Tag Archives: Writing Rut

Finally: A Writing Update

I started writing a new book last week.

I was both really excited and really nervous about it. Excited because working on the outline for the novel helped me figure out a lot of details and really understand the story that I want to tell, not to mention the characters who are going to be living through it. I think this is a controversial story, as far as how well people might like it (it’s a tragedy, after all). but it’s still an idea that’s been stuck in my head for a while, so I want to give it a shot. Nervous because it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything that’s a novel-length work. After being in a rut for so long, it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things again.

Which became even more evident after I started writing again.

I wrote twice last week. Once, last Monday, I believe. I had mapped out some time–two hours each day–where I would dedicate to writing. The goal being at least an hour, but having two mapped out, in case something got in the way and I couldn’t write or I was on a roll and wanted to write longer. So I sat down and started writing.

After roughly an hour and a half, I got 400 words written.

Not bad, really. But I wasn’t feeling it, afterwards. I felt like the words were shit and everything I was doing was wrong. As such, the rest of the week, I kept finding other things to do during the time I blocked out to write, whether it was blogging or reading or emails or figuring out what I want to buy everyone for Christmas. It was obvious I was avoiding opening up that document, because it just felt like shit.

Then, on Thursday, I forced myself to continue working (with a little help from an empty To-Do list).

By the end of the night, I had almost 4,000 words.

Granted, about half of those were recycled from the project that I scrapped that this one is being fleshed out from; same generally premise, only a lot better and more detailed, with different characters and conflict. But I was trying to rewrite a scene that I had the general bone structure for in a previous book. So, I decided to copy that scene over and see if it still fit, with a little more fine tuning.

It took a lot of fine tuning, but I cannot describe how great that felt, writing that night. Not only did I get the first chapter written, but I also discovered that my character has a little bit of snark to him that I wasn’t expecting. And that’s going to have some interesting consequences for the novel and how it plays out.

Writing like that? It was like waking up after a really long nap. Or stretching out and preparing to go for a run after not being able to for months. The muscles I used to hone daily were sore and a little out of shape, but they were still there. They still worked. They just needed a little more encouragement, is all.

How interesting, then, that after a busy weekend, when I finally have time to write again this week, that I’m suddenly apprehensive again; that I’m looking through my fresh To-Do List and trying to decide what I can do first, instead of writing. Those nerves have crept up again, that doubt always lingering attempting to make itself cozy in the forefront of my mind.

I need to do two things:

  1. Stop thinking about publishing. I keep thinking, as I’m writing, about this book’s future. Is it marketable? Will agents like it? How will reader’s response? Is it good enough to query? Yet the plain truth is, none of those questions matter–hell, none of the answers to those questions matter–if the book itself doesn’t get written. I can’t do anything with a blank page. I can’t sell a story that hasn’t been written yet.
  2. Just write. I just need to write the damn thing. If this draft sucks? So what? If this story never gets published? So what? If no one ever reads it but me? Yeah, so what? Even if this story “goes nowhere,” I’ll still learn a lot by writing it. It’s still a story I really want to tell. It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve written so far and something I really want to figure out. So I’m going to write it and, if it gets published in the future, fantastic. If it doesn’t, it’s still not a waste of my time and right now, the only audience that matters is me.

*tries to think of a clever way to end this post, but fails, so decides to do this instead, so she can actually go write and try and meet her word count goal for the day*

Cheers.

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Well, Shit

Oh, you gotta love the rollercoaster ride that is being a writer who overthinks (which begs the question of if there is any writer who doesn’t struggle with overthinking and questioning their work).

Let me tell you a story.

Peruse through this blog the past, eh, year or so, and you’ll find a plethora of posts discussing my writing rut and my struggle with it. You’ll also find a few posts discuss my revelation and decision to scrap a novel previously titled THE RESISTANCE and start over from square one.

Last week, I started working on a rough outline, writing out the history of the events that happened before the story I wanted to tell and the basic plot, mapping out the beats I wanted to happen in each chapter. This week, I began fleshing out a few plots holes that still remained and did a little more research, even putting a few books on hold at the library that might make me a bit more knowledgeable over some of the topics I wanted to include. Though I struggled last night to start working on a personality sketch of my main character, I was excited. I was sticking to the routine I’d made for myself and this story seemed to be forming in front of my eyes. I was getting excited once more, that feeling I’d missed for so long during that rut.

