Writing at the speed of ???

I realize this is only the end of November, but I know from past years I won’t get much writing done in December, so I think I can predict this year’s work results. I certainly won’t have three ready-to-publish books as I’d hoped. I expect to end the year with one publish-ready manuscript; another stuck in revision, and one incomplete first draft.

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Writing, editing, revising, and polishing a manuscript in one year is a first for me. If I’d worked only on the completed romantic comedy, I’m sure I could have cut that time by a couple of months. Yet, according to indie book marketing advice, even ten months turnaround time is not competitive. Sigh.

Now, as I work through a final polish on that romantic comedy, I find myself doubting. This is my first time to write a book that falls squarely in the romance category—maybe even crossing over into older New Adult romance. It’s also my first attempt at comedy. So I guess I’m entitled to a few doubts. The coming months will show whether those doubts were justified.

Another concern about this story is whether I should publish it under a different name. My first two books are serious women’s fiction—book club fiction, if I may call it that. My half-finished manuscript will be the same. By publishing this under the same author name, would I risk receiving bad reviews from readers expecting this next book to be the same genre as the first two?

Yes, of course, the cover, book description, and preview will make it obvious this book is a different genre, but unfortunately, not all readers pay close attention before they buy. Then again, is it worth creating a pseudonym for just one book? Though I had a blast writing this one and would love to write another or more, as yet, I don’t have an idea for a second romantic comedy.

Oh well, I have time to decide. When I’m done with this polish, I’ll have to write a book description (pure torture) and create the cover—which looks fantastic in my head.

I hope you’re feeling good about the first eleven months of this year and the last month will put the cherry on top. For those of you in the U.S.—Happy Thanksgiving!

Linda

To Keep the Channel Open

Let me tell you a lie. It was not always a lie. It was the truth a month, a week, a day ago. It was true until an hour ago when I received an email from Ed, a man who’s braved being in a critique group with me. He wrote to tell me he’d had another story published and said he was looking forward to restarting our critique sessions. (We break for summer.)

channelI replied, “I no longer write fiction for publication.” And then I told him I’d be happy to read for him, but I no longer had need of a critique group. He asked why I’d quit writing.

I gave him reasons; just like I’ve given reasons to two other writers I’ve discussed this with in the last month. I explained it in various ways, but a lack of confidence in my writing is what it boils down to. I’m a perfectionist—and usually not in a healthy way. And concerning my writing, no matter how hard I try to push my perfectionist striving down, it always rises back up to choke me.

Nothing I’ve ever written is perfect. I wanted it to be. But I failed. Failed. I tried my hardest. I did the best that I could and that wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t perfect. And there’s zero chance I’ll ever write anything better, which I know because … like … I have these mad prognostication skills. Right?

Perfect is how this author writes. Or this one. Or even her, and she’s self-published like me. Or him, and he’s not even published yet. And besides, I’m not writing anything life-changing, so who needs my lame writing anyway?

I gave up. Hung up my keyboard. Tried to pretend I had no idea who that silly wannabe writer Linda Cassidy Lewis was. She’s not me. I don’t write fiction.

Okay. Yeah. So this man, Ed, took me seriously when I told him I had quit writing. And he sent me this quote from dancer/choreographer Martha Graham (emphasis mine):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The funny thing is, I’ve been working on accepting my personal limitations. Forgiving my “failures.” Learning to see the strength in vulnerability. Linda the Human has been working to apply this new mindset. But Linda the Writer never thought to pay attention.

So, it’s a lie that I’m no longer writing for publication. The truth is, I have no choice but to keep that channel open. I may not tell a story many care to hear. I may not tell it as well as other writers could. But I will tell it because it’s mine. It’s what I have to give. I must embrace that “queer dissatisfaction.”

