Craft, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Reading, Writing

In search of the confident writer

Lately, I’ve been reading more than writing. I generally read fiction and non-fiction simultaneously. This time, I was about halfway through a novel when I picked up a memoir in the morning and finished it by the end of the day. Then, instead of going back to the half-read novel, which was a bit depressing, I started reading a different one.

Both these novels are debuts, one published in 1989 and the other in 2009. Rule breaking is one thing they have in common. You know, those carved in stone Writing Rules, the ones debut authors must follow to have even a hope of being published.

One of these books starts with seven pages of description and history of the town and its residents before the first line of dialogue is recorded. I would say most of the book is telling, not showing. As for the protagonist, well my sympathy and patience wore thin midway through. The other novel starts in media res, as The Rules state we should, but half the story is told in flashbacks, which is supposed to be a big no-no. Also, so far, the author has used one dream sequence—another instance of so-called bad writing.

Of course, twenty years ago as now, if your story is fantastic, those Rules don’t necessarily apply. These authors apparently felt confident they had stories so strong they were free to tell them their own way. And they were justified. The older book was awarded a Pulitzer; the newer one was a bestseller.

Is this post just another rant about The Rules? No. Am I writing this post to justify my own rule breaking? No again. I’m thinking about confidence. Specifically, confidence in your writing. Does this confidence come naturally to some writers or are they just better at hiding their doubts?

I just beta-read a friend’s book, and though I, and another beta judged both the writing and story as wonderful, she still doubts. (Though I can’t believe she has that much doubt.) But I wondered, what will it take to give her solid confidence in her book? Will an agent’s offer of representation do it? Will publication be the key? Will the praise of the reading public finally convince her?

Your turn: Are you a confident writer? If not, what do you think will make you one?

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Blog Stuff, Doubt, Fiction, Life, Writing

Down the Rabbit Hole

The first order of business today, in clarification of my last post, is to make it clear that no catastrophe has befallen me. I apologize for causing you concern. I sincerely appreciate your kindness, and I’m sorry I caused a ruckus. I wrote that post on the anniversary of my father’s death and it was meant only as a reflection on letting go and moving on. That does, however, relate to today’s post.

I seem to be blogging a lot of confessions lately, and here’s another. An accumulation of Real Life stresses finally wiped me out. Since this blog focuses on my writer’s journey, I’ll share how my lowered defenses affected that.

Despite knowing that quitting only assures you never succeed, I came perilously close to doing that very thing this month. After all the cheerleading (preaching?) I’ve done on this blog—and probably yours—I hang my head in shame. Here’s the tale … once removed.

◊ ◊ ◊

You let the querying process clobber you. Your inner critic grows crueler by the day. You dog-paddle furiously just to keep your head above water. Your heart and your head are in constant battle. Tears are shed. Fists are clenched. (Egads! Passive construction.) And, yes, you hide behind humor.

The result? You make the decision to abandon your dream of publication, and then you question whether you should write at all.

More tears. More anger. Debilitating embarrassment.

You come this close to closing down your blog and deleting your Twitter account. How dare you call yourself a writer! You know good writing. You recognize those writers who deserve publication. You are clearly not one of them.

But, for some reason, you don’t quit blogging. You do quit writing anything else. You lie about it. You keep up the pretense of being a writer. Your tweets claim #amwriting, but that refers only to blog posts. You email a couple stories to friends asking for feedback, but they are stories written months ago.

Sooner or later, the freefall ends. You hit bottom. You crack wide open. If you’re lucky, you have friends there to give you a little help. And if you’re very lucky, you open up a file you haven’t read in months and read a line or two that amazes you. You don’t remember them, but these are lines you wrote. You wrote! You, the writer.

You stand up, brush yourself off, deal with the cuts and bruises. You move onward and upward. What choice do you have? A writer writes.

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Doubt, Motivation, Power, Writing

Warrior Woman

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, I had sunk the lowest I ever have in discouragement over my writing. Then a river of encouragement lifted me up and carried me away from that dark place. Since I blogged about that, I feel an update is in order.

Victorious!

So, yeah … I fought back against that Blue Muse. How? During this last week, I wrote a new synopsis, a new query letter, a new first paragraph, a one-paragraph pitch for a contest at agent Nephele Tempest’s blog, audio recorded and edited two novel chapters, and entered the Sandy Writing Contest.  I also attempted to dissect Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which wasn’t easy, considering I have very little practice.

I think that’s what you call a blitz attack. And it worked!


Doubt, Dream, Tuesday Topic, Writing

Are you in the wrong house?

I had started writing a post on a completely different topic for today, but last night I had a dream. Yesterday, I confessed to someone that my faith in my writing ability has waned. In my dream, a person in my life who is hypercritical of me said something that hurt my feelings. I hid my reaction and walked casually out of the room. But then, I continued on out the back door.

houses With a heavy heart and fighting back tears, I walked down the street toward my house. I entered the house next door to mine instead. I remember thinking that it was fine to do this, I could live there and no one would mind. Maybe no one would even notice. When I entered the empty house, I knew instantly I wouldn’t be happy there, but felt trapped by my decision.

Then, the person in my life who has a most generous heart and always makes me feel better about myself came to the door, smiling at me through the glass. Even though I had triple-locked the door, she easily opened it, and I knew that I was free to leave.

Once again, my subconscious had spoken to a captive audience. It told me to quit listening to that inner critic that locks me into a substitute self. A self that believes she can’t write. A self that would be unhappy if she didn’t write. So today, I’m going to smile lovingly at myself and move back into my own house. There are words to be written.

Do you ever take up residence in the wrong house?


Advice, Block, Critique, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Tips, Writing

Passion

heartsThings have been a little silly around this blog lately, read the last two posts and comments, if you don’t believe me. Thank you all for sticking with me. I needed that bit of levity. However, I’m going to go deeper today … though, knowing me, I won’t be too serious about it.

I don’t have a lot of “public” writing experience. All my life, I’ve composed tales in my mind, and I’ve written many of them down, but it’s fairly new for me to expose them to an outsider’s critical eye. So, I’m still working on the confidence angle. I’m easily disheartened by doubt. I tend to believe that every writer knows more than I do about the craft. Well, someone posed a question about one of my characters and BAM! … I’ve been on life support this past week.

I’ve blogged about this before. I knew what was happening, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t last, but there’s always that sniggling voice in the back of my mind saying, this time I really need to face the fact that I can’t write. Or, at least, I can’t finish this novel. Maybe the whole premise is stupid; the characters are weak, confused, ridiculous; there’s no story; there’s too much story; or maybe not—maybe I just have no clue how to write. Never did. Never will.

But … but … but, I want to write this story. It’s not an important story. It’s not going to change the world, change your outlook on life, or even change the batteries in your remote, but I love this story. I love the characters. I’m passionate about this book. And my passion counts for something, right? NO!!!

Passion counts for a lot.

A couple days ago, I looked through some photos of portraits I’ve done and picked out a favorite to share with someone. It hit me that the reason that I’m proud of that work is not only because it’s technically well executed, but because I felt something about the person. And those feelings came through. That passion flowed into my work. The portrait is alive.

So, I’m back to work now. I’m writing my story, my way … and it’s breathing quite well.