So, I decided to tell my man about the plot. I didn’t do the best job describing it, but I pushed through.

And then he said, “You know I really like you, but–”

And my heart dropped.

In the famous words of the brilliant writer Varric Tethras: “Well, shit.”

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted his honest opinion. And it means the world to me that he willingly gave it and didn’t beat around the bush about it, yet was also sweet. It could have been worse. Basically, he said he felt like I was cramming too many elements from sci-fi into one novel and I should try and space it out more, so readers don’t feel overwhelmed and I take the proper time to actually flesh out every aspect and detail. That’s not a bad suggestion, not at all. I’m still wracking my brain about how to exactly do that, plot and story wise, but it definitely could have been worse feedback.

Yet it still didn’t stop me from feeling a little…defeated, in a sense. Here I am, finally taking the steps to get back into the writing game, and I’m already stumbling. Not to mention I just sent ARTEMIS out for (hopefully) it’s last round of beta edits before I can go query, so all around, I’m feeling a little nervous and unconfident about my strength as a writer, especially since it feels like I’ve been out of the game for so long. Plus, considering these ideas were meant to be improvements on a story that was already lacking in every respect and yet they are still lacking…

Yeah, I woke up this morning and just felt, disappointed, in myself. As I struggled to get a few more hours of sleep, my brain wouldn’t turn off, thinking about this story. As I ran, I struggled to figure out how to tell the story I wanted to tell and contemplated–just for a moment–giving up on this story entirely. Obviously it was way too out of my league to attempt to even write. Obviously it’s too bleak, too depressing, too intricate, too alien, for be worth trying. Obviously–

Obviously, I just needed to have mini pity party for myself. Now, I need to shove all those doubts into a place I immediately forget about and then get back to work.

Yeah, this story I’m trying to write isn’t the easiest. It’s complicated, it’s out of my usual realm, it’s a tragedy and it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And I have some decisions to make. More outlining to do. Plus, I have to write the entire thing. Then rewrite it. Draft after draft after draft, which, personally, I think is when the core part of the story is actually discovered and truly written (during the rewrites), so even if I don’t follow my man’s advice and decide to write it the way it’s outlined now–or if I follow it and break this story into multiple books–I know it’s going to change during the editing process. It’s going to constantly evolve and grow and dare I believe it, improve.

But it’s never going to have that chance if I don’t write it because I’m feeling fragile at the moment and have, in a sense, lost my confidence as a writer.

So, if you don’t mind, I have some more outlining and brainstorming to do.

Cheers.


A Change in Plans

Last year, I was on an amazing writing streak, writing four books between one November and the next. It was…mental, to be honest.

So when the new year started, my plan–my vision–was to do the exact same thing again. I had a sequel in one series to write, three new series to start, not to mention all the editing I needed to do with everything I’d written so far. The creativity was kicking, the productivity flowing. Books were going to be written, people. So many new books.

 things read need library feed GIF

As you may have intuitively guessed (or figured out, if you follow this blog), I haven’t written a single new book this year.

I even tried to write one. Got 50 pages in before I started over, deleting most of it. Then, got to 60 pages before I tabled a book for the first time. The words were just not flowing and even though I haven’t written it yet, I knew that story is too important to half-ass just to finish it. It deserve the best I can offer and I wasn’t giving that.

So I went and started editing ARTEMIS, my favorite book I wrote last year. And I wrote this post about some of the fears and roadblocks I had surrounding writing and how I’d been in a rut for so long. One of the points I made was that I felt like turning to editing when writing something new wasn’t working felt like cheating. Like I wasn’t actually writing, because I was simply revising words I’d already written.

Then, the lovely, inspiring and talented Melissa Caruso (who’s debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, comes out THIS OCTOBER *squee*) commented on that post and said this:

If it helps with the “Editing is not writing” mindset, I think editing is not only writing, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. I did the very first draft of TTM in like 2 months and then spent… uh… a year editing it, on and off? Something like that. And there’s not much left of that first draft. It had to be done to get to the final, but it was the editing where I did most of my best work on it. I would be embarrassed to show you some of the crappy first try scenes! I used to hate revising, but now I see it as what it is—writing—and I kind of love it.