It’s a new month, now. Let us proceed …

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Trudging Down That Dark Path of Despair

I said in my last post I needed to find some answers before I could move forward. At the time I wrote that post, I was in dialogue with a writer friend who is well-acquainted with the angst I expressed. A few hours after I published my post, she sent me a link to a brilliant one by Robin LaFevers on Writer Unboxed. Though I subscribe to that blog, I missed reading that post. Maybe it just wasn’t time yet.

darkpathThe title of that fantastic article is “The Seven Stages of Publishing Grief (or Hello Darkness, My Old Friend).” I felt as if it were written directly to me. Obviously it wasn’t  so there’s comfort in knowing that what I’ve been going through is common to all writers at some point in their career. As LaFevers writes:

So this seemed like a good time to talk about writers and disappointment. For while writing is one of the most rewarding pursuits in the world, publishing can be a long, slow, painful slog toward the pit of despair, and you can quickly find yourself in the soul sucking land of Major Disappointment. And guess what? This disappointment applies equally to pre-published, traditionally published, and indie published authors alike, so I guess that’s the upside: egalitarianism!

Yes, I’ve been “slogging toward the pit of despair” for a while now. But I’m overjoyed to know that’s normal—and survivable. I’ve read through those seven stages several times. I’ve been working through the Reflection stage, and now I’m about to move into Reconstruction. And I’m looking forward to Resurrection.  LaFevers says:

It’s essential that you don’t get stuck in one of the first four stages for the rest of your life. It is vitally important to your creative soul that you keep moving through them all the way to the Resurrection Stage, for without that, you’re simply stuck in a really ugly place for a very long time.

If you’re a publishing writer, or hope to be, do yourself a favor and go read that post. If you don’t need it now, save it because some day you’re going to find yourself trudging down that dark path.

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My Month of No Writing

My self-imposed hiatus from writing is over. I needed to take a break because I’d just published another novel and wanted to get caught up on things I’d neglected while working on that book. I stepped away from the keyboard, did some housework, and started reading again. So did I cheat by writing?

Well, I succeeded in not writing any new fiction, but I did revise two short pieces. One I needed to submit to my critique group and the other I’m considering submitting to an online journal. But it was easy not to start on a new novel project—too easy.

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I have a serious case of the writing blahs. It’s not because I don’t have an idea for another novel. In fact, I have four ideas, in various stages of pre-writing. But I have no enthusiasm for working on any of them because I’m questioning everything to do with writing.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t question why I write. I always have and will continue to make up stories, some to write down and others to keep in my head, because that entertains and challenges me. So I guess what I’m really questioning is publication—what to publish, how to publish, whether to publish at all.

I’m a little angry at myself about all this indecision. I thought I’d settled this long ago. I’ve been published for two years now, and I’ve stated that my true aim for publishing was only to share my writing. Now I’ve done that and even had the thrill of total strangers telling me how much they loved my stories. So am I whiney and shallow to be dissatisfied?

That’s only one of the many questions draining my energy. Every time I think I’ve weighed the pros and cons of something I’m questioning, the whole thing slips and slides and flips on me. I talk myself into something and then talk myself out of it. Clearly I don’t have any solid answers yet. But I think I’m going to have to find some before I regain the motivation to start writing another novel because, right now, my Muse is just lying there, inert with the blahs.

Can you relate?

A letter from my Muse

Listen up, Linda!

I’ve taken all I can take these last three weeks. Your emotional roller coaster is making me sick. Chill the heck out. You’re a writer. Writers write. And writers, if they’re smart, let trusted writers read their work and give them feedback. And if those writers are any help at all, they give you honest critique. Got it?

So they told you the book isn’t done. So they suggested more than a few little tweaks. Get over it. Stop this rush to worst case scenario. You are not a fake. You are not the worst writer in the world. You are not too stupid or too old to learn (though you just might be too stubborn). And you are not going to delete your blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account.

And, above all else, you are not going to throw this book out and start another one.

Get a grip. Quit your whining. Stop your bellyaching.  Walk out on the pity party and lock the door behind you.

GET TO WORK.

You have a good story, but we’re about to make it fantastic. Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

Signed, Your wise and patient Muse

Geez, the stuff a Muse has to put up with.