So, this month’s question is Did you ever just say “I quit” to writing? If so, what made you come back?
I’m not sure I ever quit quit. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another, and writing regularly. There are highs and lows, of course, and there are moments when I think I should just make writing my secret hobby, and go sell insurance for a living, but quitting?
No. For me, the problem isn’t quitting, so much as starting.
I’ve always written. I don’t remember not writing. I have stacks of old journals in the basement, and files and files of hand-written, spiral bound stories. I entertain myself that way. Sometimes, I understand myself that way.
The problem for me, is getting to the point where I believe in my abilities enough to make this more than a hobby. Enough to do the heavy lifting that gets you from writing for your own amusement in the back of the classroom to writing professionally, with the intention of supporting yourself.
The trick isn’t–as far as I can tell–to keep writing. It’s to keep writing for others. Others who may not be cheering you on, yet, and who are definitely going to see that plot hole, and who are definitely not going to take “Well, it exists in my head” for an answer.
I’m getting there in baby steps.
There’s the first novel you write. And that revision nearly killed me. I kept going around in circles, and you know… since I’d only written ONE novel, and since I was having massive trouble getting it revised, and I was… probably having more fun writing for myself than working on this insurmountable, clean and polish until other people can read and enjoy it thing.
I’m not really to the place where I believe that I can revise quickly and efficiently, and not want to sell insurance. The write for others for a living thing just seems soooo far away.
But my version of quit would probably be start writing whatever suits my whim, without any professional intent, rather than actually giving up writing entirely.
Last night, I dreamed I was helping one of my favorite authors rearrange his collection of movie posters.
I’m not sure whether this is a good dream or a bad dream, because on the one hand, I am kind of a fan girl, so I could have a pretty good time playing grateful slave labor. On the other hand, I do have some qualms about encouraging this new movie/television hobby in someone who is supposed to be writing my new favorite book.
And, honestly, I have some qualms about the groupie-ing mindset that produces a dream like that.
Really? Dream Self offered to help you clean out your attic?
And furthermore, Dream Self didn’t even question it, when she was there in jeans and a t-shirt, ready to work… and you showed up looking like you were about to go on national television?
You’d think black would show at least a little dust, after a long day of attic diving. But…
Oh, yeah. That’s right. Dream Self Groupie.
And in this dream, I was just way too impressed with Favorite Author* to notice that I was basically following him around taking orders and hauling movie posters.
Suddenly, that starts to sound like one of those insecurities dreams. Not the rose, but near the rose type things.
Too bad. It was pretty fun, until I woke up and started thinking.
*No, I won’t name names. He probably isn’t that much of an asshat in real life.
The question of the month is What is Your Favorite Aspect of Being a Writer? Of being a writer, or of actually writing? There might be some semantics to bicker about in there, somewhere.
My favorite part of being a writer is the community that it makes me a part of. I enjoy being able to reach out to other writers, to communicate, to make new friends. I enjoy the sense of belonging, based on effort and art. I enjoy the idea that at a very basic level we believe that storytelling is worthwhile, and worth doing well.
My insecurities, this month:
I’m going into NaNoWriMo with a half-revised manuscript on the back burner, and a whole lot more that I may never revise crammed into overflowing drawers and stuffed trunks. I’ve made my Nano Goal a more presentable, cleaner first draft, and I’m working toward that.
My doubt–as always–is that I can revise quickly and efficiently. I’ve reached the point where writing 50,000 words in a month isn’t impossible. It’s not even all that unusual. But the revision… That gets to me. Particularly since I have a tendency not to write things in order, or even in recognizable chunks.
Right now… I’m trying to work with ONE piece of paper at a time.
I get ONE piece of paper. Not a notebook. Not a computer. ONE piece of paper. When that’s full, I get another piece of paper. I don’t get to make a lot of starts and stops, and I don’t get to freak out and bounce all over the place. Naturally, part of the problem will be staying away from the endless supply of paper.
We’ll see how it all works out, and I’ll report back in a month.
I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–which begins November First. And Holly Lisle–of Holly’s Writing Classes–is sponsoring a team for the event. That makes this the first time that I’m doing Nano as a member of a team. Look at me! I’m a joiner. See? I have a banner and a team-name to prove it.
So, here I am being a team player.
