Doubt, My Books, Writing

To know my own mind

I’ve said many times that I hate making decisions. I blame it on having a Libra sun sign—you know, that being able to see both sides thing? Of course, the real cause of indecision is fear. I fear making the WRONG choice. And the basis of that fear is vanity, but let’s not go into that today.

My current indecisiveness concerns the cover for my next novel. I have two of them, now. I like each for different reasons. I’ve curbed what I usually do in these situations—seek a zillion other opinions. I’ve only sought two opinions for the first cover and one, so far, for the second.

I’d like to just go with my gut, but my gut doesn’t have the eye of an experienced designer. Then again, I don’t always think the covers on some best-sellers from the big New York publishers are all that hot. See those scales tipping this way and that?

These cover choices will soon be followed by choices in editing when I receive notes from my beta readers. I’ll have to decide whether to follow or ignore each of their suggestions. Some of those decisions will be no-brainers, but others will twist my brain in knots.

My goal for this book was to be more self-reliant, to trust my gut more. To know my own mind. And I do, but I still don’t trust it enough. The need for approval is crippling, isn’t it? Do you struggle with that?

Doubt, Editing, Writing

Scissors and tape, if that’s what it takes!

So yeah, I’m writing this novel, and the words are flowing fairly steady, but there’s a problem. As I’m writing, my inner editor keeps saying things like:

“That scene doesn’t fit here. Remember what happened in chapter five—or was it nine?”

“Are you sure that character’s emotional response rings true at this point in the story?”

“All right, but if you keep that brilliant bit you just wrote, you’ll have to revise the subplot.”

I type her jabs into comments in the manuscript, and then I tell myself to keep writing and deal with those problems later. And I do keep writing, but all her jabs accumulated back there in the dark recesses of later, and started haunting me. A few nights ago, I woke myself worrying I might not be able to sort this book out. What if it’s too discombobulated to fix?

Then my inner cheerleader said:

“Oh pish posh, you can do it! You’re a WRITER! Remember how you had to cut and tape together your last novel? Rah, rah, sis boom bah!”

Wait! What was that about cutting and taping? I did that? Yes I did, but I’d completely forgotten. Have you ever heard a writer compare the process of writing and publishing a book to pregnancy and birth? To continue that analogy, after you have your bundle of joy book in your hands, you tend to gloss over the worst parts of getting to that point.

Indeed, I’d forgotten there was a point in editing The Brevity of Roses where I printed it out and then sat down with scissors and tape organize some of the scenes, and even paragraphs, in better order. I couldn’t seem to accomplish that scrolling back and forth on the computer. My manuscript was a chopped mess for a while, but I worked it out. Rah, rah and all that jazz!

I hope none of you have to resort to scissors and tape, but if you do, take heart. You can fix it. You’re a WRITER!

Characters, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

My decision to quit writing

Last week, I had lunch with two other writers and came home totally depressed. I don’t blame them. They didn’t do or say anything directly to bottom me out. As I listened to them speak, I realized I felt disconnected from their world. That night I told my husband I’d decided to quit writing. He told me to sleep on it.

For four days I didn’t write a word, not even a blog post. Instead, I read. And I played a lot of games on Facebook. At first, that felt weird. I was anxious. By the end of the second day, I relaxed. It felt right not to be writing. I could just walk away. Let it go.

On the third day, I realized I’d returned to the way I’d told stories for most of my life— in my head. I continued with the story I’d been trying to force into a novel for months. It flowed without effort. I enjoyed it. But not until late on the fourth day did I actually “hear” the story, and when I did, I knew why I’d quit working on the version for publication.

Let’s back up a bit.

I’d been writing that novel in my head for months before I sat down to begin entering it into a Word file, so I wrote the first few chapters quickly. I opened with a short chapter in third person past tense  and then moved to first person present tense (FPPT) for the next chapters because that was the way I “heard” the main character’s voice. I would use three short third-past chapters spaced throughout the book, but the bulk would be in first-present.

