Wednesday, October 5, 2011

IWSG: Making Progress




           I am ashamed.  Deeply so.  I used to read the blog posts about other writers who just couldn’t seem to push through that wall, who weren’t inspired, who struggled with their plot, who wailed about not being able to create dimensional characters.  And you know what?  I just didn’t get it.  My experience, up ‘til now at least, was so easy breezy.  The words never failed to come.  The plot was clear as a sunny Seattle day.  (Yes, the sun does occasionally shine here and when it does, oh boy!)  And my characters were so alive, I cried over their tragedies on a daily basis. 
            Of course, I didn’t know any better at the time.  I didn’t write to be published.  I didn’t write for any other reason than I had this story in my head and it needed to be released for my sanity’s sake.  And then when I did decide to seek the road to publication, I muddled along and weathered the trials all writers stumble with.  But I never fell down without being able to get back up.  And I never doubted myself either.  I was too naïve.  For whatever reason, I felt there was someone or something outside of myself that wanted this done, who put me on this path with the notion that I would succeed.  A sort of divine intervention. 
            I finished my book and wrote my query and I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.  So now it’s time to move on from that project.  Time to prove it wasn’t just some fluke, that I do have another book in me.  As I was finishing up the first, I had a few decent ideas, one of which I picked because it was intriguing and I’d never read a story like it before.  But all the while, I was worried because, unlike the first time, those words weren’t coming, the plot was elusive, and the characters foggy. 
            Here was the doubt all those other writers wrote about, the kind I never had any understanding of.  I panicked.  I was desperate to prove I was, in fact, a writer with more than one story.  And I know the story is there, but I just can’t see the details clearly.  When I read that one writer I follow took four or five years to write his novel, I cringed.  How can anyone have the tenacity to work on something for that long and not give up, to not lose interest?  It seemed unreal.  Improbable.  The fact that nothing was clicking into place made me question if I could do it again.  Did I have that stubbornness to work through the difficulties month after month, possibly year after year?
            Well, what I have discovered is that, although the story hasn’t been dropped into my lap whole, as was the case the first time around, I do have small details that take shape a few times each day.  I write them down on my virtual “Brainstorming” notepad on my iPhone.  I scribble in my notebooks.  I keep reading in my genre, reading books on craft.  I keep blogging and making connections.  And I keep in mind that the process this time is the same, only slower, much, much slower, that this challenge is what will actually make me a writer, what will prove that I do have it in me. 
            It’s the difficult times that prove our true mettle.  If it was always easy, it wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment.  Am I insecure now?  You bet.  Do I doubt if I can really do this again.  Every single day.  Until the first draft is complete, I will always doubt whether I am a real writer or not.  But I don’t think there is a writer out there who hasn’t had the same doubts.  It’s a battle scar, proof of a hard-won personal war.  I guess I no longer feel like an untested rookie.  It might just take me a few years this time instead of a few months, but as long as I continue to make the slightest bit of progress each day or week, I’m good with that.  At least, I hope so.
            How ‘bout you?  You good with that?                  

39 comments:

R. Jacob said...

I know how you feel, somewhat. Besides my general blog and drawing, I have one on poetry. When I started, the ideas tumbled in my head all day and night. I couldn't write them down fast enough. And then it stopped. It has been over five months and the poem room is empty. It happens to everyone.

Your mind has put up road blocks right now. You must sit down each day and write, even for 15 minutes. You will have a breakthrough before you know it.

JeffO said...

The ups and downs of this whole writing thing are pretty incredible. The first two months on my WiP, the words practically fell out of me. Since then, it's gone back and forth between 'the groove' and 'pounding my head on the desk in frustration.' I agree with Mr. Jacob's comment above: write each day. You'll get through it, a little at a time.

Laila Knight said...

You are definitely a writer. Don't let your own brain talk you out of it. The fact that you're jotting down tidbits as they come into your mind is a statement to the fact. That's how I get my plot. It means you have a passion for the craft. I have no doubt I'll be picking your books out of bookshelves one day soon. Your journey is an inspiraton to many writers. They say artists are at their best when they write from experience. Well, we can't experience everything. So I play a game. I've discovered one of the best ways to cause the words to flow in is to pretend my main character is real, and wherever I go he/she goes with me. Hmm, I've also considered that it might be a form of schizophrenia, but it makes for some fun writing. :) Hang in there, Nancy. Keep reminding yourself that each step is a little bit closer to achieving your dream. You will get there soon.

Eva Gallant said...

I know the feeling. I haven't completed the first book yet! I haven't worked on it in months. But I keep blogging, and the intention is there....I will get back to it.

