Monday, September 12, 2011

Insecure Writer Loses Her Mojo

            This is a difficult day for me.  This post was originally supposed to correlate with Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer's Support Group, to be about the troubles I was having starting my next book, about being motivated to compile an outline, choose a POV, and establish the main characters.  This is a new problem for me.  My first book came to me virtually whole with all the characters in place and their story clear.  All I had to do was listen to the voice whispering over my shoulder and scratch out the outline. 
            I had a few muses along the way, folks who inspired me to write, who gave me visual stimulation to shape my main characters.  I simply kept them in mind as I churned out the words.  And it was easy.  Too easy.  I just wrote everyday for hours on end and after a couple of months, viola, I had an 85,000 word novel.  All the while, I read blog posts about writers who were having a hard time writing their stories and I honestly had a difficult time connecting with that. 
Not so anymore.  I get it.  Completely.  That’s where I am now.  Karma, you might say?  Hmm, perhaps.  
            This is not to say I don’t have a story, because I do.  It’s just not clear like it was the first time.  The plot is murky, at best, and I have no muse, no one that inspires me to develop my main character, the protagonist.  And the saddest part for me is that one of the men I used as a muse for my last book’s main character, Skylar, has just died.  He was a real man, young and vital, and now he is gone.  I didn’t know this particular muse personally.  He was an actor whose character work I found stimulating.  His face, or a composite of his and one other’s, played like a movie in my head as I wrote and revised my book.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to put this book behind me as I query for an agent and prepare to move on to my next project, but the death of my old muse feels like a nail in some proverbial coffin, or an omen, perhaps.  Today was the day I was going to start brainstorming in earnest, but now, it seems, his death has sapped my energy.  In some way, it’s like a death knell for my first novel.  How do I get inspired to move on when it feels like an old friend has passed?
No, I’m not the stalker type.  This man was a character to me.  But I am strongly linked to my book’s characters, so this man’s death feels terribly real to me, like my own protagonist has somehow died even though I wrote a happy ending for him.  What makes this harder still is that this man died of cancer, a normally highly curable cancer, one that a special and dear friend has had to battle in recent years.  This correlation comes a little too close to home for me and does touch me personally.  So now I’m sad and scared.  Therefore, no writing for me today, other than this post, that is. 
Though I know it won’t alleviate my anxiety, I was hoping that writing this would help purge my melancholy, help me move on, get over the shock that a strong, young man in the pinnacle of health, at the height of his career, can be brought down in a mere eighteen months.  It hasn’t.  I’m sad that life is so fragile.  Funny, I got off writing just this kind of thing in my novel, but in reality, it just sucks.  But I’ll move on, because that’s what we humans do, right?  We move on.
In the mean time, this very insecure writer has read a helpful post, also by the lovely Alex Cavanaugh, who recently wrote a piece as a guest on Elizabeth Mueller’s blog called Writing the Second Book.  Though his article focused more on writing a sequel, he gives some great tips for getting started on a second novel.  Just in the nick of time for me it seems!  You’re kind of like a guardian angel for me today, Alex.  Thanks for that. 
So, what about you?  Have any of you written a second book?  How was it different from your first one?  Did you have trouble starting?  Any tips?  And have any of you ever lost your mojo, or your muse, like I have?  How do I find it again?                    


Al Penwasser said...

Good news: I've written a book.
Bad news: Nobody wants to publish it.
The "What's Really Important" News: It makes me laugh, so I'm good.
As far as writing my second book, I intended to write a sequel to the first (parts of which you've read here in Blogger! Ain't I sneaky?), but as you know, I'm toying with the idea of writing a "Navy" book. It sounds like a lot of fun; I've already starting compiling a "by year" list of things to write about.
By the way, in the Navy, "POV" meant "Privately Owned Vehicle" so I was initially confused (I'm tellin' ya, those squids are acronym crazy!).

Nicole Pyles said...

I guess you can say that I have written a book already, I just never had the chance to finish it. I count it though because I got to chapter 8. My second attempt at a novel flopped...mainly because I had no direction, but LOVED my characters. Now...I'm on my third attempt and I can't get started. Maybe I'm spooked because of my previous failed attempts. But, it's slow goings and so far, though, It has stuck in my head. WHichis a good sign because so many book ideas I start and they don't pan out. So, I feel good that I have an idea that seems like it will lead somewhere, I just hope that it eventually does.