And if it helps you not give up… I can tell you FOR SURE that every book, every page, is getting you more XP to level up. I had to write, um, let’s go with “several” books before Naomi rescued me from the slush pile, and one more for good luck before getting a publisher. It’s worth the wait! The more books you write before The Book, the better The Book will be when you get there. You got this!

And friends, that has stuck with me.

I’m only 20 pages away from finishing this round of edits on ARTEMIS (and let me tell you, those last 20 pages are going to make me earn it). So many times, I have rewritten entire paragraphs, if not entire chapters.

That’s most certainly counts as writing.

Not only that, but I like to believe that a lot of the changes I’ve made have been improvements. There were entire scenes I skimmed over which, now that I’ve fleshed them out, makes the story so much stronger, so much more in-scene. I’ve given my characters more depth, made them more realistic. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I feel like this third draft of ARTEMIS is so much stronger than what I started out with. And I actually was really proud of that first draft.

It made me wonder: how could I improve my other stories; stories which were the stepping stones that enabled me to have the tools, the courage and the gumption to write ARTEMIS in the first place? How could I use what I’ve learned editing ARTEMIS–not to mention the knowledge I’ve obtained and soaked in from other writers, editors and professionals in the field these past two years, becoming more involved in the writing community–to improve the stories that have sat on the back burner for so long?

My original plan was to try and write four new books this year. Now, I’ve decided to spend the rest of 2017 editing the books I’ve already written. After I finish ARTEMIS, I’m going to enter that manuscript into Pitch Wars. Then, I think I’m going to (*cough*finally*cough*) look at some beta feedback I got over THE RESISTANCE and give that book some desperate attention. Then, if I’m feeling really brave, I’ll return to Darryn and his story, told through the DESTINY OF THE DRAGON trilogy. I know that trilogy has a lot of work and while it’s a troped story that will probably never see the light of day, traditional-publication wise, I still want to make it the best story I can. I just love it too much.

 the joker GIF

Of course, plans can change. Maybe I’ll win Pitch Wars and spend the rest of 2017 fervently working on ARTEMIS (wouldn’t that be a dream?). Maybe I’ll finally figure out how to work around the blocks in Natanni’s story and return to have another crack at that. Maybe I’ll flesh out one of the other books I planned to write and get caught up in the excitement of a new story. I have no idea. But for now, I hope to continue to learn and appreciate the process that is editing, so that I can keep leveling up and writing the best stories I can in that given moment.

Because I really want to take up a spot on your bookshelf, one day.

Cheers.


Insights With Editing

I don’t think there is any “correct” way to edit your novel. You just gotta find what works best for you in that given moment or that given manuscript and continue to strive to create the best story you can.

That said, I’ve discovered some interesting differences editing ARTEMIS for the second time than my previous editing go-arounds.

The first comes thanks to the input from other writers, i.e., I sought help from beta readers. Last November, I sent my manuscript out with a questionnaire, looking for any sort of guidance and outside input to help enlighten this blind creator to the flaws and areas of improvement within her creation. I’d sought out opinions from others before, but never was I so organized or specific. Not only did I give a little more guidance as to what I was looking for, feedback wise, instead of the simple, “Do you like it?” generalization, but I also got opinions from five people instead of just one other person. And not from family members, either. Five fellow writers, all in different stages of their careers.

Their feedback has been invaluable.

Not only was I able to create a six page document of ideas and suggestions based off their advice, but I also made a copy of my manuscript, went through it and inserted all of their line edits. Every time I finish editing a chapter, I compare it to the chapter that I marked up based on their feedback. And almost every single time, the typos that I missed when I first sent out this manuscript, I missed again editing it myself, e.g., using lead when I meant led happened almost every time I use the word.

It never fails to blow my mind how often I’ll have these little mistakes and how I continually miss them, which is just one example of how important a second pair of eyes is.

The feedback from my betas, not only with the line edits, but the larger scale issues they pointed out, as well, has proven invaluable, as aforementioned. I don’t think I’ll go through editing a book again without seeking out betas to get a second (or sixth) opinion, but probably after I’ve had a chance to edit the book at least once myself.