The goal for Nano–the individual, ONE person goal, that is–is 50,000 new words in a month. And that used to seem impossible. Until I did it. And then, it just seemed difficult. Until I decided to make my writing goal 1,000 words a day. And then, it just seemed slightly hectic.
This year hasn’t been great. Life happened, and I got out of routines that worked for me, and into treading water. I’m hoping to get back into routines, and make some effort toward nicer, cleaner drafts that will revise like a dream.
Right now, that cleaner draft thing seems impossible to me. We’ll see.
The idea that pops into my head is that I should be taking ONE piece of paper instead of a notebook. So I have to focus, and make use of ONE sheet instead of starting over and starting over.
The thing that I don’t want to to quit doing over nano is the blog. Which is a new habit, and a new routine. I think this works fairly well for me. At any rate, it’s not dangerous.
With a little bit of peer pressure and a lot of force to keep me in line, I might get some real work done over Nano. We’ll see.
When I first started this round of query research, I had a dream in which an agent returned my query letter along with a do-it-yourself flaming bag of dog poop kit. Dear Author: Please ignite this on your porch. Well, I suppose we can all be grateful that, being city people, agents have very limited access to horse poop.
The first time I ever showed a novel to a beta reader… well, the first time someone actually told me what they were really thinking…. my inner pantser was hard at work. I’d been revising, but the truth is, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to revise, and what I had was the shiniest, most grammatically correct chunk of scrap metal that ever walked the earth.
Eventually, she gave the manuscript back, and admitted she couldn’t get through it. It was repetitive. Circular. Hard to follow. It was a disaster.
And she was right.
I won’t get into details, but the book didn’t start in the right place. It had way too many characters (most of them, corpses.). And somehow–I’m still not sure how I missed it–it had two protagonists, and they each had a partial plot line, and it was… well, sorta two incomplete books smashed together to make one complete disaster.
The picture I had in my head was so clear… and yet, what I’d written was unreadable.
After that, I’m always a little unsure if something–particularly something long–is good enough. Am I good enough? Is my writing good enough? Am I capable of holding a stranger’s attention through three or four hundred pages?
The whole “Am I Good Enough?” Question ties in with this month’s IWSG question. How do I tell if my project is ready? Well, I guess the answer is, I don’t. I run it through my revision process. Read through it a few times… and then send it out to other people to make that determination. I wouldn’t trust myself, but my friends are smart, and they have good taste. And if they like it, and if they’re able to make it all the way through… I fix the things they think need to be fixed, and ship it out.
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The first letters from our municipal liaisons are arriving, today, and I got back to my home region for the first time this year. Nebraska::Other. A rip-roaring writing community of eight people. Twenty-five percent of them are Municipal Liaisons, if you’re doing the math. Which I am.
As always, I’m seeking out new writers and new writers’ groups. And…
Somebody suggested a Google Hangout, since we’re spread out across the entire state.
And I’m vaguely thinking of defecting to Lincoln or Omaha. After all, that’s a fairly short drive, and there are more people in either one…
And yet… there’s a part of me that’s incredibly loyal to the small-town, stuck alone in the middle of nowhere writers and intellectuals. I connect with that. I am that. Have been for much, much too long. And I can’t imagine growing up, that way, or trying to get feedback on a first novel that way.
There’s also a non-nano writers’ group starting up. I might actually do that, if I have time and energy.
I still have to do my annual search for real live, local, in my own town writers. Last year’s wasn’t wildly productive. I located my next door neighbor. And her abandoned manuscript. And I still haven’t found a good way of bringing up the fact that I recognize someone from on the internet.
And I don’t have an actual idea, yet. I’m still hoping that one will turn up sometime soon, and I can pretend to plot a little bit.
Are you doing Nano this year? I’d love to hear about the novel you have planned (or not planned) and be sure to look me up over on the Nano forums.
Today, I password-protected the first ten chapters of the Science Fiction Experiment.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. And this is what I’ve come up with.
When I started this blog, it was incredibly small. Microscopic. Just me and a few writer friends I know from various places on the internet. And I started posting chapters from my novel to entertain them, and to get feedback from other writers.
Now, the blog is still small–it’s still microscopic, in terms of the internet–but it’s getting to be huge in terms of a writers’ group. And as writers’ groups go… well, I have a handful of really amazing, and active readers, and then, I have some passive spectators.