Good luck with finding your muse. I'm so sorry about the death of the person who inspired you!

Lisa L. Regan said...

That really sucks. That's what I have to say about that. It is really sad and demoralizing when someone in the prime of their life is struck down by cancer, especially, as you said, one that is highly curable. I know it must be a weird feeling since he was a composite for Skylar. It's very sad and I know what you're saying about it being like an omen. That just sucks. So you know how I felt and still feel about Aberration. I guess every book is different. FCF was like The Mistaken. Aberration was a mighty struggle. I think the book that came before that--The Space Between was somewhere in between but closer to the FCF experience. This new book WAS coming out pretty fast and now I'm struggling mightily. I think every book might be different. But I do know this, the book after the book that comes out whole with no struggles is the book that makes you realize that writing is work!

I am totally stumped right now but I think the thing that I'm overlooking is that THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! That's why I started writing in the first place. I need to get back to writing because it's fun to do and I think it will come a lot easier.

L.G.Smith said...

I've had several false starts on novels. For some reason they just lose their steam after a couple of chapters. Not enough conflict perhaps? I don't know. But I suppose there are two ways to work: just push through and keep trying everyday to get the plot on paper, or brainstorm and come up with another idea that gets you excited to write again. And we should be excited when we write. It should be fun even when it's really, really hard.

Also, I too am so saddened by that actors death. It was just too soon. I really thought he would recover.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I read about Andy Whitfield this morning - thirty-nine is far too young.
Nancy, thanks for the kind words. I know you will hit upon a fresh spark of an idea and go full steam ahead.
And I'm hoping I do the same.

Alleged Author said...

I've written a second book even though I loved my first. It was hard to turn my back on the first because I was so connected to it. Le sigh!

M Pax said...

I wrote a first novel ... several times over. And it needs another go, but not now. I wrote a second novel, still waiting for spit and polish. I'll get to it.

Right now I'm writing novellas and novelettes for ecomsumption. I may end up publishing the novels myself, too. We'll see how it goes.

Somedays I find it a struggle. Some days it comes easy [I call that the groove]. I find if I just set some ridiculously small goal, I keep moving forward. Usually, by the time I hit the small goal, I want to keep going.

Those murky ideas often clear up as I write. New inspiration comes in.

I just heard one of my muses died. Just yesterday or today. :-( What a shame. Such a young man.

McKenzie McCann said...

Perhaps you are over-thinking it. Personally, whenever I stop writing, I turn to editing. Whenever I get a new idea for a story, I stop editing and start writing again.

It works for me, but I understand we all have our own processes. You can take your time. The muse will be back.

Carrie Butler said...

*Hugs* I can't add much to what everyone else has already said, but I want you to know that we're all behind you--no matter what. :)

Lora R. Rivera said...

Oh wow... I almost never have a real person in mind as inspiration for a character, so I don't know what that would do to my muse. But I imagine she'd go into mourning. I know she'd come out again though. She'll come back for you, too. And she'll have loads to tell you about your MC, I just know it.

Sometimes, there're dry spells. I get them all the time between projects. Then something falls into place somewhere, and I'm channeling again.

Will definitely check out Alex's post though. Thanks for the link. *Hugs*

Lynda R Young said...

I always have trouble between projects. Always. I think it's because I sink myself so far into the old story it's hard to think of anything else. A bit of persistence gets me through though.

richard p hughes said...

Yes, I lost my muse about a year ago. I wrote about it on my blog. Writing is more difficult for me now that it used to be. The odd thing is, I feel that my writing is stronger now. Hope you find the same.

klahanie said...

Hi Nancy,
I'm very sorry I've arrived so late in regards to your heartfelt posting. I cannot add much to what all the others here have alluded too. This is indeed a sad and poignant time for you.
What I can add is the fact that you have the determination and resilience to write a book. Personally, I have no confidence to even consider myself worthy of being published. And I note all the esteemed writers who have responded to you. I have much respect for them and for you.
In peace and kindness, Gary

Joylene said...

I've written (counting on fingers...) six with number seven fully plotted inside my head. The first three ended about five weeks after I already had the next book's theme or plot clear in my mind.

And then one day I finished the 7th draft of my third book and nada Nothing else came to mind. I thought I'd dried up. What a horrible feeling. That was it. I'd never write again. And worse menopause was upon me.

