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IWSG: Why Can’t I Write Like Everyone Else?

December 3, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome 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

My Winning Stats

My Winning Stats

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

My Scrivener Docs

My Scrivener Docs

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

Goofing Around

Goofing Around

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

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41 Comments
  1. December 3, 2014 7:33 am

    Ah, my friend, is there really such a thing as a straight line? If there is, I’m definitely not on it either. I can’t even see my road from where I’m standing now, but I know it’s there somewhere behind all the brush and tumbleweeds that have collected along it since September. But I also know that I will find my way back to it in just a few more weeks. . . I will. I will. I will. I MUST.

    But please let me assure you: you are not alone.

    • December 3, 2014 6:14 pm

      Here, let me help you shovel aside the leaves and snow to get you back on track– because I miss you!
      It is good to know that I’m not the only one who wonders if I’m doing this right. 🙂

  2. melissamaygrove permalink
    December 3, 2014 9:11 am

    Being that I’m trying to get a companion novel to my debut written before all my fans forget about me, I’m sticking to one project. 😛

    I think you did great. So what if it’s not all for one story? If you made progress on other things, good for you. 🙂

    • December 3, 2014 6:16 pm

      You’re right, I did make progress! Splitting myself all kinds of ways makes progress so much harder to keep track of though. You’re fortunate to have the kind of focus it takes to stick with one project at a time. 🙂

  3. December 3, 2014 9:55 am

    Yep. All us other writers out here are effortlessly and consistently writing in a straight line 💥

    My line is so straight, I tripped over it a couple days ago and broke both thumbs and that’s the ONLY reason I haven’t been blogging. Writer’s block and monkey mind have nothing t do with my absence 😎

    I loved Exhibit B ‘A Word from Our Sponsor’. Is that a sign we should turn our efforts to ad copy ??

    • December 3, 2014 6:21 pm

      A Word from Our Sponsor was another strange thing actually. It was the ‘me’ that works a day job etc., wondering when I was going to fit some sleep into my schedule!
      And you have to tell me how you got that cool red star into your comment! My emoticon skillz are limited to smileys and winking smileys and I would love some new ones. 😉

      • December 4, 2014 11:40 am

        I have zero emoticon skilzzzz either and now everybody is using minions, so I’ll be behind-the-times again “-)

        The star emoticon is from an I-Pad app. Sometimes they work on WordPress and sometimes they don’t. I’m going to send you a few right here ! Oh, I can’t; I just realized I’m on my Dell and Dell doesn’t DO emoticons. Yikes.

        • December 6, 2014 9:43 pm

          Minions?! Just when I thought I’d learn my smileys and be ready for the world, they come up with something new.
          I guess I’ll have to stick with just plain old words to get my point across! 🙂

  4. December 3, 2014 10:31 am

    I don’t think you are as alone as you may believe. I hear the same complaints from others. As for myself I have spent the last year writing the first draft of two novels, simultaneously. I try to write three or four days a week on one of the books and one or two days on the other. I tried to put the shorter WIP aside and focus strictly on the longer novel, but my Muse, Willow, wants to play in both worlds. When I take this once a week deviation from the longer novel, I end up returning to it with a refreshed mind. When I think constantly on the longer novel, my thoughts become jumbled. It is as if focusing on the shorter novel helps me to untangle these jumbled thoughts and I return to the longer novel refreshed with a clearer view of how to proceed.

    • December 3, 2014 6:24 pm

      Yes, I totally understand wanting to be in two stories at once, although I have more success with this technique when the stories are in different stages and different genres– one paranormal in revision and one sci-fi in first draft for example.
      It’s nice to see you back here, Peter. 🙂

  5. December 3, 2014 11:11 am

    Does exhibit b ‘brainstorming with dove’ equate to inspiration while showering? (‘dove’ is a brand of soap here in the uk).
    I too keep wondering if I’ll mature over time (like a cheese!), let’s find out and compare notes as we go! 🙂

    • December 3, 2014 6:31 pm

      We have Dove in the US too, although it was actually ‘Dave’ the imaginary literary agent for that section. But brainstorming with Dove is a great thought. I will try it!
      I sometimes think that writing is like wine, distilling the experiences of my life into stories, so the idea of maturing over time seems plausible. Let’s mark this post and check back in a year or so, and see how far we’ve come!

