These are just some musings of mine as an writer and avid reader that perhaps someone out there can relate to.
Don’t you hate when you’re a writer and…
1.) … you feel like writing, but you’re totally drained.
I often try to set a goal for myself with writing. Just as a self-employed person has to set themselves on a daily schedule, I think that writers should do the same. I’ve heard different options from setting a word count goal or page goal, but I like to set a chapter goal. Especially if I’m going through and editing a previous work like I am right now with “Clouds”. I did the same thing with “Escape”, setting a goal for one chapter a day getting fully revised and edited. However, I didn’t factor into the fact that “Clouds” was written a year before “Escape” and is exponentially worse. I’ve had to do an overhaul on every chapter so far. Anyway, but because of that, the chapter isn’t taking me only a few hours to go through. It’s taking me several hours (if not days) instead and I haven’t met my chapter goal once in this entire process. It’s frustrating, but it means I’ve gotten a lot of writing done. This happened a lot in my early years too.
What happens when I write too much and sort of binge on it, is that I get weary. Mentally, I’m all there to write and I have the motivation to, but the words are just not coming out the right way or I get burned out very quickly. As a result, a chapter will go from being so eloquently worded that it’s like gold, to sentences that don’t make sense or descriptions that don’t evoke the right emotion for the scene.
What I do to help this is to just take a step back and take a break for a day or two, or however long it takes to get those juicy words oozing out again. It can be hard, especially if writing is how you stay sane (like me) but don’t go burning down the world. If you get to that point, sit your butt down and write (for everyone’s sake!).
2.) … you’re reading someone else’s work and see flaws.
This is not to say that you don’t like what you’re reading. I just got done reading “The Pepper in the Gumbo” by Mary Jane Hathaway and I adored it! She is a professional and successful author with many books published and years of experience to back her up, along with editors to catch mistakes. But, I guess I caught what they couldn’t. More specifically, I saw words missing. I still understood the sentence from the context, but it was like nails on a chalkboard at times. There’s really no way to fix this except to be forgiving. No author will be perfect. I know I’m not. Reading “The Princess and Her Rogue” made me embarrassed because I’m going through another editing round with it and I’m finding little mistakes that I can’t believe I missed before.
3.) … you’re reading someone else’s work and see ways for YOU to improve.
And of course, the flip side to #2 is that you can be reading and learn a new way to describe something. Just the simple way the author writes a character’s smile or an action, or even an emotion they have and you have that moment of “OMG! I totally see it and relate!”. When this happens, I want to remember it for when I’m writing next and look for a chance to use it. I don’t see that as plagiarism. You’re learning through another author’s style and there’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, all the good writers say that you have to be an avid reader first before you can even be expected to write something halfway decent.
I’m discovering that fact to be painfully true. When I wrote my first three novels, I didn’t read that much. I was so dedicated to writing that I didn’t have time to read between that, work and school. I took 3 years off from writing and during that time, I must have read over 50 books total and all of them were amazing. Then, when I came back to writing I was editing through “Enigma” (not the be confused with “Escape”. This one isn’t published yet.) and I could not believe how horrible my writing style was. It didn’t make any sense, there was little to no emotion, inconsistencies all over the place and character interactions were artificial, very shallow. I was appalled and irritated with myself. But, now I know better and so my 3 year hiatus was a blessing instead of a trial. It gave me time to learn what real writing was.
4.) … you’re in the middle of planning a novel and get an idea for another.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been in the middle of planning out a novel and I see or hear something that inspires an entirely new story. Just to name a few without giving away too many spoilers (because you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about): For “Moonstruck”, it was inspired by a song by Leanne Rimes called “Something’s Gotta Give” and driving through a small town in Alabama. “Caged” of my Vigilante series was inspired by watching the trailer for Mad Max when he’s got a muzzle over his mouth. “Moon Lullabies” was inspired by the song “Lullabies” by Nickleback. “Commitments” was inspired by seeing a couple walking down the sidewalk with a baby in a stroller. “Ghosts of the Moon” was inspired by watching a documentary about the British estate where they filmed the TV show Downton Abbey. Anything and I mean anything can inspire a story if you let your imagination have free reign in your life.
It can get frustrating though. I have over 60 novels planned and ready to write because of all these little seeds of inspiration, but I’m still working on quite a few more that I’m stumped on and I’ve got pre-writers block. I’m at a part in the plot that I just don’t know where to go from there. Or I’ve got a beginning and an ending, but no middle. One story I totally trashed because I heard a country song that inspired a story, but it was so short and shallow that after months of having it sit on my hard drive, still in the planning stage, I discovered that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. So far, that’s only happened once. I don’t regret it, but I hope I don’t have to do it again. I hate dead ends.
And then on the other hand, it can be a blessing because if you’re stumped on a plot and get that little spark of imagination from something else, if you work really hard, you can integrate it into your current story and fill in a lot of gaps. I’ve done this several times and it takes a huge weight off my shoulders when I can finally mark that story as finished for the planning stage and go on to the next.
5.) … people ask if you had anything published yet.
I am mostly speaking from my experiences before publishing. If you’re a writer and haven’t published yet, maybe you can relate. While in a conversation with a person, you bring up the fact that you’re a writer and have a book published, or a few books, or just a lot of ideas, and then the person asks the predictable question “Do you have anything published yet?” And you sheepishly reply “Well, no, but I’m getting there.” This is how I gained the courage to step up and get something published.
We were out to lunch with a few friends and the lady I was with knew I was a writer and that I had 4 novels and a short story sitting at home collecting dust. She asked me (for what seemed the millionth time I’ve heard it) if I had published. I told her I hadn’t and it really made me think about if I ever would be published. I always put it off because I didn’t want the rejection letters. With low self esteem already, I couldn’t emotionally handle it. But she mentioned self-publishing and I was curious. After doing a little research, I realized it was easy, free and the only part was that I had to do my own footwork, which I was pretty ok with. That night I went on Amazon Kindle and published “The Princess and Her Rogue”. It was scary, but I did it. The question, however embarrassing, spurred me to action.
But for those who it does not instill a sense that they need to get off their rears and take a risk, it can be difficult to hear. It’s a reminder to them that they haven’t really done anything great. Sure, they wrote a book, but they don’t know if it’s any good if they haven’t shared it with the world. If they’re anything like I used to be, they want to keep their novels to themselves for them to enjoy alone. It’s safer that way and you’re the only critic or fan. That’s not the purpose of writing a book. If it’s a fiction novel, you wrote it to entertain. If it’s non-fiction, you wrote it to edify or enlighten. If these motives were for yourself to enjoy or be edified with, then you’re being selfish. Want to avoid the awkwardness of this question? Get published and be proud that you accomplished something. That way when someone asks that question of you again, you can give them a credible answer.