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
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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.


Stone the crows! May 22, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:41 pm
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Those wretched crows of doubt have been back again today, circling!

I seem to have ground almost to a halt on James and Cassie’s story. The romance writing workshop last Saturday was fab and stimulated lots of ideas for strengthening my plot, but I can’t seem to actually write anything. I’m finding it’s getting progressively harder to write. When I started writing again just for fun, I wrote more and better than I am now, after so much writing and workshopping and planning. I think I am falling into the trap of needing to “get it right”, and it’s paralysing me. I keep telling myself to just let it rip in first draft and fix all the faults later, but it’s simply not happening for some reason. I know I can write a whole first draft in a month, and yeah sure, it was total rubbish that needs serious work in editing, but I’ve been struggling for 2 weeks with a first chapter on the WIP that is still total rubbish and will be almost all thrown out in my second draft!

I’m not sure what the best way to deal with this is, whether to keep wriitng and hope I push through it like a rmarathon runner when they hit the wall, or to give myself some time off to read, relax, hang out on wriitng boards, and just recharge.

Part of what’s stopping me write is changes in my life too, which are affecting my wriitng time and have been an additional stress this week -like I didn’t already have enough! The question of balance is a tough one, we are all juggling so many competing demands. I wrote pretty obsessively for the first few months of the year, but now I’m thinking I really need to spend more time with my husband, more time doing other things I love. I don’t think it helps us be good writers if we are neglecting the other things in our lives. Does it matter that much if the book is finished three months later than it could have been?

This is a weird one, but it also occured to me that maybe doing the morning pages is blocking me too- my subconcious is thinking, ‘Okay, that’s it, I’ve done my writing for the day, don’t need to do anymore.’ Hmm. Might experiment with that one. I also read a long time ago that talking about the story or writing about the story could sometimes again make the subcounscious think that the story had been told and that it didn’t ned to write anymore. I don’t know about that, because otherwise plotters would never get anything written!

I’m hoping that my story is somehow simmering away beneath the surface when it looks cold and lifeless, and that the words will come in a burst. My hero is the real block in the WIP. James is supposed to be alpha, but every time he opens his mouth he’s nice. He’s powerful, determined, rich, and stubborn about getting his own way; but he doesn’t use people, he asks rather than demands, he has good reason to be cynical and he guards his heart closely, but he doesn’t act like a bastard because of it. I’m trying to make him be who he’s not, to fit my idea of what a Presents/ Modern hero should be. I just have to write him as he is, and see what comes out, I think.

I’m not sure yet where the “home” will be for my stories. I do like writing more sensual stories (not anywhere within shouting distance of erotica, but the bedroom door is definitely open!), but I just can’t get a grip on writng the Alpha hero. I think because in real life I’d run a mile from that sort of guy, and if I can’t write a hero who I can fall in love with, he’s not going to affect my readers either. I read a psot on Tote Bags and Blogs today about the attraction of the nerd. I have to say I adore the more nerdy type guy- and I married one! He’s still the sexiest man alive for me, so let’s hear it for the nerd! I had crushes on few Alpha-ish types when I was younger, but now I say give me a man who is smart, funny, great in bed and who adores me, even if his hairline is receding, his waistline is expanding, and he needs reading glasses! Okay, I doubt anyone else would want to read a story with my husband as the hero, but maybe the reason I’m struggling so much is that I’m trying to write Alpha heroes, and I need to write the oh-so-sexy, guy-next-door-only-better Gamma male instead.

Scared off the crows by flinging a handful of stones at them, going to the shops to buy a half-dozen Mills and Boon “Romance” stories (the pink cover ones that have been through so many incarnations- Tender, Sweet, whatever else they were called), as I haven’t read that line for years, and wonder if that’s where my stories belong. Also read an excellent article on Scene and Sequel here, thanls to Claire Baxter recommending it on e-Harlequin. It’s worth a read, beacuse it looks at pace, at deepening tension and emotional intensity, at POV- just about everything, in one brief article!


Crows of doubt invade May 5, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 2:55 pm
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Nothing at all subconscious about today’s “urge to abandon writing altogether”.  It’s right out there, in full attack mode. I’m wondering what insanity grabbed me to make me believe I could ever get my writing published, that I would ever manage to write anything that I could possibly show another human being without wanting to shrivel into a tiny quivering blob of shame. Yes, it’s that time (not just me being pre-menstrual, though it’s definitely not helping!)- the crows of doubt have arrived, in full force.

