thump of a reggae beat from the next door neighbor’s yard. I’m not in my spare bedroom anymore, staring out into my weed-infested backyard. I’m here in Hollywood, enjoying a sunny afternoon.
“So, you gonna come for a swim?” Morpheus asks and pushes himself and his floating pool chair back out into the sunlight. “It’s cooler by the edge.”
So that’s what my Muse did on his summer vacation. How about you? Does your Muse need a vacation?
And, would you let Morpheus watch your house when you’re out of town?
Jungle image courtesy of ‘Lightsource’ ,infinity edge pool image courtesy of Steven Heap both @ stockfresh.com, umbrella image courtesy of ‘Foxuman’ @ stock.xchng
Warning: This will not be the usual Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Believe it or not, this month I’m actually a secure writer. Shocking, I know, but it’s true!
See these handcuffs? That’s what it feels like to be an insecure writer. At every turn, you question yourself: Am I doing this right? Am I nuts to think anything will come of this? Who do I think I am to put words on the screen, when the demigods on the NYT bestseller’s list, who turn out books with fabulous covers and reviews printed in USA Today and People magazine, would declare this endeavor all but hopeless. After all, I’m just a daydreamer who happens to find words for these pretty pictures floating through my brain.
That’s where the Insecure Writer’s Support Group comes in. Founded by the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh ,we gather on the worldwide web to share our insecurities and encourage one another to fight the good fight, never surrender, and all that good stuff. (Oh, and it’s free to join, just click on this linky to add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.)
I joined without a second thought, (two years ago!) back when A Scenic Route was just a place to post my words as I got used to seeing my thoughts up there for others to read. This terrified me beyond all measure, but the kind writers who stopped by and left nice comments gave me a huge boost of confidence. I saw that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Together our collective of nervous writers can slay this beast of insecurity.
But finally, I’ve got a huge milestone to report. Much as I hate talking about myself, I think it’s only right to share this with everyone who has stuck with me through all my whimpering. Remember in June when I fretted about whether a writing contest would destroy my fragile ego?
Check it out:
I would never have had the nerve to send the first three chapters of this story out if it weren’t for everyone who comments here. All your wonderful words of encouragement mean so much to me. Who are these amazing writers who have unshackled me from my insecurities? Where do I start?
Alex J. Cavanaugh of course, but there are so many others! Nancy H. Doyle, Melissa Maygrove, Shell Flower at Tangent Shell, Mark Koopmans, Kristina Stanley, Ivan Borodin, Katherine Lato, Peter Cruikshank, Sammy D at BeMuzin, ‘ArmchairAuthor’ at Ink, Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature, Liana Mir, Amanda Martin, Jamie Ayres, Mike Schulenberg, Will Hahn, Melinda Hagenson, Katie Checkley, Juneta Key and of course, Holly Lisle.
Can you see me glowing? I know there will be more bumps on this exciting journey, but today might be a good time to take a moment and enjoy the view, because as we insecure writers know, the valley of self-doubt is never far away.
How about you? What were some of the most exciting milestones in your writing journey so far? Did something that scared you ever give unexpected results? Let’s celebrate the good stuff this month!
Handcuff image courtesy of Lance Kidwell @ freeimages (formerly stockxchng)
Will he remember me? Will he be forthcoming? Have I completely lost touch with my protagonist? Have I completely lost touch with the last vestige of my sanity?
The door opens and he grins broadly. “Writer!”
It is the first time I have visited him here in his new home, now several years into his happily ever after. “Nick?” I ask nervously. “Do you have some time?”
He laughs and steps aside to let me in. “Of course I have time. In fact, I’ve been expecting you.”
I look him over curiously. He hasn’t changed all that much since I last wrote him and still has that lean confident bearing that drives the women wild, and he still favors black over all other colors. If I looked closely I could probably see strands of grey in the dark locks that fall provocatively in front of his eyes, but I don’t try too hard to find them. Mortality is hard enough to face in myself—no reason to confirm its existence in my characters. “You’ve been expecting me?” I ask and step inside. The hardwood boards creak under my boots.
“Can I take your coat?” he asks.