Joylene said...

I sympathize. Some of my novels were easy to write, others were like pulling out my own teeth. I survived. These days the struggle is welcomed. It means I'm challenging myself. Best of luck with all aspects of the business, Nancy.

L.G.Smith said...

It's different for everyone, but I think doubt is a constant for writers. I blogged today about how it's actually not a bad thing to have in small doses. It's so odd, isn't it, the way the creative process works? Some days the words just flow out and other days it's the most wretched experience to get a paragraph down. I think as long as we keep moving forward we should count it as a win. :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

Just keep cracking the whip and you will get there! I know it's easier said than done, but everyone seems to believe in you, you just need to believe in yourself. I think I've used up my cliche quota for the day! Julie

Tara Tyler said...

i can admit i'm not perfect and am willing to work on correcting my mistakes. i get the most discouraged when i think i did a great job and i get a big negative critique...hasnt happened in writing yet beacause i dont feel i've done a fantastic rewrite yet!

way to be published and keep going! good for you!

Jessica Bell said...

If there is anything that is on your side it is TIME. Take all the time you need to write that second novel. I think it's better that you just write at a pace that is comfortable for you and leave the 'shoulds' to those who think them important :o) Thanks for dropping by my blog. I'm now following you too.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Well said! Every writer struggles, I think we just each struggle at different points in the process. You know well that I had the same experience with FCF as you had with The Mistaken and then struggled after that. But you are way too fascinating a woman NOT to have more stories in you. I just know you do. I've said this since the moment I read your first three chapters: I can't WAIT to see what else you come up with! Writing is kind of like a relationship--if you're committed to it, you have to choose it every single day. Then the words will come. Sometimes easily, sometimes not.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Starting a new project after you've been so comfortable with the last is daunting - you have to get to know new characters, new timelines, a whole new world. The first novel is easy because you don't know any different - you certainly don't know you might struggle a little. But if you did it before, you can do it again! Good luck.

Linda King said...

Hi Nancy! Thanks for following my blog. My advice is the same as everyone else's - just keep writing! Write anything, even if you think it's not what you really want to say, because there's bound to be something you can salvage! Nice to 'meet' you!

KH LeMoyne said...

Nancy, I sympathize completely. That said, you put this all in a lovely post full of points and emotion. So I'm thinking the 2nd book will work its way out your fingers and on to the screen. Again. Look forward to hearing about #2. Best of luck.
~Kate

Jennifer Hillier said...

Even being published, the insecurity never goes away. It's because we love it so much, and we want it so bad. The second book is difficult, and I will tell you that any progress you make - even if it's tiny - is amazing. Push when you need to, take breaks when you need to, and never forget that you love this.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm good with that!
It took me longer to write the first book than the second, but I think the third will take the longest of all. Crap.

Barbara Kloss said...

You weren't kidding, were you? Okay, so this isn't the first time you and I have done this. Seriously.

Glad to know I don't suffer alone ;) WE WILL OVERCOME!

Jennee said...

Ahh, this post explains so much. My first novel came easy...so I completely understand what you were saying! And now...I have words, I have ideas, but can anything tie together? Can I complete anything to my liking? Oy! Great post!

M Pax said...

Yes. I have a friend to who I write long rambling emails whenever I get stuck. For some reason, that process helps me process. Usually by the end, I figure out what I have to do, but I send the email anyway. She gets a kick out of reading them. Sometimes I need real help, and her answers often lead me toward the answer.

I'm one of those who has spent years polishing and have at least one more round of revisions to go. Not quite at this point though. As you know, I have other projects on my plate at the moment.

You'll get there. You will.

L'Aussie said...

Hi. thanks for stopping by and reading my post for Insecure Writers. I'm glad you did. I like what I see here and have followed you here and on Networked Blogs.

I'm with you re the novel writing. Congrats on getting your first novel out there. It looks great! As Jessica Bell says, take your time. Do you do NaNoWriMo in November? I've written the rough drafts of all my novels during that time. Getting them edited takes a lot longer than a month though! But it does help to dedicate a month to getting words on the page.

Denise

The Golden Eagle said...

I found myself in the same situation recently. My first finished novel was one where I felt I knew the characters, the setting, and the plot all set out from the beginning to the end--but once I finally got it done, I had trouble coming up with something else to write. I couldn't get a good idea to stick with throughout a novel.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm good with that too, most of the time. Sometimes it involves a step backwards too vs. progress daily. In the greater picture, it's all progress. Right?

Thanks for your supportive comment on my blog, Nancy.

