Category: On Writing

Girl on subway platform reading - photo by moriza

A strange decision

So yesterday I came to a slightly odd decision. No fiction writing for a month. Planning, plotting, a bit of research, yes, I will do that, but as to fiction writing, no.

But hang on, some might think, isn’t this Nanowrimo month? Where all the world’s would-be writers get together for a gigantic word producing mass of fun, stress, and creativity?

Well, yes. And I wish anyone doing it the very best of luck with it, for I do believe it is one of the most invigorating, draining, and creatively stimulating things you can do as a writer, particularly when you are starting out and are just not sure if you can even produce that amount of words.

So what the hell am I doing by taking this time to not.

There are a few reasons for this. I didn’t have the greatest of Octobers (several personal things happened which I won’t go into here). On Where the hell my writing is going has been weighing on my mind for a while now, both in relation to what the hell kind of writer I want to be and what on earth is going on with the publishing industry and where will I fit into all of that. Trying to just bloody well focus on one project at a time, rather than heading off into several directions (and then, by extension, not completing things. And that really doesn’t feel great.) And to be honest, part of me gets a bit of a kick out of doing something a little against the grain. 😉

Ultimately I think what I want is a bit of a reset. See if the act of ordering myself not to put pen to paper (and that’s fine for the mid-week now when I’m working, but I suspect come the weekend I’ll get a little more angsty and want to do so) bears some of it’s own fruits. In the meantime, I’ve got books to read that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and various little bits and bobs to do about the place. Am going to be posting various links about writing and Nano on my tumblr for the month, things for others to read that may be of use, stuff to get me thinking as well. And maybe blogging and writing reviews. But no fiction. Will be intrigued to see how this plan will work out come 1st December!

Photo by moriza under creative commons license

Writing Anxieties: Finishing Things

They say to beginner writers that the first, hardest step is starting, putting pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard. That to take that first bold stroke is what separates you from those who write and those who don’t.

I’m going to call bullshit on that. Because frankly? Starting something is easy. It’s the seeing it through and finishing it that’s the hard part.

It’s the same thing in other parts of life as it is with writing. Half begun projects of arts and crafts varieties litter many a house. Schemes of various corporations, think-tanks, universities, schools, and the rest of them, grand ideas that ultimately go no where.

Exactly the same with writing.

Ideas are easy. I can sit of an afternoon and have half a dozen, and even come up with a decent plot in the confines of my head. But it’s the putting it down on paper, structuring it, making it coherent to someone who is not you…that takes time.

What often happens with me is this: have idea. Put aside current work-in-progress that I’m slogging through. Type up notes for idea. Get into idea, and decide that it is going to flow brilliantly and smoothly and the process for this is going to be perfect and amazing and will work out so much better than any other project before. Keep writing. Hit wall. Freak out that this is not in fact the most perfect and amazing process of creating a piece. Assume this means there’s something wrong with me as a writer. Put work aside…or get distracted by another idea. Repeat.

And you can see what happens as a result. Work doesn’t get finished. And as much as any writing can be practice, the act of seeing something through to the end is part of that. I learned that when I properly won Nanowrimo a few years back. Two years before that I pounded out 50,000 words of what I now call draft 0.5 of the Dragon Novel, and while that large amount of words was an accomplishment, there was still a sense of not having quite made it. It was only in 2008 when I actually finished the story itself in 50,000 words that I felt that sense of having made it. Of course, it was a flawed piece, and needs a massive amount of revision, and may ultimately be a ‘trunk novel’ (I live in hope it will not be), but still, it was a sustained, complete story.

I’m still trying to get into the practice of finishing things. Getting better with it, but still, there is that anxiety of all the works in progress sitting in my writing folder. That I wonder will I ever finish all the works I have there, will I get back to them, will the work I’ve put into them before mean something. I am starting to learn that an unfinished work isn’t the end of the world, and that some ideas don’t just work as well as others, and that perhaps I did learn something while I was working on a piece that ultimately lead to no where. But it’s finishing stuff in the meantime too that needs practice. It can be like punching through concrete, or waiting for your forehead to start bleeding, but after that, the feeling is way better than the fretting over the unfinished.

Then I think about that really great idea I had while at work…

Writing Anxieties: Will I Make It?

As a writer just starting to get work published, though one whose been writing for a long time, this seemed like an appropriate place to start.

Will I succeed? It’s a thought that plagues all writers at some point. Even the most arrogant, because unless they are actually delusional, those who are so full of themselves and sure of their talent have their moments of doubt too. Trust me on this.

The thoughts that go through our heads on this topic are vast and numerous. Will I succeed, we think, as we read about the latest book deal for thousands of dollars or pounds for that awesome debut novel that everyone in the publishing industry is talking about. Will I succeedd, when the print and online media, writing blogs, publishing blogs, and off the cuff twitter remarks declare how hard it is to get published in today’s world, how the whole scene is changing with the uptake of eBooks and eReaders. Will I succeed, thinks the script writer, wondering who the hell amongst the people they know might have a line to someone who can get films made or plays produced, because it’s all about connections, don-cha-know? Will I succeed, when we look at the top ten best-sellers and wonder if our work just doesn’t fit any kind of marketable mould that could be sold.

Then we open up our word documents, stare at the blank page, and the fear of not succeeding, that all our efforts will be for nought, that we could put years and years of work into this and get precisely no where…and it paralyses us. (Or me at least.)

And that’s just the question of publication and production. Getting that first foot in the door is one thing, but then after that…you begin to wonder what actually counts as success. Am I successful, for instance? In some people’s eyes, yes. I’ve been published. And that is a really wonderful feeling. But then other questions come up. Will I be read? Will people remember my work in a long time to come, or will it just be a flash in the pan? Am I successful if the critics love me but my books sell poorly, or if I make piles of money while the critics groan and wish I never put pen to paper? Which of those counts as ‘success’?

Then we make a cup of tea/preferred hot beverage and contemplate these deeper questions. We wonder what our options are. Should I go for the traditional path of agent/publisher/print book? Do I try follow in the steps of eBook success stories like Amanda Hocking? Do I try for short stories, do I focus on my novel ideas, do I seek out network connections before my work is even finished? And what’s this social networking thing over here…

So many questions…but the answers will not come. Because I won’t really know if I am successful until, well, I am. Sure, I may have some predefined set of criteria that mark success, and I’ve hit the first one of those (publication), but will I be satisfied with just good feedback from people but no monetary gain? Will I be content to rake in the dollars but also the contempt of intelligent folks I respect? Will any of what I do matter?

All I can do is keep writing, keep trying to get work published, and hope.

And try not to be so anxious about this question. 😉