  6. December 3, 2014 11:33 am

    A very nice, candid post Kirsten and I agree with the sentiments expressed here (which I suspect you guessed would be coming). I’ll add only these two points. 1) I have completely given up on the definition or or quest to become a “real” writer, and my happiness has only increased. If I write, I’m happy with it, nearly every time. 2) In the five or so years before I started to chronicle (my version of “real” writing), I had a phase where I WAS writing stuff, but I kept thinking of it as “audience of one”. They were excerpts, or half-starts, or detailed explorations of this-and-that, and in every case there was ONE person (different each time) who I thought would really appreciate it. Which sounds a bit like the way you’re describing your so-called distractions from writing. Perhaps it has no audience, I don’t know. But in my experience, one thing became part of my Compendium, another went into a novel coming up, and still more is out there in my published work. So you never know! It takes no space or trouble to hit “Save”. Just wait a while and see.

    • December 3, 2014 6:35 pm

      I think you’ve hit on something here, Will. Perhaps I am just looking at the carnage of my recent NaNo victory too soon, and I need to let some parts settle before passing judgement on its value.
      But you’re right about one thing: When I was in the midst of writing it all, I was quite happy. That’s got to be worth something!

  7. December 3, 2014 12:23 pm

    That’s still a huge NaNo win in my book.
    Some people work better going back and forth between projects. That might be your style and if so, just embrace it. And if you don’t finish everything, that’s all right. It’s practice.

    • December 3, 2014 6:38 pm

      This is why I like the IWSG so much– I get to talk to all different kinds of writers, and realize that it’s okay to be different!
      Yes, and practice. I’m okay with that too. 🙂

  8. dksalerni permalink
    December 3, 2014 12:45 pm

    There is nothing wrong with the way that your write, and it’s not true that “real” writers only work on one thing at a time until it’s done — especially after selling a book or two. You’ll have work to do under deadline for one editor, but you’ll be pulled off that to proof-read something else, and then you have to stop and write promotional posts for this other thing, and then there’s the NEXT project clamoring for your attention, too, because you don’t have another deal in the works after the current one and it’s making you nervous.

    If you jump from project to project — you’ll fit right in!

    • December 3, 2014 6:45 pm

      Wow, that sounds like a lot of juggling! But it sounds like fun (mostly) too. I don’t seem to have trouble focusing on whatever I happen to be working on, it’s just that when I make a little progress I feel that I’m neglecting something else.

  9. Loni Townsend permalink
    December 3, 2014 4:39 pm

    I absolutely do NOT write in a straight line. 🙂 I started in the middle of one POV, wrote to close to the end, jumped to the middle of a different POV, wrote some in book 3, jumped to earlier in the time line, restarted a scene, restarted again, restarted again, and then called it good for the month. At least you got 50K. Great job!

    • December 3, 2014 6:49 pm

      🙂 Yay, yes! I hop all over the place too– at least I did this month. I have written a few stories straight through, but maybe it’s a case of needing to explore a later section to feel sure about the earlier one.
      I knew this NaNo was going to be a mess for me. I guess it just surprised me how messy it actually got!

  10. December 3, 2014 5:17 pm

    Congrats on NANO…no matter how you got there:)
    You don’t write like everyone else because you are not LIKE anyone else. Honestly, circuitus route notwithstanding, I envy your freedom and fun. The more I pound away at this writing gig, the more I see myself not having fun. And, if it ain’t fun why do it? I’m with Alex, embrace your style. Thanks for another great blog.

    • December 3, 2014 6:52 pm

      Oh no, you definitely need to stick with the fun parts. Yeah sure, there are days when the words stick inside my brain and don’t come onto the page, or my characters laugh at me and my stupid plot. But eventually I find my way back to the fun parts– usually after a good night’s sleep … 🙂

  11. December 3, 2014 5:30 pm

    I do tend to stick to one project at a time, but I have a hard time sticking to one genre. I doubt I could ever write a series or a sequel, because it seems like each book is in a new genre. I do like to try everything.
    But I think that’s part of being an artist. An artist wouldn’t want to paint the same thing over and over again, right?

    • December 3, 2014 6:55 pm

      You are a writer after my own heart, Jennie! I’ve tried everything from mainstream, to romance, to paranormal, to fantasy to scifi. I love writing them all. (Of course I’m not published or anything but it’s all good practice. 😉 ) I think I could do a series if I liked the characters enough, but right now I’m too busy trying things out to stay in one place very long.
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!

