Some folks may have noticed that we missed posting a blog last night, even though Sunday evening is the one time we always try to have something. Well, I was having a writer meltdown, and blogging fell through the cracks. J is more than brilliant writer, he is also a fantastic husband, so he helped me work my way through it and come up with a plan of action going forward. Here in brief (with hopefully less angst) is what happened and what I’m planning to do about it.
“I’m just not a very good writer.”
This comment is what started the ball rolling. I always feel this way to a certain degree, but beginning Saturday evening, I felt it a lot, until I finally blurted out these words Sunday evening. J, naturally, said this was poppycock (or some such), but he is not exactly unbiased, so in spite of his best efforts, I remained unconvinced. I finally challenged him to find a single paragraph I’ve written that belongs in a published novel. He pulled up the first three paragraphs of a chapter I wrote years ago, and if I’m being honest, they’re pretty good. They also go far beyond being simply “inspired by” but “completely ripped off from” Dostoevsky. So, I felt less miserable, but still not confident.
I then popped open the novel I wrote this year for NaNoWriMo, randomly reading paragraphs aloud from the chapters I’ve done some basic revision on. Shockingly, I didn’t hate every word. I still saw huge problems, some of which I began conjuring fixes for, but others befuddled me. J made some excellent suggestions for the latter, and I closed up the book not hating it as much as I thought I would.
I asked myself, “Is any of it publishable, and if it’s not, will I ever become a good enough writer to make it so?” Possibly. With this specific question in mind, I started thinking of some of the traditionally published novels I’ve read, and there are some I might be able to equal in quality if I work hard enough. The only problem is, these are novels I don’t particularly admire, written by authors who I’ve read precisely once. So now the question becomes do I want to put in the effort to write novels that if written by someone else I would not admire? But is it folly (and in my case from time-to-time, crippling folly) to say that if I can never write as well as Brandon Sanderson or Joe Abercrombie I don’t want to write at all? (At one point J said, “If the end result of you reading Joe Abercrombie is that you don’t want to write anymore, stop reading Joe Abercrombie. I’m serious.”) Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this question, but for the time being, I’m going to keep writing, although I’m going to do so with a new strategy.
“I love NaNo, but it’s given me so many bad habits.”
Anyone who has spent any time on this blog or has met us knows we are big proponents of National Novel Writing Month. The first year proved some important things to me, particularly that I can write more quickly than I realized, especially when I make myself write every day. But it also taught me I can write a first draft fast. The issue here is that I now don’t always take the time to write, well, right. For instance, 8 days before November and the start of NaNo, I came up with an idea for a new novel I wanted to write. I scrapped the novel I had prepared and dove in to the new project. The lack of prep had its problems, but I ended up with something not entirely awful even if it does need more revision than usual. But before I could finish even the first round of revisions, I came up with another idea for a novel I wanted to write, and I wanted to write it in time to give it to J for Christmas.
A novel in 25 days? I could totally pull that off, because I’d done it before.
So I leaped into the new novel with brief character sheets and a complete, detailed outline. The first two chapters went pretty well, but it was clear that there was no way I’d be done by Christmas. Basically, I can write a 50K word novel in a month, but writing two in back-to-back months was a bit much. I came to terms with this, and figured the opening of a novel would make a better present than nothing, so I continued writing.
Then came the meltdown.
I don’t know if my climb up onto the ledge was triggered by something specific in the novel I’m working on, the disappointment that I wasn’t going to get it done by Christmas, or just the exhaustion of doing so much writing in such a short timeframe while working 40 hours a week. Not that it matters terribly. The important thing is J talked me off the ledge and we came up with a plan, the nutshelled version of which is Slow Down.
Rather than rushing ahead with J’s Christmas present, I’m going to do serious prep work, including the character exercises J likes. I’m going to get to really know my characters and their story before I continue, which will hopefully lead to an appreciable improvement in my writing. The end result being not just a better novel, but if I’m truly lucky, no more meltdowns.