Today I just want to give up. I can’t handle how bad my writing is, all this “permission to write crap” sounds great in theory but is so hard in parctice. My progress on the WIP is abysmally slow, because I am back doing what used to paralyse my writing, going back to correct what I’ve already written. It’s now well after midday, a Bank Holiday Monday when I planned to do loads of writing, and I haven’t written a single word yet today. I have managed to have a row with my husband and acciedentally kick the cat. I have managed to open the chapter I want to be writing more on, and look at it and tear it to pieces.  I am worrying that my start is all wrong, its not dramatic enough, maybe I need to start further in. I’m worried that I’ve created an infodump  method for filling in the backstory. I’m worried that the country I am creating for some of the action to take place in isn’t going to work as a setting. I’m worried I won’t have enough plot this time to write a full story. I’m worried my hero won’t come across as alpha enough, and that as it stands the story is more the heroine’s emotional journey than the hero’s, which is NOT Presents! Basically, I’m worried my story and everything about it sucks.

And I shouldn’t be letting these worries paralyse me, I should just keep writing and trust that I can sort it out in edits. I think I said in an earlier post,  that Melissa James, a Silhouette writer, still does eight full edits, even as a multi-published writer, and I’m beating myself up because my first draft isn’t perfect. What can I do to get past this? I need to find some strategies to somehow temporarlily neutralise my Inner Editor. I’ve read all sorts of different ways of doing this, from turning the brightness right down so the screen is black to starting a new document for each days writing so it’s not possible to go back and change anything. My problem seems to be that I like to read a bit of what I last wrote, to get me back into the story again, but then that urge to edit comes over me and I spend an hour fixing what I wrote yesterday and don’t add much new today. My progress is so slow, and what I am writing is so not what I want it to be that I am seriously doubting if I have what it takes.

I’m putting extra pressure on myself too, because we really do need extra money. My husband has all sorts of health problems and has trouble working, so we made a deal that he would be house-husband and I would earn the money. Now I spent from the ages of 19 to 39 being solely financially responsible for myself, and managed okay. But this is different. Somehow feeling responsible for someone else as well totally changes the equation. And the cost of living has gone up dramatically here in the UK, as it probably has done everywhere, while nursing wages have not. We are really struggling. I now not only have all the normal issues of an unpublished writer serving her apprenticeship trying to get her writing up to where it needs to be, I have this particularly nasty crow pecking at me telling me I’m wasting my time writing and I’d be better off getting a second job night packing at the supermarket. The most painful thing is, that crow is right. From a purely financial point of view, the return on my time would be far better even with a crummy minimum wage second job. Some of my writing time is time I’d be wasting anyway, like commute time and lunch break time, but I probably have been spending at least fifteen hours a week that I could have spent earning money in a second job writing instead. Most wannabe writers never make it into publication. The odds are not good. Maybe I should give up now and get on down to ASDA instead.

 I really think that to do that would kill something in me. I just can’t give up on this dream.

And I think I just this minute found the perfect antidote to all my angst and crap- just accept that it doesn’t get better. Award winning writers of more than fifty books still get it. Fabulously talented newer writers still get this. It’s part of being a writer. Get used to it and get over it, or at least learn to live with it. I did a search on “crows of doubt”, which took me to Kate Walker’s blog entry here. OMG, she gets them still. That’s a bit like finding out the Pope has crises of faith! Then she links to the wonderfully funny Trish Wylie’s blog. I read for twenty minutes and couldn’t help laughing and smiling and feeling better. Thank you so much Trish for your honesty and humour- sometimes sharing our doubts and depression brings other people down, but you have managed to lift me up!
This entry somehow instantly evaporated my self-pity and blues, on top of reading her other angsty entries requesting immediate chocolate infusions to deal with bad reviews, misbehaving characters, and editorial demands.

There is something so liberating in realising that this is normal, all writers feel like this sometimes. It doesn’t mean I have no talent or that I should give up now, it just means that this is part of the package. It doesn’t get better, no matter how good a writer is. But if we are meant to be writers, and if we want to be writers badly enough, we find the way through. We keep on writing. Because writers write. That’s what we do.