Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Enthusiasm- where is it and how do I get some? January 5, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:21 pm
Tags: , ,

Today is my first extra week day off under our new four day week regime at the Day Job.

I should be feeling wonderful. I should be diving into this fab opportunity to write. Instead, it’s nearly midday, and I haven’t written a word.  I’m sitting here feeling generally bleah, tired and sorry for myself. Sinusitis, a rotten headache, and it still being minus two degrees outside aren’t helping.

The story feels like total crap and I think I should give up already. Not just on the story, on writing.

Some people really don’t have what it takes. The downside of being in a group with such amazingly talented writers is that I compare myself to them. I see that spark, that something extra in their writing that I know is lacking in mine. I suspect that’s something that no amount of learning the craft will provide.

The crows of doubt whisper seductively,”Why bother? Don’t waste any more time on writing, you’ll never make it.”  (Now there’s an image- seductive crows? I’m seeing them in some sort of burlesque outfit.) My internal cheerleader tells me, “Keep going, you’ll never know if you give up now!” The cheerleader is right, of course. What worries me is, the crows might just be right too.

Okay, it’s just another crisis of confidence, I’ll get over it. I can’t stop writing, really. All that happens is I write less, or I take a break. The need to write always jumps up and bites me again and won’t let go. New characters tempt me to find out what their story is, push me to keep going if I stop. I’m just being my usual Drama Queen self and making a little doubt about this story into a bit global- “Should I stop writing?” thing.

But you know that nagging feeling that you are missing something important? I have it about this story. The characters are so aimless. They don’t really have any goals beyond maintaining the status quo at the start of the story. No burning desires (till they meet each other, of course!)

Nick wants his vineyard someday but is willing to postpone that desire because he knows it will break his parents’ hearts. Meg just wants to keep things steady and safe, and after her awful childhood, that’s a darned good goal.

It all feels a bit too coincidental. Oh look, he has to go to this town for a court case. Oh look, all the other accommodation is booked up so he has to stay at her boarding house. Oh look, bang, he falls in love with her, realises she is the woman who is meant for him.

I know that happens in real life. Actually A and I meeting was exactly that sort of coincidence. I got sent to work in his clinic for just one day, one nurse was off on a course, the other was new, so I was put shadowing him for the day. He wasn’t well and had nearly taken that day off work sick, in which case we would never have met.

I just don’t think it reads convincingly in a story.

Maybe I’m being too critical too soon and I just need to write. Let these characters tell their story, and see where they want to go with it. Worry about things like GMC when it’s time to second draft. (Knew I shouldn’t have looked at all those character charts yesterday!)

I might feel lost, without a compass or a road map, but Meg and Nick know exactly where they are and what they want to happen next! I need to trust these characters to take me where they need to be. Trust that I already know them well enough, and I don’t need to fill in any charts or tick any boxes just yet.

Just write their story, that’s all I have to do.


15 Responses to “Enthusiasm- where is it and how do I get some?”

  1. 1. Do not compare yourself to other writers. It is v easy to think you write cr@p while everyone else doesn’t. Bernard Cornwell once did a test, he typed up some pages of someone else’s published work and then let it sit, along with some pages of his own which he thought were awful. To his amazement, when he looked at his work again, it was not really that bad.
    2. It can be a way of your muse not wanting to work, so keep showing up.
    3. Give yourself permission to write cr@p. It is in the revising that you can make it better. My cp hated me when I used to say this and now she thinks I know what I am on about.
    4. YOu need to believe in your story and your characters.
    5. Until you have that first draft, there is v little revising that you can effectively do.

  2. C Says:

    Just a thought: Why does the other accommodation need to be booked up so he has to stay? That *does* seem unlikely, couldn’t he just like the look of her place as compared to other places and opt to stay there? That puts a bit of self-determination into things….

  3. Kelly Boyce Says:

    I’m a bit staggered by how many writers seem to have had a crisis of faith in writing in 2009. I think the planets must have been out of line or some weird atmospheric static. I think your list of five are great. Good luck in 2010!