This morning, Recently, I was watching my stats. Watching someone move through the Experiment chapter by chapter. And I love watching people read my stuff. It’s the proof that what I’ve written is readable. For me, that’s an accomplishment.
But the interaction–the “here’s what I think” –that’s the reason I post stuff.
And I was sitting there, waiting. Leave a comment. Leave a comment. PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT.
Nothing. Not a compliment. Not a note pointing out a misplaced comma in chapter 7. Not even a quick Joe wuz here.
It happens more often than you’d think. And maybe, before I tried doing it, myself, I would have done the same thing.
But right this minute, I’m thinking about what I want from this blog, and what I want to do with the Science Fiction Experiment after it’s cleaned and polished. What I want from posting writing on the blog is more or less the same thing I’ve always wanted. Interaction with other writers.
My plans for the Experiment have changed. Solidified. I would like to publish it as a book. At some point, it went from being something fun to entertain a few friends to being something I really believe in.
The first step is to go back, starting at chapter one, and password protect what’s already here.
After that… I’m not sure. I may go on posting new chapters behind passwords, or I might focus on revision for a while, and then beg the people who have been reading and critiquing as they go to be my beta readers.
So, that’s what I’m doing, and I’m open to suggestions. Make sure I have your email addresses, if you’re interested in beta-reading or passwords.
I made it to 1000 followers on Twitter, this week. That’s an accomplishment, for me. I’m not all that outgoing in real life, but apparently, in a no-commitment forum, where all I have to do is be momentarily distracting, I’m not too bad.
I get a few views from Twitter, now and then… but not as many as I’d like. I still don’t have concrete goals or a sense of what realistic expectations would be, but there you are.
I keep thinking thoughts about getting on YouTube, too. Vague concepts of reading short stories on the internet keep dancing through my head. I’m not sure I could do that as myself, but… maybe as a giant green cat, or a hag, or some other costume that wouldn’t match my real-life, shy writer persona.
Or, maybe if I can drag some of my poor, unsuspecting friends into it with me.
Hello, poor unsuspecting friends. I have ideas. Come play with me.
Audiences don’t bother me that much. Stage fright? Never heard of it. Stepping off the stage fright? That’ll stop me cold. Dancing on table tops? Easy. Looking someone–just one person–in the eye, and saying Hey, I made this. Don’t laugh? Well, that’s where I might throw up.
So, here I am. Trying to be moderately entertaining. Trying to come up with the character that would let me promote my work. That nice, balanced mix of traits I really have, and traits that are make believe.
Can I be myself while pretending to be someone else?
Sometimes, I think it’s actually possible.
The thing I really need to work on–not just this year, but always, no matter what–is organization. I need to write more linearly. I don’t know how to do that, right now, but I got some good suggestions the last time I brought it up.
Right now, I’m working on a story–and that’s using the word “working” pretty loosely–about a ship sent out into space to start a colony. I have a main character, and a secondary character, and maybe a thousand words. I had to think to remember what it was about so I could mention it here.
I really did intend to write, when I got started, but old projects and other commitments keep pulling me in. Maybe it needs to marinate a little longer before I have real thoughts on the subject. Or maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s not marinating; it could just be rotting at the back of the refrigerator.
Ordinarily, I’d just walk away from the idea–after all, if it can’t even hold my attention, how can I expect it to hold anybody else’s? But right now, I don’t really have a lot of focus, and my attention span is… hey, look! a duck!
I’m only a couple thousand words into it. If it doesn’t perk up, soon, somebody’s going to be torn apart and eaten, just to kick things off.
Momentum is one of the big things I get out of Nanowrimo. It helps to have a goal and a deadline, and four billion of your closest friends all waiting to be horribly disappointed.
I am going to need another project for that (since this one’s already started.)
I’m also coming up on the October edition of the scifi-fantasy-specfic blog hop I participate in. I’m supposed to have a story. I don’t have a story. Not even a small one. I have to glue myself to a chair and just do it. And later on, there’s the literary advent calendar (same deal.)
And a couple of other commitments that need time.
Plus, I may wind up having to squeeze in a Transcontinental Airway System beacons and arrows road trip later on. I can’t decide whether that sounds like fun, or not. But if everybody else is doing it… well, I don’t have a choice.