  12. December 3, 2014 5:42 pm

    No straight lines for me. I did not make word count, but I did write a little over 6000 words after starting on the 9th, instead of the first. I wrote a few scenes, revamped, and did world building, which I included in my word count and I re-plotted. I was derailed the last week of writing due to birthday shenanigans and allowing my attention to be distracted from the goal playing with birthday presents. I was only averaging about 250 to 800 words a day. I knew I would not make 50,000, but I had hoped to make 20,000 or a little more. I am not unhappy about it, because at least I wrote. I have been struggling with writing at all lately, so that was a plus. It also got me to thinking about several short story ideas and planning them too.

    I think you did excellent. The point is you wrote. Yeah for you!!! I wish I was a different kind of writer too, more like Holly, but I accept I operate from right brain. I will never proceed in a linear fashion overall. I am learning to adapt the process for my writing style though. We will get there. I believe in you and your writing. Don’t forget me for beta reads, when you need them. Give me a holler.

    • December 3, 2014 7:13 pm

      I think the main purpose of NaNo is to get people writing, and to push yourself a little harder than you usually do. You did that, and for that you are awesome!
      Thank you for your offer to read! I will not forget when the time comes. You are my kind of reader, and I think you will ‘get’ my stories.
      BTW, how about that new Star Wars trailer, huh? 😉

  13. December 3, 2014 6:31 pm

    You always make me chuckle . . . maybe b/c you remind me of myself! For sure I DON’T write in a straight line either!

    • December 3, 2014 7:15 pm

      Maybe writing on that straight line is overrated! I know we’re having fun over here on the zigzag-y one. 🙂

  14. December 3, 2014 7:23 pm

    Yeah, I can totally relate. Well, except…Your muse takes you on orrery rides? Holy shit. I’m jealous. Most people don’t even know what an orrery is, let alone get to ride on one with a hot imaginary writer friend. Hot! I bet there is more publishable stuff in there than you are giving yourself credit for, though. Either that, or you just need to write a novel about the relationship between a writer and her amazing muse.

    • December 3, 2014 8:45 pm

      It is starting to seem inevitable that my whole Muse experience will end up in some kind of something! I just don’t know what yet because fitting these things into boxes eludes me right now.
      I guess that’s what revision is for. 🙂
      And I didn’t know what an orrery was either until I encountered one in a book by Lois McMaster Bujold and looked it up. Planets, clockwork, and perpetual motion? Yeah, my Muse was hooked!

  15. December 4, 2014 11:49 pm

    I don’t know if it helps any, but I had to turn in drafting to do revisions this NaNo. I had all sorts of good intentions, but push came to shove, and NOPE, first draft took a back seat. Still, you worked on a novel, and that’s what counts. One step closer.

    • December 6, 2014 9:46 pm

      I was totally going to skip NaNo entirely this year, but the funniest thing was that I think I’ve become so accustomed to writing a novel in November that an idea nudged me (well, more like kicked me!) around the end of September–and I had to write it.
      Even though, then I didn’t write it … 🙂

  16. December 8, 2014 10:00 am

    Working on only one thing make my imagination go stale. I think bouncing between work is a healthy way to approach writing. Stick with it if you are enjoying how you spend your time.

    • December 9, 2014 8:11 pm

      I can work on one project for a week or two if I have to, but then I find that I need to take a step back and do something else to keep things fresh.
      I don’t ever want writing to feel like work, and jumping around like this makes it feel much more playful to me. 🙂

  17. January 8, 2015 2:00 pm

    Mine used to take the scenic route until people started forcing me to conform lol. I still sneak off on little naughty tangents from time to time when no one is looking though 🙂

    • January 11, 2015 7:05 pm

      Hi Jossiemarie!
      Aren’t those naughty little tangents the most fun ever, though? 😉

  18. January 11, 2015 10:33 pm

    Straight lines are boring. Definitely do what works for you and what’s more fun! I usually have to conform to something when I start getting deadlines, but until then, just play! No one’s hanging over your shoulder smacking your knuckles, after all. (or at least I hope not) Write on!

    • January 12, 2015 6:03 pm

      Hi Donelle Lacy,
      Nope, no one is smacking my knuckles. 🙂 And I have plenty of deadlines to meet at my day job–which is perhaps part of the reason I resent them so in my play time!
      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  19. January 28, 2015 11:44 am

    If I could magically link all my first chapters together, I’d have enough words for two books. LOL Loved the post.

    • January 28, 2015 9:27 pm

      Hi Jean
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      All my wrong turns make me wonder if I will ever find my way. And all those words! Whatever will I do with them?
      A first chapter book or two would be a great solution. 😉

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