A fire blazes in the hearth and soft furniture is scattered in front of it. “Maybe in a bit. But can you find a place for this?” I offer him my precious, my laptop.
He takes it with a smile and sets it on a table behind the sofa as I gaze at the artifacts of my story spread out in the room. The sunburst Strat is leaning on its stand, plugged into a rack with headphones tossed on top. I wander toward it, as if drawn by a magnetic force stronger than my own will. “This is the one, isn’t it?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies softly. “You want to play it?” He reaches around me to wrap his fingers around its neck, and the scent of his skin and breath surrounds me.
“Oh no. I don’t play. I just want to touch it.” Which I do, and marvel at the smooth cool surface.
“Can I get you anything?” he asks. “Pop? Wine?”
“No thanks,” I reply automatically, recoiling at the thought of too much wine ruining my chances of discovering what secrets I’ve left unexplored behind those stormy eyes.
I settle into the sofa and open my laptop. “Okay, just a glass of water.”
“That’ll work,” he says and scoots into the kitchen while I pull up the questions for the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Since I see that I’ve already wasted four hundred words summoning him up, I’m determined to keep the answers short and sweet.
Nick returns with a frosty Corona and a glass of water. He leans back on the sofa across from me and lifts the Corona to his lips, taking a long drink while I finish typing. “So, what brings you here tonight? Got more Larry Brooks questions?” he asks.
“Nope,” I reply. “I haven’t given up on those yet but I’ve got some other questions for you. It seems I was nominated for a blog hop.”
He laughs. “Not the blog again.”
“Yes, the blog Nick. They love you over there, you know.”
“Course they do …” he says without a trace of irony, then takes another drink of the Corona. “What kind of blog hop?” he asks.
“It’s the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Urban fantasy writer Juneta Key nominated me last week, and it seems I’m supposed to post on August 18. So here I am.”
I can tell he’s repressing a smile, but seems willing to play along. He sets the beer on the coffee table and runs his fingers through his hair. “What about that guy you’re writing now? Tristan something or other? Can’t you interview him?”
“I thought about it Nick, believe me. But he’s in first draft, and I tend to leave first draft behind the closed door.”
“Okay, fine, but you do realize that our conversations tend to meander?”
He nods and the smile escapes at last. “Okay, shoot then. What do you got?”
I look over the questions and paste the first one onto the screen.
What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
“I think we’ve covered that one, haven’t we?” he points out.
“Yes we have, but for newcomers, I should mention that you are indeed fictional, in spite of all my attempts to portray you realistically.”
He snickers. “Next?”
I whip another question on the screen:
When and where is the story set?
His eyebrows rise. “You want me to answer that one?”
“Sure,” I type.
“Okay. So most of the story takes place in modern Los Angeles, where dreams are supposed to come true but often don’t.”
“And?” I prompt.
“Of course there’s the back story. The Summer of Love, the acid tests, and the music.”
“You know they say the best thing about the Sixties was the music,” I observe. “Do you think that’s true?”
He gives me that skeptical grin. “And what’s wrong with the music of today?”
“Nothing at all, Nick. It’s great,” I say. And because I know that a discussion about music can eat up hours of story writing time I toss the next question on the screen before he can delve any deeper into his favorite topic.
What should we know about him?
He eases back into the sofa, setting his feet onto the coffee table. “Well, they say I’m pretty good with a guitar…” Then he frowns. “Not so good with the ladies.”
“See? I’m modest too.”
“Well there’s that dying thing. You know, about the ghost and stuff.” He avoids my gaze and grabs his beer. “You going to write about that on your blog?”
“Maybe, but I won’t give too much away.”
“Good writer,” he says.
“I try,” I type. But we have more questions. I paste the next one up.
What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?
He rolls his eyes. “Where do I start?”
I sit with my fingers poised over my laptop. “At the beginning?” I prompt him.
“Yes. There’s Stuart, who was a certifiable drunk, not to mention all that other shit—“
I cut him off. “This is a family blog.”
“Yeah, all right. But Stuart. And then there’s Libra. Every time I tried to talk to her, she disappears on me …” He stops, unsure if he should continue.
“Perfect, Nick. We don’t want spoilers. And we are taking your story to Jami Gold, the book doctor, so anything can happen. How about another question?”
