Friday, 3 September 2010

The Dreaded Question

How's the writing going?

It is the question I dread.  It is the question that I got asked more often than not when I was in NYC.  It's the question that gets asked in emails, on Twitter, on Skype and in person. It's the question that makes me want to hit my head repeatedly against a very hard wall.  It's the question that makes me wish I'd kept my writing on the down low.

And it isn't because I don't appreciate the interest.  Or the support either.

It's just that I am in a shame spiral at the moment.  Inadvertent reminders that I am wallowing in excuses and really bad writing habits just make me feel worse.  The shame is so deep that I haven't even swung by Jennifer Echols' blog since I stopped writing.  You see I was taking part in her writing challenge all through May and did really well.  I hit the 20k mark in that month and then proceeded on paper.  Then stopped.  I have been too ashamed to returning ever since.  Sorry Jenn, give me another few months and I might grow a pair.

People ask me about my word count....that's the least of my problems.  Though if you are really interested it is currently 20K + how ever much a kilogram of paper is in words.

The second biggest problem....

What you can see sprawled out across two student desks is 1kg of white paper scrawled with jumbled scenes in non-chronological order.  Or they were until I had to go through all these pieces of paper and try and discover the narrative thread.


I am incapable of writing in chronological order.  I hip and hop from scenes that occur to me and then write in the moment.  This is going to make editing heinous and have a cohesive story even harder.  And yet, this is the process that works best for me.  Go figure?

It's been two months since I have written to a specific schedule.  (Actually I fibbed, it's closer to three.)  I write little bits here and there but nothing solid.

I write but I don't think I am all that good.  I am not trying to be humble, I like to write and that's why I do it.    Until it got harder and I thought I was sucking harder than normal.  It's the confidence angle.  I don't consider myself much of a writer.  Before I made the journey to Japan I set myself a goal of finishing a manuscript by the time I left (December 2010) and that I would be proud of it.  An Australian author told me this week that I am putting too much pressure on myself which is absolutely true.  It was something I needed to hear but also something I have to try.

Being a blogger is another part of the problem.  Many bloggers write.  Many bloggers consider themselves to be writer, are writers if you read their reviews.  But it always makes me squirm to be a blogger who wants to write.  I feel like I am a cliche.  Sometimes a fraud.  I hate cliches and liars more than anything and the thought of being one makes me ill.

I shared the first couple of thousand words with two people I trust.  And they were complimentary.  I immediately dismissed them as being nice and haven't shown anyone since.  I know, I am head case.  I am a fragile little lily who needs to get over herself.

Head issues aside, my biggest problem is that I can't explain to people what my WIP* is about.  That's a huge problem.  It isn't because it's complicated or requires a jump of logic - I just can't seem to summarise it in a way that makes it sound all that interesting.  That bothers me more than anything.  "A girl and her father get to know each other for the first time when she travels to Japan to live with him."  It needs some work.

A lot of work.

I am a cynic and a pessimist.  We usually are the hardest on ourselves.  We see ourselves as being realistic, and it probably is, but it stops us from having more faith.  So it is always nice to read a fragment of writing and not immediately recognise it as my own.  That I like it objectively.  In the end, if I can feel that way about the whole enchilada then that's pretty awesome.  I have faith, it is a sliver but it's something.  Just like my current poor excuse for a WIP.

And no, you can't read it.

*Work In Progress


Splendibird said...

This is an interesting post. You look like you've produced a lot so surely that has to be a positive - and I really like the premise of your WIP. I love to write and, I think, have the ability to make words sounds pretty but do not have an original idea in my head. It's one of the reasons why I blog - I get to write without having to come up with any actual ideas. It's frustrating, but I'm just not creative in that way. The fact that you are is a pretty good place to start! I have no doubt that your WIP will come together and be something that you become comfortable sharing with the world at large. Good luck!

Megan Hoover-Swicegood said...

