Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pitfalls -- Despair

Hi folks, tons of stuff hitting this week end so this will be short but heartfelt.  I've seen authors at the point of despair and feel like I'm teetering close right now. So how does this pitfall work? It's the feeling you get after hundreds of submissions, hundreds of more queries, a number of almost published moments, and a ton of personal notes from many, many, publishing professionals that your works are PRETTY GOOD, but not good enough, for a number of reasons.  I will tell you what I do to deal with it.

I keep working. You just don't go this far and give it up. It's not good sense.

I also do little things that perk me up  -- go to an open reading, try writing something I haven't tried before, and daydream  about the moment when someone says yes to my work. The only thing I'm sure of -- despair is a choking emotion, and it must be negated.

I fight for optimism. I keep a file of notes people have written to me about how much they enjoy my writing. I reread those. I talk to my writing friends about how I feel and this often cheers me up. I think about people who have persevered in much more trying circumstances than mine.  I think about the future the most, instead of the past. Last, I hope. I let that thing with feathers perch in my soul.

Here is the deepest thing I know to do. I ask myself if my stories might make a difference. The answer is the one thing I am sure about. I think they will, and so I don't give up. I believe. That is all I can do.

Hope you climb out of the pit of despair if you are in it. I am sure of this too: if you quit, you will not succeed. :) Keep trying.

Here is my doodle: "Diving Bird"  This was copied from a petroglyph in New Mexico. I like that the soul of the bird is a smiley face. 

One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. Lucille Ball

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pitfalls -- Stagnation

Hi, folks, I'm continuing my series on writing pitfalls. I've done several of these: Formula, Amalgam, Too Eager, No Velcro, Choking, Distraction  This week is a problem I called stagnation. 

You have a great idea and write the book, but something happens between the idea and production. The story falls apart.  What you envision in your head is not working. You have produced an absolute mess. Your critique partners cringe when you bring it into group. Months roll into years, and you are still pecking this project that seems to never move forward.  You are stagnating and this is not a good thing. 

There are two outcomes for this project. One, you will reinvent it, or, two, you will let it go. There is no middle ground for this. The only way to solve stagnation is to shove the project in a drawer for a long while (at least a year). You will be able to save some of these projects, but not all.  I have a few files that I've written on in bold caps: CLOSE THIS FILE RIGHT NOW! IT'S OVER.  I don't delete projects; they may be organ donors, but I do know when it is time to turn my back on a story.

How? Identification. I stop pecking at the mess and name what is wrong with the thing. Your critique partners can help with this too. It might be a marketing problem: No one wants a picture book about kids killing bugs...your whole premise is just not going to work. It might be a plot problem: The twenty seven murders are dragging this book down. Not all the problems are glaring: Your fantasy world and real world might disconnect.

The bottom line, you must identify the  manucscipt problem.Then fold your cards and get out of the game. Drain the writer's swamp by removing this blockage.  Let the dang manuscript go and run with another idea.  

I hope that you move out of any stagnant waters and streak forward with projects.  This is like decluttering your house. You will breathe easier. I will be back next week with more good stuff.

Here is this week's doodle: "Flamingo!"


But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. Arthur Conan Doyle

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pitfalls -- Amalgam

Hi folks, this month I writing a series about creative pitfalls. Last week I touched on the pitfall of formula. This week's pitfall is called amalgam. I see this in published books sometimes and in my own work (sigh).  This is when a content creator brings together a mishmash of ideas -- good ideas -- and then fails to synthesize them into something cohesive. Cough, cough, movie analogy -- Cloud Atlas. I love you, Lana, Andy and Tom. David Mitchell wrote an amazing book, but you three didn't synthesize this and yikes. I do give you props for ambition.

How do you fall into the pitfall of amalgam? You aren't trusting your good ideas, and hence you've gone into the work of others in search of beefy bits to give your story some ooomph. You set out to write a classic regency romance novel. Sparks fly between Jane and her Mr. Bingley. It's innovative and working. Then you read this really great book about time travel, and low and behold, a thieving time traveller -- think Eric Bana -- shows up in your novel, in search of a cursed star sapphire and he seduces your Jane.

Oh, then you read a great conspiracy thriller and decide to  mix in some political intrigue about the medieval masons. Jane is the last in a line of powerful steampunk wizards and must kill Mr. Bingley to prove her loyalty to the guild and take down that thieving time traveller, because the cursed star sapphire is part of a magic scepter used to keep Underworld demons at bay. This is not turning out to be a very satisfying romance.

You've written 150K words of your book with no end in sight, and you don't really know what your book is about anymore. You flail around, and wonder what happened. You shove this manuscript into the box at the back of closet that already has 10 other manuscripts in it -- all failed attempts. The good news is all this failure is really a good thing. You need persistence to succeed as a writer.

The bad news is this is not a pile of genius that is overlooked. You have created a pile of a lack of confidence. How are you ever going to get on track? Well, stop being so hard on yourself and try having some fun.  Relax.  Your best content comes from your emotional core.  You obviously like a lot of different kinds of books and mashup isn't an impossible thing, but you are the glue that is going to make it work.  You have to take control of your writing life, what do you want? Focus. Classic regency romance? Do that. Something else?  Fine, but define it and stick to YOUR vision. 

At the end of the day, I 'm not saying to don't mix elements.  But if you do, you need to synthesize them and you need to own them. Don't let all the work of others bleed into your book. Be inspired. Be bolstered. But don't be a book cannibal.

So pull out that manuscript that haunts you and start cutting out that bloody mess that has infected your great book. You have always felt there is a good book in there. Believe in your vision. Add in your unique slant. Synthesize.  Do it. Climb out of the pit. See you next week with more writer pitfalls.

This week's doodle is called: Blue Seagull.

I'm closing up with a quote for your pocket.
Some things are destined to be -- it just takes us a couple of tries to get there. Jessica Rowley Pell Bird  as J.R Ward

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Pitfalls -- Formula

Hi, folks,  this month I'm going to dig into pitfalls that writers fall into from time to time. I will spend the month of June uncovering hidden hazards in writing. Please check out my earlier series on Pitfalls too. So here goes.

One pitfall many writers fall into is formula. There are stacks of writing books out and writers gobble these up. Faves include Robert McKee's Story, Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, the Elements of-- series. Yes, these stacks are good books and offer great advice. But here's the deal, the most important part of writing isn't in the books. The most important part of writing is who you are and what you want.(Mythic!)

A novel to me is akin to sailing a ship around a world on a sea no one has never been charted. I'm a voracious reader and I know that many writers stay close to the shore, don't take risks, and end up producing hopelessly mediocre work. And what really kills me is they can do  more. I will see evidence of more but they don't do it. Consider this, formula may be holding you back. Don't get me wrong, formula is not a bad thing, but it's like acetaminophen, too much of it will poison you.

So how do you know if you have fallen into this pit? You are surely in the pit in you are trying to mimic another author. Listen to my kindergarten teacher Ms. Crabtree: be yourself. You are in the pit if you read stacks of writing books, but you sort hate the work you are producing. Stop that right now. You are in the pit if you avoid the place you want to go in your story because it goes against the rules. Break the "rules", dang it! You are in the pit if you have abandoned a project you love because folks have told you it is too out there. I say, go there. You may sink the ship, or you may discover a new world. 

I hope that you zoom forward this week with your projects.  Thanks for dropping by. I will be back next week with more of this series. Seize the day.

Here is the doodle for the week: Owl.

Your quote for the week.
I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.  William Ernest Henly