This prompts another long drink of his beer. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and I slap the next question on the screen.
What is the personal goal of the character?
“You mean my goal, right?” he asks.
He takes a deep breath, then fixes me with his dark stare. “I think you know what that is. Same as yours, Writer. To share my music, my art, with the world.” He laughs. “Screaming fans. Late nights making music. Touring with guys I can get along with.”
“Babes?” I ask tentatively.
He smirks. “Maybe. You’ll have to write me to find out.”
I pause and think about that for a moment, and I’m relieved to find that the next questions are easy.
Is there a working title for this novel and where can we read more about it?
Nick sits with his arms across his chest and asks, “You can field that one, right?”
“Are we done?” he asks.
“We’re never done, Nick,” I type, glancing anxiously at my word count. “But yes, this post is almost over. There’s one more question, but it’s for me.
The question everyone seems to be asking these days appears on the screen.
When can we expect the book to be published?
“What do you think, Nick?” I smile at him and he grins back.
“The book will be published when it’s ready to be published,” he states.
So that’s my bloated, rambling character intro. Do you get carried away with your characters like I do?
But wait, don’t go yet. I have nominees!
The super-talented Kristina Stanley whose manuscript Descent was nominated for the Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Author Award. Its sequel Burnt was nominated for the UK’s Crime Writer’s Association Debut Dagger.
Look for their Meet My Character posts next week. I can assure you they will be much shorter than this one! (Okay, maybe not Will’s …)
Water images courtesy of ‘Homydesign’ @ stockfresh, masks courtesy of ‘Lucretious’ @ stock.xchng
No, I’m not talking about my lifeless blog–although I can see why you might think that. I’m talking about my novel, and I’m worried …
This month’s insecurity is brought to you by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a whole bunch of awesome created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers (like me!) who have issues with their self-confidence. Are you insecure too? Fear not! Just click on the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
So, about my novel.
Last month I got back the last of my reader critiques for The Tempest’s Serenade and was thrilled that everyone seemed to like the story. Some readers were confused– some were very confused– but in general they found the characters to be compelling and the concept interesting enough to keep them turning the pages. I’m excited to start in on my next revision. It was scary to share a story that I felt was so broken, but I’m really glad I took the plunge.
Something surprising came up in the critiques. I’m finding that more than one reader has strongly suggested that, after nothing more than a polishing pass and a run through spell check, I self-publish The Tempest’s Serenade as it stands right now.
That’s wonderful, right?
Then why do I want to curl up into a ball muttering, “No No No No No no nonononononono …”?
How could I in good conscience perpetrate this mess upon the world? My readers are confused by the story. Hell, I’m confused by the story.
I had to walk away from my computer after I read that suggestion and do something else. I pulled the weeds out of my front yard. I took a long walk in the woods. And I pondered. Should I take that advice? Am I simply dragging my feet on this story? Should I let it go and move on to something else?
Eventually after consulting my playlist (where my Muse lives), I pulled myself together and realized that, ultimately, I am the warden of my own stories. No one else, not even writers I respect, can tell me what to do with them. I don’t even think an agent or a publisher can push me in a direction I don’t want to go in. I need to learn to be true to my vision, even if that vision is still fuzzy.
Does that make me an uppity artisté? Does that mean I will never make a dime writing fiction?
Good thing I like my day job, isn’t it? Because I’ve decided to be true to myself and proceed with another revision. I didn’t sit down to write A Story; I sat down to write this one. And I need to stop and think before I do something that feels wrong for me. Putting The Tempest’s Serenade out into the world with so many loose ends is something that feels wrong to me on a fundamental level.
Will I know when it’s finished? I think so. I hope so.
How about you, insecure writers? How do you know when it’s time to send your story out into the world? Am I crazy to keep banging away at this story?
Toy image courtesy of David Jones, thumbs up image courtesy of ‘magicmarie’ both @ Stock.xchng
No, I haven’t utterly disappeared! But I’ve been pulled head over heels back into my writing as I’ve fallen in love with my story again.
What’s it like to be in love with a story? Is it like the puppy-love infatuation teenagers have when they hold hands for the first time or cast shy glances across the classroom at their new-found crush?
