More single gal writing advice (and slightly entertaining drama too!)
Sorry that it’s been a while, fellow writers… readers… what are you? Write-eaders? Wreaders?
Um, but when you’re reaching down into your most sensitive self to write in any case, and then while your hand is down in there, other sharp things cut up your fingers, ruin your perfect manicure, wedge deep under your nails, you do tend to whip your hand back out and silent-cry over how bad that hurts. My hiatus was a combination of a case of the Satur-daze and also getting over a series of very depressing, domino-affected situations.
- A good friend that I dated suddenly dropped out of my life and pulled the silent treatment on me while maintaining a seamless, happy friendship with someone else we were both close with.
- Two more “friends” of mine fessed up to something truly shady that went on for a long time behind my back while I was still trying to heal from #1, and then either boasted about it or blamed me for having a hurt reaction.
- Not long after #2 hit the fan, I thought I was moving on with yet another great guy who it turned out strung me along for weeks before finally calling, and then after rushing me out for a sketch “I finally have time for you” last minute date, disappeared.
- Even more of ye olde bullshit while recovering from #1 + #2 + #3…
Equals…ouch. All in a matter of months, too. And what’s that big writing project I’m working on now? This is a novel where, in two different kingdoms, there are two different romances going on. Survival of both kingdoms depends on whether or not these two couples can keep their shit together, and true love (or maybe them accepting that it’s really true bullshit) is supposed to help win the day.
Um… again… how am I supposed to write this thing?
Not sure if this is directly related, but I was writing a few days ago and realized I hated part of my story. I got mad, sat right on the floor, held my head in my hands… began to doubt a lot of things in my life. For me, and surely lots of devoted writers, this process almost feels like ‘succeed at this novel or fail at everything…’
So in that moment, on the floor, and it was a cold floor, I vowed to start months of hard work all over again, inspired by my old-fashioned ‘oh to hell with this’ gumption, and also a scene where one of the characters gets up on an altar and burns himself like Abraham’s son, except with all the burning… That was going to be my fresh, dramatic new start.
The very next morning, in another of my deep pre-work contemplations while getting dressed, I realized that I was being extreme with the altar-thing. My real problem was, the particular chapter I was working on was a bitch to write because the characters were going back and forth to and from the same danged battlefield…
One kingdom already decided not to fight. But then, an elaborate chain of funny events involving their Queen losing her temper gets them back on the warpath anyway, and in the exact same place where they already swore it was better not to fight—what? Guh? No, condense that please… To fix it, I changed this to one kingdom upholding its vow not to fight. Meanwhile, the protagonista is lost on her own, discovering lots of reasons why her kingdom should go to war. She loses her temper and attacks the enemy mercenary-style, gets back to camp and deflects blame at her surprised and frustrated soldiers, only for somebody to sit that girl down and give her a great big reality check: sweetheart, you started this, and now you have the be the one to finish it. Bitch.
ProTip: It’s always better to add swear words at the end, I swear.
So, no more writing a scene I already wrote but in a different way that’s not supposed to feel like me wasting my precious ‘I just survived a full day a work, so can we please write now’ writing right now writing time.
The real issue here was, when things were frustrating with my story-telling, I took it personally. I doubted my abilities (in an artform where you don’t need to be Shakespeare anymore to sell lots of books and make a living, let’s be completely real) and felt like giving up, then almost did walk away from months of backbreaking squeezing storytime in between work, during commutes and lunchbreaks, and on and on… If you ever feel yourself spiraling for any reason while you write, stop and do a reality check: If the story isn’t working because it’s boring for you to write, then it’s probably boring for others to read. Your “wreaders” will get aburridos…
ProTip: A quick outline of the chapter you’re working on thus far might help you to see where things are getting repeated, or if characters and other story elements are failing you.
Also keep in mind, if you ever take a good hard look at where you are and it truly isn’t working, don’t be afraid to rebuild, but just make sure it’s not coming from an ‘I hate myself as an artist/I hate my story place.’
Another writing-example of what I mean: At one point in my novel, while working on the second kingdom, I struggled with the tone and also what my other protagonista should sound like… was she regal and sincere—beautiful and perfect? Or, would she be flawed somehow? But then how? My childhood image of her was not matching up to what I now knew I could not do as an adult, write anything close to a Mary Sue character. That “perfect princess” was so hard to let go of. So, I stopped, I put the whole thing down though I was three chapters in by then. I read some other things. I thought about what I needed… and ended up just going with the first, sexy thing that popped into my head after the sabbatical. It was something that would hobble her through the whole story, something that all the characters would find completely obnoxious and it would cause everyone to doubt her ability to rule… but then again, it was perfect. She had her weird way of speaking and also a great flaw that would never, ever get boring for me to write. I now can’t imagine my novel without that. So, I tore what I had completely apart and wrote myself a new chapter two and three.
So, remember, kids:
- When your “good friend” dumps you by giving you the silent treatment, don’t take it out on your characters, they didn’t do anything to you.
- When more of your ex-friends decide they’re going to lie and do things behind your back, get up off the floor and continue writing. Don’t let a few peoples’ bad decisions ruin the passion for storytelling you still have inside. Even now, you deserve to write.
- When a guy strings you along… Just tie up your plot tight. Make sure there are no leaks, and if there are leaks, that doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible, talent-less person. It just means that guy was a raging idiot for over-using the “I’m too busy to tell you that I’m busy” excuse. Be grateful nothing good happened with someone so wrong. Be grateful that good writing happened when nothing else went right.
- When additional bullshit happens… I recommend doing what I am about to promise myself I will do in the future: If you’re going to keep respecting yourself and staying positive in the face of life’s pelting lemons, then don’t stop writing, either. Just don’t stop. Make a little time for it each day. Make your characters get together and say something stupid, I don’t know what… Anything that keeps you present in your fiction universe (especially if you are a fantasy writer creating a new world), and keeps you in your zone and confident that you can carry on when you are feeling stronger.
Life isn’t easy, and writing a novel definitely isn’t easy either. But, as Terry Goodkind once wrote, “Nothing is ever easy.”
Tha’ heck happened to the end of that series, by the way?
Oh no, I took my frustrations out on poor Terry… ouch again.