  4. Wow, no wonder you can’t write with all that talk going on in your head. I think you need to have faith in yourself that you can work out all those things.

    Tell the story that you want to tell. That you love. And worry about all the rest of it after.

  5. Jane Holland Says:

    It’s January. The lights of Christmas and New Year are behind us. It’s cold and miserable. The festive bills are starting to come in. How many of us are bounding with enthusiasm and energy under those circumstances? (Well, I am, but then again, I have a brilliant new electric blanket, so I’m doing most of my writing on a laptop in BED!!)

    Two things here. One, never take advice unless it tallies with what you instinctively believe to be right for you. Two, don’t pursue a story you aren’t obsessed with. It’s such a long haul, writing a novel, you can’t afford not to be 110% behind a story at this early stage. It’s normal to lose heart halfway through and start wishing you were writing something else – god, ANYTHING! – other than your current WIP. You know that. But to not be sure at the start, in the sunny uplands of the first few chapters, that’s not necessarily a good sign.

    Having said that, when you dump a story partway through and abruptly start a new one, it is also normal to feel lost, to start questioning your commitment to writing, to wonder if you’ve done the right thing … So if that’s your situation, it may simply be a result of breaking off one story without finishing it. That can seriously mess with your head.

    One quick-fix solution is the latter is your problem is to write a short story or novella. Finish it, no matter what. If you can find a prospective home and sub it to a publisher, all the better. Then you can say ‘Hey, I finish what I start. I’m a writer. This is what I do!’ and go on to your next ms with a c lear conscience.

    From someone with far too many unpublished – and unfinished! – mss behind her. 😉

  6. Caroline Storer Says:

    Can’t really add anything to the above wise words from our fellow bloggers! Michelle’s comment about just getting it down is the one I would aim for. I’m 70% through my latest wip. It feels like I’ve drained every last drop of blood out of it so far and it’s a pile of cr*p! But I’m hoping the revision process will add an extra layer to it – so that by the time I send it off to the NWS it may just be ok – or at the very least have a beginning, middle and end! So sending +ve thoughts/vibes your way! Take care. Caroline x

  7. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks for the positive thoughts and brilliant advice, everyone!

    I got back into the characters eventually, and though I didn’t get as much extra done as I would have liked for a day off work, I did get over my target wordcount of 2,500.

    I think the problem was that I stepped out of the story, out of first draft mode and into trying to critique what I was writing too soon.

    So what if I have 8,000 words where nothing really happens except she drops a paint roller off the roof that nearly hits him in his spiffy lawyer suit? I already know I write my way into the story! Lots of writers do. I’m just going to need to edit most of that first section in the second draft.

    But getting critical of what I was writing now was only blocking me. I have my energy and enthusiasm for the story back! Sure, I’m still writing rubbish, but it’s rubbish that can be edited once I get through this draft.

    Now if I can just keep that going…

  8. Amy Strnad Says:

    Aaahhh, Jane. *sigh* was feeling the same way yesterday myself. All the above advice is fantastic. I’d only add – refer back to your quote from Nora at the top of the page!!

    Sending out my sympathy.


  9. Maisey Yates Says:

    Jane, you really can’t compare yourself to other writers, and here’s why. Who likes to listen to themselves talk? I don’t. I get so sick of my own ‘voice’ when I’m writing, and I certainly don’t see anything extra special in what I do. It’s just me. Talking. But, amazingly, other people do see something there. And I see it in yours. You just have to trust me on this one.

  10. Eileen Says:

    Ah, I am feeling much the same way myself. I just finished writing a post on the crap-tasticness of January and in turn my lack of motivation. It doesn’t help that I read a really awful ebook (okay I read half of it) that had a brilliant premise but horrible execution. Thinking I could do better I started to write my own version of it. 4500 words into it I started to slow way down and realize that as much as I saw the other writer’s flaws I was now seeing my own. Ug.