Maybe. Because that’s how it was in the first draft of the story, when everything was rosy and bright and the words flowed onto the page like cream into my coffee, and tasted just as sweet when I read them back to myself. This is when characters lead me by my furiously typing fingers into their world, and didn’t let me go until a hundred thousand or so words later I looked up breathlessly to find that I’d filled another Scrivener document with their adventures.
Now I think my love might have matured into the real thing. This is the love that cleans up the dirty dishes after dinner and mows the lawn on Saturday afternoon. This is the love that gets up early in the morning to cook breakfast before heading off to work, and that welcomes me into its arms telling me I’m beautiful no matter how sweaty and mud spattered I look when I come in from working in the yard.
Revision is this kind of love. This love reads craft books like Save the Cat, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Story Engineering. This love is working with book doctor Jamie Gold (thanks to a lucky break and a blogiversary prize) to bang out my plot inconsistencies once and for all. This love painstakingly enters each and every comment from my critique partners into worksheets in preparation for yet another draft.
Still, there are moments where my passion for this story makes me feel like a teenager in the throes of her first crush, and that calls for a playlist, don’t you think?
Click here to visit my playlist on YouTube.
Have you ever fallen in love with a project you thought was past hope? What do you do when you want to restore faith in your abilities?
And, is this leap of faith the real reason they call it ‘make believe’?
Watering can and daisies image courtesy of Sandra Cunningham, daisy image courtesy of Konstantin Kirillov, both @ stockfresh.com
Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’re not yet familiar with this fantastic group, we’re a bunch of writers, three hundred and counting, who are brave enough to air our insecurities on the worldwide web the first Wednesday of every month. Want to join? Click on this linky, hop on board Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog, and put yourself on the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
Hi, it’s me, your Past Self. Remember me? The one who thought it might be fun to enter a writing contest? The one who thought there was a remote possibility you’d impress anybody with those miserable three chapters you sent out?
So by now I’m pretty sure you’re really distraught about the results. When you look at your scores and think it was a stupendously stupid idea to try to write a novel, much less to try to make it publication worthy, I want to make sure that you aren’t entertaining even the slightest notion of ever quitting this crazy gig.
In fact, I want you to remember how much you love writing. So many thrills on this storytelling road have nothing whatsoever to do with what a professional editor thought about the ponderous beginning of your novel.
Remember that sunny May morning, when for the first time you banged out a thousand word scene in one sitting—a scene that had a beginning, a middle, an end, and best of all, a point?
Remember the first time you ‘saw’ your protagonist leaning against your car with his hands in his pockets, smiling shyly at you from underneath his dark locks?
And those low scores?
Wear them like the badge of honor that they are. You took a chance and let your words shake out on the screen of someone who knows what they are doing. Not only did you finish this novel, but you revised it, and revised it again, and then dared to give it to someone who can point you in the direction of a better story. You took this clumsy misshapen early effort and allowed someone wiser to have a look and poke at it with a red pen.
I know. Sometimes those pokes will draw blood. That can hurt and weaken your resolve.
But I want you to see how blood can be beautiful, given in sacrifice to a new and better version of yourself. Those red marks show your dedication to your craft, your willingness to take a bit of pain in order to grow stronger. As you learn to fix mistakes, you will cover them with bandages while your bruised ego heals. Wear those bandages proudly. It means you’ve taken steps to become a more proficient writer.
Does your feedback tell you that you started the story in the wrong place? Great! Next time you’ll start it somewhere else.
Does the protagonist have murky stakes? It’s time to bring them into sharper focus.
But whatever you do, Future Self, don’t despair. There are many who have taken this road before you and emerged a stronger writer. You will too.
And one more thing … check the fourth drawer from the top of your bookshelf, where the colored pens are. I stashed some chocolate there for you. If all else fails, ingesting large quantities of that will get you through.
With highest regard,
Your Past Self
How about you, insecure writers? What would you tell your future self about the steps you’re taking now to improve your writing? Have you ever entered a writing contest?
And, where do you hide your chocolate?
Ink blots images courtesy of marija jure, blood image Courtesy of ‘MPMthe1′ , pen image courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso all @ stock.xchng