The other major difference I’ve noticed doing these revisions is how I really do have to obey my moods in order to do this properly. Considering I’ve been in such a writing rut recently, I’ve been really focused on trying to write/edit every day to get back into the groove of things. Or finish so many chapters a week.

Sometimes, that desire to write consistently has taken away from the quality of the work I produced. Instead of actually editing and looking at the areas I needed to improve on in each scene (some things as minor as typos, others as grand as deleting and reworking entire sections), I was just trying to fly through the pages. I got through a couple of chapters before I realized that I needed to slow down and actually be willing to do the work.

Even if that meant on the days that I wasn’t willing, I didn’t force it for the sake of consistency.

I do think there is a difference between just being lazy and actually recognizing when you’re not in a mood to put in the work writing. But there have been times in the past month where I’m reading through a chapter and I’ve made all these notes of the elements I need to change, yet I haven’t made any of those changes, yet I made a move to cross off editing that chapter on my To-Do list. Or every single word I read, I immediately think is shit. It took me a couple times, reading through chapters without actually editing them, before I finally forced myself to take a step back, go do something else and then return to that chapter when I’m in a better frame of mind.

And every single time, I’ve found my work to be better than what I thought it was when I was in a foul mood. And every single time, I’ve made the changes I knew I needed to be making, but was just too lazy to make the previous time I sat time to work on it.

So, yeah. I’m not writing every day. Sometimes, I only work for 15 minutes. Sometimes, it’s three hours. Sometimes, it takes me a week to get through a chapter. Other times, I can fly through three in one session. But I’ve found that by listening to my own emotions and actually taking the time to think about what I’m actually feeling and the source behind those emotions, actually really helps my writing. I’ve come to be able to recognize when I’m looking for an excuse to waste time on Pinterest–and instead sit my butt down in that chair and force myself to get the work done–or when outside influences are risking the quality of my work. I’ve also become more keen to recognizing when I’m really in the mood to write and giving myself permission to listen to that desire, even if that means I have to send an apologetic email for failing behind on X, Y or Z.

I only have about 35 pages left to edit before I’ve finished another draft of ARTEMIS. It could take me a day or it could take me a month to finish. But I’m choosing to stop caring how long it takes and instead, do everything I can to make sure I’m creating my best work and always putting in 100% when I sit down to write.

Not gonna lie: I’m pretty jazzed about the progress I’ve made and have a lot of hope for this story. And that’s a feeling I most certainly missed.

Cheers.


Defeating the Brain

So, writing and your brain. Your brain is, arguably, the biggest asset to assist telling and crafting your stories. It also, not surprisingly, is your biggest enemy. One that I’ve been battling–and losing to–for the past six, seven months. There are three main areas, I think, where my brain has created mindsets and thoughts detrimental to my writing game, to the point where I easily went weeks without writing at all.

I’m writing this post to remind myself how to fight back.

Mindset One: Writing is Work

I mean, yes. I know there is a stigma that writing is easy or maybe even a waste of time, but both of those are absolute lies. Writing takes a lot of work. Sure, it could be defined as simple: put words together until they form coherent sentences that tell a story. But there is a lot of finessing involved. There are a lot of drafts, returning to and reworking what was previously written. And, personally, I think the fact that you have to constantly battle your own head–and that battle usually doesn’t stop even after you’re published and doing well–makes it one of the hardest jobs of all. So, yeah, writing is work. Writing takes work. But what I’ve been struggling with is treating writing like work.

Image result for writing is hard

Hold a moment, lemme explain.

I recently started editing ARTEMIS again. Last week, I opened up my latest draft, scrolled down to the chapter I last left off on with every intention of working on it again. But then I realized that chapter needed a lot of work. It was filled with repetition of ideas and information that needed to be resorted, cut and most likely reworded. There wasn’t enough detail to truly put the reader in-scene and I needed to figure out what the point of that chapter was, really. Knowing all of that needed to happen after reading just the opening line of the scene, I actually closed the draft and decided to work on it the next day. I just wasn’t in the mood to try and figure that shit out. In that moment, I was viewing writing as work.

Let’s look at that scenario from a different angle, for a moment.