Guess what my fourth book is about? Yes, a menopausal 50 year old who's being stalked by the son of a powerful politician. Hence "Broken but not Dead" was born. And it's out now and doing great.

I wouldn't worry too much, Nancy. Maybe this is your body saying "Can I rest for awhile?" Maybe this is your chance to read and grow as a writer and maybe do something physical or spiritual for a time? Or maybe not. Maybe it's just a lunch break.

Unless you're living off your earnings as an author, I wouldn't fret. I'd take this time to think about what excites you as a reader. Then go from there.

Sorry I can't be more help. I think everything happens for a reason. I think the bad in life is just as important or even more so than the good.

Joylene said...

ps. I know you're not earning money on published novels. That was my attempt at generalizing. Muse stagnation happens to everyone.

Laila Knight said...

Damn you must post at night. I never catch you till the next day. With me it's a little easier to write because all my muses are imaginary. I still don't understand why you can't use "Lamb Chop" just cause he's gone. If he had every that inspired you why not go with the feelings? That's just my take. And yeah, I do have a few WIPs going, but I need to get through this first one before it drives me insane. Good luck, Nancy. :) said...

I met a Shakespearean actor once -- an Englishman, famous in England among Shakespeareans, and no longer young -- who told me something that made an impression on me. He said that when he was a young man (in his teens) he was the greatest actor in the world. Then, he said, he went to acting school and, for about a decade, forgot how to act.

You come out of it eventually, if you persist.

How to write a novel, the fast-and-furious way.

Nancy Thompson said...

Thank you all for being so kind and supportive. It means so much to me to hear your stories. I'm feeling better and have decided to just kick back for a few weeks, get some queries sent out, and think things through on the new book, take a few notes for the outline and see what happens.

Melodie said...

Hi Nancy:

I wrote a mini-post on how bad experience can be used to heighten your writing a few days back. If you don't feel like writing fiction, how about keeping a journal specific to how you're feeling right now? You can use that later, when your muse reappears (and it will) to deepen your plot/characters/whatever. Sometimes it's best to let things marinate a while and not force things. Sometimes that's when the best stuff happens.

Lindsay Mawson, Thriller Writer said...

That's interesting you talk about this now. I'm about 2/3 through writing the second book to Exposing Dallas. It was easy to write the first book because I was using the same characters and background as a novel I wrote at least ten years ago. And I had to write a second book to answer questions and, of course, because I just love my characters.

But I'm stalling way too much. The first book I wrote in a month. This one has taken me... 5 or so now? It has to be a really quiet, 'inspirational' day for me to be able to sit down and pump out words...

You're not the only one. I just don't beat myself up. I know that at some point, the inspiration will come. Until that moment, I get other things done. Don't fret!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I feel everything you're saying. Oh boy, do I.

Having just finished my second book today (there will be more drafts, but the heavy-lifting is out of the way), I can tell you that writing book two was nothing like writing book one. CREEP came from a place of inspiration. Writing it was a joy. It was all... forward thrust.

Book two? Which still has no title? Not inspired. At all. I had to painfully work out WHAT I wanted to write, and then write it. There was nothing fun about it. Even revisions - which I enjoyed immensely during CREEP - were a horrific experience.

So I guess I'm not making you feel much better. But I will say, you're not alone. :) I feel you. And I am a GREAT cheerleader!

Alexis Bass Writes said...

I find that if a book doesn't just 'come to me' during the first draft, it's not the book i was meant to write. I've got about five books drafted, in various stages of revisions. Only one in the final editing process and an agent just asked me to revise. SO. It's never ending process sometimes, and we need all the support we can get. Great post!!

Julie Musil said...

First of all, you've already accomplished something that so many people set out to do but don't finish. You wrote a book. I've heard that continuing to write, even when things don't come easily, is the sign of a true professional. Keep writing, even when it's hard, and don't be too hard on yourself.

Donna K. Weaver said...

*hugs* I'm so sorry about the loss of your muse. We can connect with people we never meet on some pretty deep levels.

I hope your find your focus again. This, too, shall pass.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I'm also very sorry for your loss. Hopefully, when you least expect it, you'll find that feeling again. Julie

Reviewer11 said...

What's "Insecure Writer's Support Group?" :)

R. Jacob said...

I think you have the success that you enjoyed with your first book weighing down your inspiration and leaving you wondering can you do it again. Keep plunging ahead and you will surprise your self.