Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wed & Writing: The Problem With My Writing

Forgive the title. This was scheduled to post last Wednesday and somehow didn't.
In December of 2009, I decided I wanted to be a writer. While I had decided this a couple of times before one thing was different this time. I knew what I wanted to write, so I set out to write it. I did, and it sucked. I wanted to fix it, but I didn't know where to begin. My gut feeling was the whole book needed to be thrown out, and re-started from the first line. The only way to fix it was to re-write it. But after spending two months on it, and knowing the concept was amazing (and I still believe this) I was in no place to re-write. I didn't. I decided I'd start something new. I tried and 60 pages in, I could tell it sucked. I kept the premise in the back of my mind and read and blogged and contemplated how to fix first book. I had a dream that I knew would translate into a book. I just didn't know when.

So I got bored one day and decided to just write the book from the dream. I combined the original premise with my dream and spent the next four months working away on my second novel, Phantom Fires. I wrote a book, and it didn't suck. I was aware of this. I sent it off to betas and cps expecting it to come back with grammatical errors and the few plot holes I knew about, and just needed a break before fixing. It came back with much more than that, and when you're as stubborn as me this is hard to accept. But I did. I paid for agent critiques, and I took a revision class. I cut 120 pages. Now I knew not only was it brilliant, it shined. My teen readers agree.

I queried, and it seems New York doesn't agree. This is disheartening but I wouldn't give up. In fact, by the time I felt novel #2 had been through enough revision to query, I had a complete draft of #3. The only problem? It just wasn't as good. I degressed! Now my CP kindly pointed out that for personal reasons #3 was harder to write, and that it's a genre I don't write or even read. But still. I wrote something brilliant which NY either refuses to appreciate or simply can't comprehend, and my next shot was a step backwards?  Can't a girl catch a break.

I didn't think I would query #3 but decided to edit it anyhow. After all, I could learn from the revision. I read through it and came to this conclusion: I need to cut one narrator and 58,000 words which will change the theme of the book. I have no idea what the new theme is, just that the only way for the story to survive is to cut the girl and her 58k. But writing this book was hard, like a root canal. So I decided to put off editing for a while, send it to my cp even though i know im cutting 58k, because she may be able to tell me something about the remaining 42k, or what parts she thinks I should try to keep and rewrite from the guy's pov. In the meantime, I'd be working on #4. I started. The first 30 pages were really good. But after that it felt forced and had so many plot elements I had no idea how they would all come together. By now, I cried. I had to. I have the brilliant #2 which will never see the light of day, and since then I've gotten WORSE. Wow. I was okay with the first one being bad. Really. I could improve and I did. Then I unimproved.

I must be smarter when I sleep b/c my last 3 concepts came from dreams, but so did the reason I started sucking again.

*You are now entering a weird freaky Beth dream.*

I'm walking on a road not far from my apartment, but far enough getting there on foot would be a loong walk. A white 90's model car is speeding along, but begins to lurch to a stop as it approaches me. Instinctively, I know this car is for me and I know the driver, but I have the strangest feeling that I'm not supposed to know the driver just yet.

The car was much nicer on the outside. The inside is bright maroon and the vinyl in the door is cracked in places. The car even has a unique smell. I think to myself, take it all in. Don't forget anything. You'll need to remember this so you're able to write it at some point. Then dream Beth looks straight at me (the best way to describe this is like a cameo shot in a movie) and says, "Get out of my head. It's no wonder you suck. You get your inspiration from your dreams. You can't control them."

*end dream sequence*

And I think dream Beth was right, because one constant struggle I had in the first sixty pages of the book I left undone was remembering that the protag was not me, remembering that writing is not editing. The challenge was taking my overly ambitious writer conscious out of the story, or in this case out of the dream. So how does a writer not try so hard?

And in contrast to this there Julie Musil has a good post up about how hard work pays off. So what's a girl to do?

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