Those issues still exist in that chapter. But instead of looking at it as, “Shit, I need to ground readers in-scene and add in all of this description,” how about: “Alright, let’s see how interesting I can describe this room layout. What do I see? What do readers need to see? How is it important? What does it tell? Let’s put all that into words as beautifully as I know how.” Okay, let’s try again. “Wow, this chapter just told me X three different ways in three different paragraphs over five pages. This chapter is everywhere, without any focus. I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing.” Instead: “How about I make an outline of what this chapter needs to convey and then figure out how Artemis would logically tell it. Let’s make some beats and rework the info that way. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate his humor. It’s one of your favorite aspects of his character.”

The work hasn’t vanished. The work still definitely needs to be done. But when I think of it as work, I’m definitely not as eager to complete it, sometimes to the point that I choose not to do it at all (a luxury I have considering my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet). Yet when I think of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, to improve my writing to another degree, to push myself that much further, to give this story everything it deserves and more; I’m not only more eager to work on it (most of the time), but I also enjoy it.

Last night, I finally returned to that chapter. At first, I reread that opening line and I just wanted to pull up another tab and start browsing through social media. I didn’t want to put in that work. But I just forced myself to keep reading, thinking in the back of my head, How can you make this better? And how can you have fun while doing it? I ended up not only “finishing” editing that entire chapter, but I also wrote for almost two hours–a lot longer than the planned 30 minutes I wanted to edit.

It’s a simple change in mindset, a simple change in how I view the work I’m doing. But it’s a trick that actually helps overcome this pesky brain of mine.

Mindset Two: Editing Doesn’t Count

This is stupid.

So I’ve had a writing drought recently. And though the past two weeks, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things by editing ARTEMIS, my brain will sometimes whisper that I’m still fully stuck in my rut, because I’m not writing anything new. Editing something I’ve already written doesn’t count.

Again: stupid.

Of course editing counts. Hell, I often find myself working harder when I’m on draft two or three of something than when I was just spitting out nonsense the first time. I don’t have any tricks to crush this idea (it’s been rather persistent, of late), except to remind myself that it’s ridiculous. I’m putting words to paper. I’m strengthening the foundation I laid months ago. I’m rewriting, adding new scenes, cutting, re-envisioning…yeah, it bloody counts as writing.

Mindset Three: Fear and Doubt

This one is as infuriating as it is constant and confusing. I’ve always had fears when it comes to my writing: wondering if it’s good enough, if my stories are worthy to tell, if they are unique, if they’d ever sell. I fear getting publishing and reading reviews claiming my writing is shit, my characters are boring or my plot is trash. I fear offending/misrepresenting people/ideas unintentionally with what I write or what my characters do/believe. I fear never getting published.

And then there are the doubts.

I doubt the quality of my work. I doubt my ability to tell stories. I doubt that any of my ideas are original. I doubt my ability, my craft, my execution, my effort, my drive, my heart, my characters, my plots, my worlds, my voice…myself.

Image result for suffer so much fear and doubt GIF

Pair fear and doubt together and that equates to a lot of time doing anything but writing. Ironically, it’s easy for me to bury my biggest fear underneath all aforementioned: giving up and never writing again.

Honestly, I think I need to focus on that fear a bit more. Because it is real and it is fierce, even if I hide it underneath all of these other fears and doubts that plague me more often they should. Yet how can I ignore that fear and risk it coming true just because I doubt myself sometimes? Just because I am afraid I won’t live up to my own standards of storytelling, my own expectations of myself; afraid of a negative review (which will always happen, no matter how fantastic a story I write), afraid of rejection or hell, afraid I won’t ever be published at all?

Here’s the thing about writing and being a writer. I’ll always have stories to tell. If I run out, I’ll always find things to draw inspiration from. If I mess up one book, I will always have another chance to do better. If I perfect a book, I’ll still have a chance–and an expectation–to improve. Failure and hiccups are inevitable. Yet how many characters have I read, let alone written, who have been faced with impossible odds and make a dozen mistakes–sometimes even failed drastically–only to come out victorious in the end? No matter how many times their brains told them it was impossible, they pushed forward.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Push forward and write stories, no matter how many times or how many ways my brain tries to convince me to do to otherwise.

Cheers.