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!

No time to write… or just making excuses? June 4, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:21 pm
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I’ve decided to let up the pace a bit on the writing this month. I have a hellish month coming up workwise, with some close-to-impossibly tight deadlines to meet, and I’m massively stressed about it. Putting prressure on myself about writing was making me so stressed I couldn’t write at all. I am hoping that by taking the pressure off, paradoxically, I’ll end up getting more written. I’m going to read lots, but not put myself under any word count pressure. I’m not giving up, I’m just lightening up.

I have a firm goal of submitting at least one partial this year, hopefully two, and actually I will have written the whole story before I submit, because I need to do the whole first draft before I really know what the story is going to be. Ideally, I want to get writing fast once this current rush at the day job is over, as I hope that by mid-July things will have eased up at work. I’m considering leaving once I have this big job done, but that would be insane, to stay while things are tough and leave just when things are easing up! But I just had an appraisal which criticised me for being too energetic and enthusaistic- the very things I see as my best qualities. Maybe I can turn into Ms Glum-Just-Doing-the-Bare-Minimum at work, and save the energy for the wriitng- it’s the other way around right now- not helping me achive my dreams, at all.

My ultimate goal is to have something ready to submit by the end of September, then to submit another partial by the end of December. I need to do a lot of simmering of plot and character soup now, so I can just write when I have time. I have so many stories and story people swirling around in my head! I will probably end up having most of November off with vacation I haven’t been able to take due to workload, so I will hopefully be able to spend all my time writing!

Or am I just making excuses? So many writers manage it in five and ten minutes bursts, while caring for young children, when snatching time between patients (not an option in my job, and my damned work ethic is too hard for me to try to arrange things so it is!), or in wriitng on the bus. I read this blog entry by Trish Wylie today. No excuses!


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.