You are clearly a very articulate, gifted writer.
xoRobyn

Carrie Butler said...

I love our writing community and how we're able to relate to each other. I mean, we all seem to suffer the same struggles, don't we? I think that's how we stay so tight-knit. Keep fighting, Nancy. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Such a great line: "It’s the difficult times that prove our true mettle." So true. And first drafts, for me, at least, are difficult times. Unfortunately, it seems that to be a writer is to struggle. *sighs*

Lynda R Young said...

I can relate to this. I think between project times is the hardest. My recent experience was that I came up with enough ideas but none of them followed through when I started expanding the ideas for a novel. Thank goodness one of the ideas finally stuck :)

Elliot Grace said...

...it's during that downtime when we begin to question ourselves. For when the muse is humming along, fingers drumming with vigor over the keys, our confidence is an iron pony ;)

This is a wonderful means of supporting each other. Better than the best critique group available.

El

Jeremy Bates said...

my thing is this: when i finish a book, i always think, "S*** I don't think I can do that again." But then I start writing and the next one comes, usually better! (knock on wood)

Pk Hrezo said...

You'll find that book groove, don't worry. I know mine pretty darn well by now... 6 stories later. I have a rhythm and method that works for me. You'll find yours too and there's no hurry... :)

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Your initial confusion about hearing other writers lose their muse reminds me of a friend's hubby who could NOT understand why I had bad morning sickness when none of his wife's pregnancies had them. It wasn't until her last pregnancy that she was hit HARD with morning sickness.

We don't understand until it happens to us, but it makes us that much more compassionate toward others.

I know how you feel, I almost never have a hard time with writing. But there are those rare moments where it escapes me.

Thanks for your honesty!


♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

Al Penwasser said...

If it was easy, you'd be writing a Danielle Steel book. Or the backs of cereal boxes.
As if there were a difference.

Jessica Salyer said...

I know this is easier said than done, but try not to stress too hard about it. I found that the harder I stressed out about it, the harder it got. If I just let it simmer and thought about it almost passively, that's when it came to me. Good luck and happy writing.

Melissa Sugar said...

I can really relate to your post. I just finished my first book, a legal thriller and while writing it I was so full of enthusiasm and everything just seemed to click. I am now sending out query letters and trying to start my second book. I say "trying" because I have actually started, but I don't seem to be going anywhere or at least not like last time. I have questioned my self as well. I thought that maybe a particular case I must have tried or some injustice I witnessed during my years as a prosecutor must have inspired my first book and that was all I had to tell or share.

I thought that maybe I wasn't a writer after all, but it did not take long to get that itchy need to write. I have a new plot and a new cast of characters and I am writing. Admittedly I don't have the same rush I had the first time, but the more I write the more excited I become. I also found that much of what I wrote in the first few drafts of my first book that I had to cut has prompted a few new ideas.

Hang in there.

Murees Dupé said...

I definitely think you have more than one story in you. I simply think you shouldn't worry too much about it. When you feel inspired the story will come.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and following me. It has been nice meeting you.

Melodie Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melodie Wright said...

What is a real writer? How many people have to read your stuff before you're real?
You are a REAL writer, Nancy. *sprinkles fairy dust* Just like the Velveteen Rabbit! :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I have doubts all the time. But I'm having too much fun. When this quits being fun? I hope I don't reach that point.

klahanie said...

Hey Nancy,
Thanks for your verbalisation. Indeed, you strive to make writing progress each day or each week. Insecure as one may be, you, my good friend, embrace the passion and inspiration the magic of the written word brings to you. That is a priceless gift and I wish you well.
Happy writing and take very good care of yourself.
With respect and kind wishes, Gary :)

Wanton Redhead Writing said...

Congratulations on finishing your first book! Awesometacular!

You state your query process is going well, I'm so jealous. How many partial and full requests are you getting? Doesn't it make you jump up and down when they do?

I am almost ready to start my fourth book querying, but need to finish the third edit first. Thank you so much for your learned and extensive advice. Check back in a couple of days to see where I am in the rewrite query process... Thanks again.

WritingNut said...

Yes, I'm definitely good with that... so true. We all struggle, there's ups and downs along various points of the journey.

And I particularly love this line: "It’s the difficult times that prove our true mettle".

I wish you the best of luck on your querying! :)

Reviewer11 said...

Hi Nancy. I understand. I, too, have experienced way too many writer's block. Isn't it frustrating when that happens? Have you started writing again? How about some inspiration? Sometimes I need a little kick and sometimes this place helps me get started with an idea. Here's the link if you want to give it a try.

http://www.mamakatslosinit.com/writers-workshop-directions/