Then I read that most current novels for the adult market are written in third-past, and a first person novel is hard to write well, and present tense is tiring or boring or some other negative for the reader. I questioned my wisdom. I revised. I changed all the chapters to the “best” person and tense. I pushed on.

I wrote a couple of chapters more, and then got distracted by other projects. I wrote another chapter of the novel, and then I worked on something more pressing. I wrote a paragraph or two for the novel, and then I got this great idea and worked it into a short story. I wrote a few words on the novel, and then … and then … and then I gave up on it.

I stopped writing the novel. I stopped writing. Period.

Why? Well, it seems if you stop listening to your character’s voice, eventually that character stops speaking to you. She says, “You don’t like the way I’m telling this story? Fine. Tell it without me.”

Silly me.

Do over. Stop being a sheep. Revise the revision. Start listening again. Write.

Doubt, Fiction, Musings, Questions, Writing

One question too many?

Lately, I’ve spent more time thinking about writing than I have writing. Though exactly what I’m thinking about is probably not what you imagine. I’m questioning why. Why do I write fiction? Why does anyone?

Non-fiction has an obvious reason to be. What is the purpose of fiction? Would you say it exists to explore the human condition? To illustrate the beauty and complexity of language? To convey universal truths? Would you say those reasons best describe literary fiction?

So then, what of commercial fiction. Is this fiction meant to simply entertain? Does it matter that it’s only a temporary thrill, fright, mystery, heart throb? So what if none of these books will ever be deemed a classic, they serve a purpose, right?

Of course, many books fall in-between those two categories. Every book has its readers . And with the ease of self-publishing nowadays, all authors have the opportunity to share their stories. They don’t need permission. They’ve deemed readers as the gatekeepers now. Should they have?

I question why I write, why I think my stories have any reason to exist outside my own head. Is it an act of hubris to foist my imaginings on others? Who am I to take such a step? Who am I?

Forgive me for thinking aloud in this post. I’m not seeking affirmation. I’m just wondering. And I’m thinking this is something I should have questioned long before now. Don’t you think?

Block, Critique, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Television, Writing

AWAKE, but not writing

Well, I missed a blogging day, but for once, when I had nothing worth saying I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t get much house cleaning done. I did some laundry, repotted a few plants, worked on the sprinkler system in the yard, and organized some craft supplies. I also started reading a NY Times best-selling novel, but the subpar writing and editing makes me question whether I should continue.

What I’d hoped would happen during my writing break hasn’t. Not really. What did occur to me, at one point while my hands were covered in soil, is once again I’ve fallen into the trap of worrying about what others will think of the story in my next novel. Is that why I’m stalled?

I said at the beginning that I wanted to write this novel without any outside input, so I wouldn’t submit chapters to any critique group until they were all written, but it seems I’m critiquing it myself. I’m censoring before I’ve even written it. If only I could write without knowing what I’m writing. *sigh*

Speaking of writing, as I usually am, there’s some good writing on the new NBC series Awake. I’ve blogged before about some of my favorite well-written shows like Treme and Mad Men. This new one promises to be another. The premise of reality vs. dream intrigues me; in fact, I touched on it in a short story I wrote last summer.

Police detective Michael Britten, played by Jason Isaacs, has returned to work after an auto accident with his wife and teen-aged son. The problem is each day he wakes up in one of two “realities”. In one, his son died in the crash, Britten is in department-ordered therapy with a male psychiatrist, and he has a rookie partner at work. In the other, his wife has died, he has a female therapist, and his long-time partner at work.

A further confusion happens when clues from a case in one reality helps him solve his case in the other. Each therapist tells him he’s confusing dream and reality because he hasn’t coped with his loss. Britten doesn’t want their help because he doesn’t want to lose either of his “realities”.

I’m anxious to see how this plays out. When the end credits rolled on the first episode, I said, “Wow!” My husband said, “It was okay.” That’s typical for us. 🙂 Then again, he’s not a writer. If you’re not watching the show, but think it sounds interesting, you can watch full episodes online here:

Awake promo photo ©NBC