Oh man, this post totally hits home with me! I kind of feel cliche' too being a writer and a book blogger - but I love it and I do what I love and try not to think too much about it. Though, I don't cringe when people ask me "how's your writing going" I cringe when people ask me "oh, you're a writer?" - explaining that to people is so hard sometimes.

It took me 4 years from conception to first draft completion of my first manuscript (no, I'm not published). Everyone goes at their own pace, so I wouldn't worry too much about it - set personal goals and call it a day.

I don't write in chronological order either! I get flashes of inspiration and write those scenes, sometimes those scenes build to other scenes in order and sometimes those scenes don't even show up in a final manuscript.

Oh my gosh, the blurb! I have such a hard time with this one too - you are not alone. I wish I could pay someone to write the blurb. I'd do it in a heart beat.

Great post, I totally feel for you.

Abby said...

Adele, I actually do think your premise sounds interesting!

And there's nothing wrong with being a book blogger and a writer. I say do what you want to do!

Carla said...

I kind of hate that question too, because like you said, it's so awfully cliche as a blogger to want to be a writer. It's why i don't talk much about my writing on my blog. Sure i've mentioned it a number of times, but i'm such a slacker, that I hardly ever get time to write and when I do, i'm scared to even tell people in case they ask questions. I think it's such a secretive private thing and I feel like i'm some way letting people down when I don't write. I know that sounds silly and you've put this feeling so perfectly into words.

Rhiannon Hart said...

Oh my god, I must be the only blogger who's also a writer who DOESN'T feel like a cliche! Maybe because I had finished Lharmell before I started blogging...? Or maybe because I am startlingly oblivious about things like that. For the first two weeks of high school I walked around in a daze not knowing what had happened to everyone as it hadn't gotten into my head that popularity was now the only thing I should care about. I can be incredibly gauche. It's not like I don't care what people think, because I do (I wish I didn't). But sometimes things like this just go over my head. Hence burying myself in Tamora Pierce books for a decade :)

I also, um, hope that I didn't inspire you to write this post as I just checked the email I sent you on Friday and I asked the Dreaded Question. I promise never to do it again.

Beautiful Witch said...

I write non chronologically as well. My WIP is up to its third re-draft (I've been working on it for over two years) but it wasn't in chronological order until I finally felt I could start putting all those random scenes together. Prior to that it felt like a mess (and probably was) and it didn't feel "real". I guess my advice would be to try and put some of your scenes in order and write some of the tie-in scenes. So you've got scene a, d and g so force yourself to write b,c,e and f. I found I gained more confidence when my WIP felt more "whole."

Crisis of faith...wish I had some advice there. I live with it all the time. Some days are great, very few are awesome, most are okay and some are dark and depressing. The more I read about how hard it is to be published and how even if you are, the chances of the book doing really well are so slim the more I wonder what the hell I'm doing.

But that's how I know I'm a writer - I do it anyway.

Sean said...

I worked out that I have written somewhere in the vicinity of 250,000 words while blogging - which is sobering.

Lynn M said...

While I know it doesn't help your current state of frustration, I will tell you that this blog entry helped me because it reminds me that I'm not alone in my situation. I've struggled for years - YEARS - to develop some kind of writing discipline. I have so many ideas and started manuscripts that I can't even keep track, but I cannot manage to get myself into a rhythm of writing regularly in order to actually finish.

So when people ask me how the writing is going, the best I can ever manage to say in response is "slow" and it's very embarrassing. By now I should have half a dozen books published! My crisis of confidence has a lot to do with this - I write but never feel like it's close to good enough. This becomes even worse when I go through a reading spurt and see how good I need to be to ever get published.

Too, I often feel like a cliche by being a blogger who wants to become a writer. I don't do book reviews, and my blog was initially a way for me to force myself to write regularly. But even that has fallen to the wayside and I only blog around a half-dozen times each month.

So maybe we should start a club and get tee shirts.