    I’ve worked on four different projects so far this month! And it’s only the fifth day of the month! I am all over the place. I even worked on my old contest entry over the weekend! (at least I have some good thoughts on how to really tighten that up and make the first chapter much longer/more intriguing).

    I don’t think your story sounds overly coincidental. There have been other stories that have followed even more coincidental hotel/guest situations (I’m thinking of Nicholas Spark’s Nights in Rodanthe where the woman is filling in for her innkeeper friend when the crotchety but good looking man shows up and is the ONLY guest the entire time). I like the suggestion that he goes to the inn for some reason other than all the others were booked up. Maybe his secretary made the reservation b/c she misheard him … or maybe he has the kind of secretary who would book him a room someplace “charming” in spite of his wishes 🙂

  11. waitingforthecall Says:

    Eileen, sounds like you have been busy! I’m not going to worry too much about the coincidence thing at this stage- luckily I got unstuck and moved on. She realy doesn’t know he was coming and would have said no if she’d known. She doesn’t do short term lets like a B&B, only long term. My first thoughts were that her learning disabled resident was being helpful and took the booking, and when he turns up the heroine can’t refuse because she doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. But when I came to write it, it turned out there’d been a big whale pod sighted off the coast, an influx of tourists, and the room he had pre-booked elsewhere mistakenly given to a family! Being a nice guy he didn’t want to have them moved out. Plus, I just know he’s going to hire a boat so they can go whalewatching themselves sometime…get her right away from all the other residents and all her responsibilities.

  12. Aideen Says:

    What Maisey said! What everyone else said too!
    Jane, you absolutely cannot compare your writing abilities
    with anyone else’s. You DO have that something in your writing, you’re just unable to see it at the moment. But I can guarantee that when you finish the first rough draft, all sorts of amazing thoughts will come to you, you’ll see how a bit of polishing will benefit what you’ve already got.

    We all love to read other people’s stories, it’s what makes us readers, isn’t it? I love Nora and her hundreds of books and I know I’ll never ever write like her, but that’s ok. I’m Aideen, I’ll find my own way in time. But if I don’t keep the crows of doubt at bay I might never realise any of my writing dreams. You and I are keeping the faith this year, I thought we’d already agreed on that?????

    So go now, and get back to these wonderful characters who I’m sure will let you know their intentions very soon.


  13. Maisey Yates Says:

    What Aideen said!!!
    Jane, to comment on coincidences, which I don’t believe in, things happen for a reason. Life happens the way it does for a reason. I think everyone’s life is full of small moments that turn out to be life changing. Like you said about meeting A, or for me, taking a job at the coffee shop I did and meeting Haven. Or entering the FtH contest and posting on the boards and finding the sisters. All of those things might seem coincidental, but they happened. (and I don’t think by accident) So why can’t Nick and Meg have some of that?

  14. Jane Holland Says:

    Well, if you’re back to writing it again, it sounds like you’re back on an even keel!

    Like I said, it’s the time of year for feeling a bit flat. But the first spring flowers will start coming up next month, and everything will look brighter after that. Not long now!

  15. Maya Blake Says:

    I didn’t read past Michelle’s comment, so maybe I’m repeating what’s already been said. I always try and remember that the twists are what make the story stand out.
    For example, instead of the meeting you described, why doesn’t she live next door to the B&B and help him out in some way? Or run the restaurant next door? People meet like that all the time, so I don’t think it’s implausible. Writing my new story, I panicked when I realised the first meeting btween H/h was so heading for cheesetown. In fact my heroine was so busy grimacing at how cheesy it was when the Hero walked up behind her and commented on her grimace! She was so relieved she wasn’t meeting who she thought was her Hero, LOL!
    One piece of Michelle’s advice I’ve been practicing though is, do give yourself permission to write cr@p. You’ll be surprised what gems you have in there. And really, that’s what second drafts are for. Keeping fingers crossed you get your mojo back!

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